Business Platitudes – Do As I Say Not As I Do

I was on LinkedIn today and saw yet another management executive espousing the management platitude of the week. In this case it was “Hire attitude. You can always train for skill”

This sounds great and almost everyone agrees with this in theory but as a recruiter for over 10 years and a Sales Manager before that I know that it almost never happens in practice.

When I started in the recruiting business I often fell for this platitude trap. A client would give me the direction. “I want someone with the right attitude I don’t care about industry background.”

Armed with this direction I would go out and try to find the best possible candidate and one that brought the kind of attitude the client said he was looking for. I would put forward candidates with great attitude, a proven track record but no specific direct industry experience. These candidates never got hired!

I worked for years in the Telecom sector and recruited for most of the Canadian telco’s. The hiring managers always said bring me someone with a great work ethic and attitude. They always hired someone with a background in the Telecom industry.

I don’t think these managers are hypocrites I think they really do believe that hiring Attitude over Background is the right thing to do. They just don’t do it in practice.

Why don’t Managers practice what they preach?

Because it is very very hard to do! Let me explain for those of you who are not familiar with the world of corporate politics’.

The hiring manager puts forward his candidate selection. Great candidate, great attitude, lots of success in his background BUT they don’t have industry specific background. The question comes up: “Are you sure this is the right candidate? After all they have no experience in our industry?”

If the hiring manager hires a candidate without industry background and the candidate doesn’t work out. It is a reflection on the hiring manager! The hiring managers’ career takes the hit! The hiring manager has made a big mistake.

On the other hand, the hiring manager hires someone with a background in the industry and that candidate doesn’t work out. The hiring manager can safely say; “well they had all that industry experience they should have done well”

Most managers faced with this type of situation will always hire the candidate with the industry background. But no manager is going to admit that this is reason for making the hiring decision. Even more frustrating they will not admit it to themselves. And so you get managers and executives preaching platitudes about hiring attitude and not skill. Great concepts and a great thing to practice but unlikely to happen very often.