Attitude and Aptitude: What Combination Makes for the Best Hires?

When I was earning my BSEE from NJIT, then known as Newark College of Engineering, I was a member of an elite group of five top students. We all had high GPAs, but we all didn’t have the same IQs.

Bob and Jim (names changed to protect the innocent) were brilliant — they only had to attend classes, quickly read the textbooks, and finish their homework before driving home for the evening. (NJIT was a purely commuter college in those days.)

I paid my expenses by teaching the accordion, a business I purchased from my retiring instructor when I was a sophomore in high school. I also put in at least thirty hours a week studying. I wasn’t as brilliant as Bob and Jim, but by putting in the hours I was able to compete with them. Jerry didn’t have to work at a job, but he averaged the same thirty hours of studying to keep up with the rest of us.

Harry, on the other hand, wasn’t as smart as any of the four of us, but still kept up by studying fifty hours a week. He was an excellent student and went on to have an exemplary electrical engineering career, largely because he was willing to put in whatever number of hours it took to match the performance of others who were more brilliant.

Over the years, I’ve learned to put less emphasis on a potential employee’s resumé and current skills. I’ve found that I had success when I hired someone with a reasonable aptitude and the right attitude. With the right attitude, such a new hire might have to work over 60 hours a week to deliver the same results as a more seasoned employee. But such a person would be more than willing to invest the extra 20 hours to come up to speed. (Once up to speed, the new hire could deliver the same results in the same nominal 40-hour work week.)

Employees with the right attitude view the extra hours as their personal investment in achieving the goals they set out for themselves. While you may think that employees who on day one can achieve the desired results in the normal 40-hour week would be superior, they aren’t necessarily. Consider when there is a new challenge in your business. When there is a new skill set that’s required for a job, which employee is most likely to rise to the occasion because he or she already has the established habit of investing extra time to come up to speed?

Hire based on aptitude, i.e. having enough grey matter to master the skills, and attitude, i.e. the passion and commitment to put in the time to master the skills.

What happened to my brilliant colleagues? Bob went on to MIT for an advanced degree, but dropped out because competing with the other brilliant students required too many study hours. He had superior aptitude but had not yet developed the attitude required to succeed at that level.

Hiring strategy is one of the elements of a well-formed strategic plan. If you’re interested in having a facilitated strategic planning meeting that moves you from concept to tangible implementation, check out our service offerings online, contact us by email, or better yet, give us a call at (800) 207-8192 to arrange for a complementary consultation to determine if you are ready for strategic planning and if our program is right for you.

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