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By the time you’ve narrowed your candidate pool to a final round of contenders, you may find yourself facing a curious dilemma. Some of your front runners may hold all of the technical skills required by the position and some may still need a few weeks or months of training. Some of your candidates may also seem like a perfect fit for your culture, while others are probably headed for a few personality clashes and a period of adjustment. Unless you’re very lucky, you’ll rarely face a candidate who can offer the best of both.

So if you have to choose, which factor should carry more weight: proven skill sets or an adaptable personality? Experienced managers almost always opt for the second. Here’s why.

Studies don’t lie.

Years ago, HR pros referred to personality and social adaptability as “soft skills”, a dismissive term that suggested these skills had less impact on success than “hard skills”, or job-specific training. Research suggests the opposite: those with high measures of social skill are almost always more likely to thrive.

Job skills can be taught; personality can’t.

As it happens, most technical skill sets (especially at the entry level) can be picked up in the workplace. Given a few weeks of training, exposure, experience, or outside educational support, a candidate with the right attitude can learn almost anything. But a candidate who isn’t invested, doesn’t care, lacks drive, or isn’t socially well adjusted won’t magically pick up these qualities after being hired.

The right attitude can accomplish anything.

Sometimes the right answer can be found in a flowchart or a set of clear instructions. But sometimes the way around an obstacle can only be found by backing up and reexamining the entire system. Candidates with mental, social, and emotional flexibility are usually better at recognizing when it’s time for a new approach.

Core skills can be shifted to other branches of the organization.

A candidate with flexibility, resilience, and a well-matched personality (one who possesses strong “core skills”), can be parked behind a desk and assigned to a single task. But she can also be drawn away from that task and encouraged to make a lateral move or grow in a wide variety of directions. This can’t be said of candidates who have job specific training but weaker core skills.

For more on how to choose attitude over aptitude and identify the best candidates in your applicant pool, reach out to the staffing and management professionals at Expert.

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