Does Attitude Really Trump Aptitude?

Sep 11, 2015 1 Min Read


It takes more than will to climb to the top

One of the questions I’m often asked is whether or not qualifications are the most important aspect of hiring or finding a job-fit. For the most part, senior managers will tell you that attitude is more important than qualifications; this, however, is a rather shortsighted answer.

As we all know, only qualified applicants make it to the top of the heap, especially when it comes to mission-critical posts.

The short answer is that you need both qualifications and the right attitude to get the job. Qualifications are almost always one of the bare requirements. Having said that, you cannot get hired on the strength of your curriculum vitae (CV) alone, nor will you be hired on the basis of having a positive attitude.

You need both, although it’s a little more complex than that. Nonetheless, you must have a strategy to climb your way to the top.

At the higher levels, where the so-called crème de la crème are vetted for positions, the supply side (applicants) will have already been strategically positioned for the post, and there are a few key considerations when trying to get there.

Here are some of the factors I’ve seen come into play when looking for the best people:

1. Connect

Being connected with the right people and networks is the best way to get a leg-up in your career.

• Network

It is often said that catching a break is attributed to being at the right place at the right time. But there’s more to it than just luck.

What is more important is being with the right people under the right circumstances, and it often takes some planning to get there. Find a mentor who can show you the ropes and perhaps even offer some introductions and recommendations.

• Birds of the same feather

Surround yourself with performance-driven people. We are, to a degree, known according to our associations. If you want to carve out a career in a specific field, then you have to move within relevant circles.

• Get ahead of the game

You need to be street smart, given that your CV is just one among the huge pile of resumes. Come in prior to a job interview early to get acquainted with your surroundings.

Get some background information about the company and your prospective boss, and make sure the interviewer knows that you have arrived. Be authentic and friendly.

2. Your reputation precedes you. Build your brand.

• Put your name on it

More important than where you’ve worked and where you went to school, employers want to know what you have accomplished to date. Mentions of publications and awards on your CV help employers to paint a bigger picture of who you are.

• Enlarge your digital footprint

Use the Internet to your advantage. Associate yourself with anyone and anything that could improve your reputation and career. Let people know what you believe in, and what your values are.

It’s common knowledge that employers will search for you on the internet to get some background, so you might as well use it to your advantage.

I once got a shock when someone revealed that he perused my accounts when I gave a talk on strategic planning. He started a conversation by talking about my hobbies, only to divulge that he saw one of my online posts on cycling.

It felt slightly uncomfortable, but I guess people do it all the time (including employers).

3. Closing the deal

• Find leverage

Give your prospective employer the idea that they are one of your key options. Give them a clue as to who you have been speaking to, ideally an important account where you have connections or perhaps even the competition.

Give them an impression that you want to be significant in your industry. Raise your value by knowing the talent market, but never divulge confidential information.

• Solve a problem

Be familiar with the industry and where their company is positioned, and offer your insights into how the enterprise can overcome existing obstacles and move forward.

4. The glass shoe

As mentioned, the question is often more complex than just a matter of qualification versus attitude. You need to have both when you’re trying to soar to great heights.

What matters most is not just having the skill and the attitude for the job, but rather the right mindset and acumen to fit into an organisation.

But even with the right skills, attitude and strategies to get into the organisation, if you are not a fit to their culture and strategy, then you shouldn’t try to force it. Doing so might make you less marketable. Do your research and ask questions.

These factors come fresh in my mind as I have just finished doing an interview with someone who, according to his resume, could be the perfect fit. However, I discovered – after numerous exchanges over email – that his communication skills need work and his attitude needs realigning.

Between him and a more personable and respectful candidate with similar qualifications, it’s easy to predict that I’d hire the latter.

Come to think of it, there are others like him in the pile and employers shouldn’t make decisions in a rush to fill out a post. The commitment to new hires entails both a legal and social contract.

It may seem simplistic at this point but finding the right fit, given all the prerequisites, boils down to the question of whether or not this person can work with me and my team. How well can this candidate relate to the rest of our stakeholders?

Every employer has a mental image of that perfect someone who can fit into the glass shoe. Whether or not you can be that someone is up to you to make a winning impression.

In the meantime, it pays to do some research, familiarise yourself with the company, and play your cards well. Perhaps you’ll find yourself in that moment of truth, in which case, if the shoe fits, wear it.

John Walter Baybay is a regional management consultant who has worked more than 17 years in corporate strategic planning and economic planning. He is a competitive athlete who balances his time between business coaching, family and working with communities. To learn more about strategic planning for your organisation, write to For more Career Advice articles, click here.

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