Hire for Skill

Saw this tweet come across my twitter stream today:

Skills are easier to learn than attitude and talents. Avoid employers who hire for skills. Message is “we are unwilling to invest in you.”

A bit of research indicates it’s probably a retweet from a Norm Brodsky quotation in this year’s Inc 500 issue:

“Hire for attitude not skills. Skills can be taught” – Norm Brodsky at #Inc5000

Given the current unemployment rate, not sure how many people looking for work actually have the choice of “avoiding employers who hire for skills,” frankly. But I am sure that few small businesses can afford to “buy” this advice. Skills can be taught, true, WHEN you have created a training system. Not before. And most definitely, NOT WHILE you are creating the training system, or if you are hiring someone to create the training system…


Twitter makes me do that sometimes. The MUNDanity of it is tolerable, on a good day. It’s the INanity that gets me.


In yesterday’s post, I said:

For businesses with fewer than 10 employees, time spent training new employees is generally time not spent generating revenue.  More than one new employer has discovered that the money saved on a “low cost” employee was swamped by the cost of training that person to work at the level the business needed.

The truth is, even Norm Brodsky doesn’t exactly hire for attitude only. I’ll bet my next system sale that he doesn’t hire A/P clerks who haven’t ever handled money before. Warehouse staff, maybe. (He runs a records management business that serves clients with offices in NYC.) But not the money people. In The Knack, he said he hires sales people with selling experience.

  • Howard Schultz (Starbucks) hired people who knew how to take a small food-service business to a much larger position.  (Starbucks has an excellent training program for front-line employees, but they hire demonstrated skill at HQ.)
  • Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) hired people who knew retail, and within that subset, discount retail, as he was building his empire in the midwest.

In the United States, the US Army and McDonald’s Corporation are known for their ability to take raw, unskilled “new hires” and turn them into productive members of the organization. If your training division resembles those of the Army and McDonald’s, you can, too.  Until then, hire people who already know how to do what you need them to do.  You may need to spend a little time showing a new hire exactly HOW you want that skill used in your business, but you don’t need to be teaching them the skill itself.

How has hiring “skill” vs. “attitude” worked out for you?  Let me know in the comments… thx!