Can enthusiasm make up for a lack of skills?

The hot debate with every recruit that we do always comes down to skills, experience and personality. Does our client like our candidate enough to accept that they may need some mentoring or guidance at first or do they need to absolutely hit the ground running? What would you prefer if you were to recruit right now – all the skills and an OK personality or enthusiasm and a slightly lesser skill base?

Your wish list
When you are creating a job and person specification before hitting the market with advertising, you are essentially creating a wish list. Some of those traits and skills an applicant will have, some they will need to learn in the role. You should write down everything that you want that person to have, then highlight the skills that they really need to perform effectively in the role – your essential list. Everything after that point is secondary and are skills that can be learned if the person has demonstrated the aptitude to do this. Focus on the essential list when screening applicants – this is the minimum standard for the role and then look at the secondary skills and experience to screen further. Time and time again it has proven to be the most successful process. The failure with screening too heavily in the first round, generally results in having candidates that are typically from your industry, have been working for your competitors (which isn’t always a good thing) and are people that you may know of and don’t want working for you. This is very true for tight industries and we have had those experiences to back this up.

Ambition versus enthusiasm
Once you have determined your short-list and start meeting with candidates don’t mistake ambition with enthusiasm. There is a massive difference. We have interviewed candidates previously that have seemed highly enthusiastic only to find that they were highly ambitious – to the point that the most likely scenario was that they only wanted to know that they had won the job (and didn’t take it). This can be a real time-waster from a recruitment perspective as you essentially have to start again. There is a real art to focusing on a person’s intention – why do they want it, what will it do for them, what do they want to do with the role, where will the role take them (is it a stepping stone to something else), why would they relocate (if they have to). This is where you can often pick up signs that there is an ulterior motive, or on the flipside, really find out that they are enthusiastic about the opportunity being presented to them.

The problems with enthusiasm
The one problem with an enthusiastic candidate can be the interview itself – have you ever really wanted a job, got to interview, should have “nailed it” and walked away kicking yourself, thinking that you did a terrible job at the interview – your enthusiasm may have got in the way. We like to interview away from a desk or formal setting as it relaxes the candidate and allows them open up to have a conversation rather than feeling like they are being drilled. It is still structured of course but engages better. If you have a panel interview setting, this is quite difficult to manage however, try to have this at the second interview stage and watch the results. One other problem with enthusiasm is that the candidate may have done a lot of homework before the interview to understand your business, researched the role thoroughly and could give you answers that sound right rather than giving you examples of what they have actually done that are related to the role. This could be really clouded in their enthusiasm and it is best to have structured questions that specifically identify whether a candidate has actually done the task or not.

Be calculated in your approach to recruitment, work out what you need now and what can be learned and then focus on getting the right team fit for your business. The wrong personality with a great skill base is not always the right answer.

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