Mindset more important than skillset in an interview scenario, writes Catherine Quinn
MOST people enter an interview wondering whether they’ll be able to give the right answers. But if the latest findings are anything to go by, they’d be far better off concentrating on their winning smile. Research suggests that while employers may think they’re hiring on skillset, the reality is quite different. And a true knowledge of how they choose can boost your chances of getting the job.
The study is the brainchild of recruitment experts James Reed and Dr Paul G Stoltz, chairman of Reed Recruitment and mindset psychologist respectively. The two employment dons have undertaken research to prove a theory both have championed for years – that mindset bests skillset every time when it comes to getting a job. In real terms, they believe that a candidate with the right mindset will readily be chosen over another with better skills for the job. “Mindset completely trumps skillset,” explains Reed. “Developing the winning mindset and demonstrating this at work makes all the difference to your prospects of success.”
Reed and Stolitz’s book, Put Your Mindset To Work, details the kind of mental attitude that wins gainful employment. And, according to their research, a few simple strategies are all that’s required to display unequivocally to recruiter you have a frame of mind worth more to them than any qualification.
To those of us looking for employment or a career switch this is a particularly alluring message, since a great deal of job-hunters feel under-confident as to their skillset. But does it really work in practice? Interestingly, the resounding message from many recruiters and employees, is “yes” – at least to an extent. “It is definitely possible to get a job that you do not possess all of the skills for,” confirms James Callander, managing director of FreshMinds Talent. “All good jobs should offer room for development and growth which will include learning new skills. Of course, you will need basic skills for most roles but if you are looking for a challenging position which you can grow into, don’t be scared to go for it just because you don’t have all of the skills required at the moment.”
Scottish employers are also happy to agree that mindset can influence their HR team over skillset. According to Louise Alford, director of business HR for Sky in Scotland, a candidate’s CV is used to assess whether they will make it to the interview stage, but once this hurdle has been cleared it’s all about assessing how an interviewee might fit in according to their personality.
“The key things we look for at interview are confidence and a really positive attitude,” says Alford. “Showing they are enthusiastic about Sky and the area they’ll be working in makes a candidate shine. Job skills can be learned but attitude can’t. It’s something that comes from inside and is incredibly important. Mindset very much comes into our decision of who to employ.”
With recession taking its toll and the recruitment market seeming less certain than it’s been for some years, this revelation will be welcome to many. But with Scotland’s GDP relying heavily on highly skilled technology than most other countries, there might be an important caveat to emphasising mind-set in recruitment success.
With this in mind, the Scottish government has ploughed huge resources into enhancing the national skillset, and particularly in relation to IT and media. Glasgow-based Skills in Scotland was set-up to boost training in the latter and last year a large government report by Future Skills called for national computing skills to be prioritised so that Scotland can fulfil its potential as an IT sector leader.
Nor does every recruiter agree state of mind will champion a lower skillset. In fact, with recession having added pressure to the job-hunt employers can be more choosy, and as temporary placements become a preferred “no-risk” strategy for trying out staff, skillset could come to the fore.
“Employers are now looking for ‘added value’ from new employees, and that can cover a variety of things,” explains Darren Montagu, managing director for Hays in Scotland. “For a temporary post, employers usually need someone who can hit the ground running. That person may also have very specific skills or experience to fulfil the job. In the employee’s mind, they’ll see themselves as ‘plugging a gap’, such as maternity or sickness leave, and may not have any long term loyalty to the organisation.” Perhaps more importantly, Montagu says the sectors looking to recruit currently tend to be those looking for a specific skillset. “In Scotland, demand in financial services remains high and there is also demand in oil and gas, renewables, IT and technology,” he explains. “The construction sector, as well as recruiting highly skilled technical staff, are also looking for business development people who can win contracts. Sales people with a proven track record are in high demand across most sectors.”
But while this may seem like a disheartening overview for those low on sector skills, there are always examples of candidates who have won jobs with an imperfect skillset – even in highly specialised sectors. One such employee is Craig McLeod, who recently gained employment with business and technology developer Logica, despite his qualifications not including technological skills.
“I saw on Logica’s website that the chief executive thought IT skills could be taught but softer skills couldn’t,” McLeod says. “This included attributes such as an analytical mindset and people skills and I thought that applied to me. So I went for a job with them, even though I don’t have an IT degree. In the interview I took it as an opportunity to demonstrate my experiences and did not worry that I didn’t have an IT qualification.”
This “can-do” attitude won McLeod a role in sales and marketing with Logica’s Financial Services Scotland, and confirmed, for him at least, that mindset can certainly overrule skillset when it comes to getting the job. “It’s a difficult market at the moment, “but you don’t necessarily have to tick every box on a recruiter’s wish list,” McLeod says. Concentrate on the skills you can bring and give it a go.”
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