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Mindset Vs Skill Set: What is most important to hiring managers?

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  • Publish date: 16 February 2016
  • Archived on: 16 February 2017

Recruitment firm, Eden Scott were one of several companies who took a table at our Annual Dinner last year. We asked Principal Consultant Paul Buchan to share his thoughts on one of the hot topics within recruitment right now – if you’re planning to change jobs or hire staff this year, his insights may be invaluable.

Mindset or skill set?

This is a question that has gained an awful lot of attention and focus in recent years following the crash of 2008 as employers have gravitated towards making the best choices that satisfy short, medium- and long-term goals.

Many of the surveys I have read report that managers prioritise mindset and/or "fit" over and above skill sets almost every time when recruiting new team members. There is a belief that skills can be acquired, whereas a mindset is set in stone.

For the most part I agree with this sentiment, however, I think it is important to remember that a mindset is very difficult to convey on a piece of paper such as a CV. Most interview and hiring decisions are based on track record and tangible skills that one can demonstrate verbally and in writing. There is always a danger that hiring managers miss out on good candidates and that candidates miss opportunities to secure interviews because of their CVs.

This is an age-old problem that the recruitment industry has been trying to solve with high levels of success, but there is no perfect answer to this conundrum. 

So what can you do about this?

From the job seekers perspective it is important to ensure that a CV has robustness to it and that goals are clearly stated, but this should also be viewed in the context of the job you are applying for. Is the role you are considering a step too far at this stage in your career? Is there a move or skill set required to give you the best opportunity to spring for the next level up? These are questions that are worth answering before you look to engage in a process. It is all very well having a wonderful mindset but you need to ensure your skills match the role you are applying for. 

What recruiters should be looking for

From the recruiters perspective they need to understand what skills they can afford to live without in order to acquire the correct mindset. For the most part, however, they will want both; the right skills matched with the right mindset for success in the role. This is a very challenging mix of competing agendas that can oftentimes become very difficult to satisfy. The other aspect to consider is how well you are able to assess a mindset? A mixture of competency based interviewing and personality testing will only tell you so much in the context of the role you are recruiting for. A lot of the time you will need to rely on intuition as well as these assessment tools. 

What can the Recruitment Industry do to help you?

For job seekers the key to success is to put your faith in a trusted advisor who can give you the tools you need to be successful in your chosen field. Whether this is advice on putting together a CV, advising you on best practice for interviews or offering career development advice there is always something that a good recruiter can offer you to best get your message across. I personally spend a lot of time with candidates to make them "investor-ready" and other reputable recruiters will do the same. 

For hiring managers it is firstly important to have a clear idea of what the absolutely essential skills and experience are and try to give yourself some wiggle room to work with. Secondly (and most importantly) make sure the recruiter you are working with has the knowledge and experience to effectively clue you in to a prospective employees mindset. A best-fit mindset is what you are looking for after all, and a good recruiter can give you most of the information you need to ensure that someone is the best fit for your business. All of this will help you to satisfy the competing agendas of skills vs mindset. 

What is a mindset and what is a skill set anyway?

To me a skill set is something you have already done, it is in the past, it is something about your career history that we can tangibly put down on paper and verbalise in an interview situation.  

Your mindset is what helps you to acquire this experience in the first place and to take the steps needed in your career to realise your full potential. It is your mindset that will help you take the next step up the ladder, but only in combination with an existing base of skills.

Basically, one does not exist without the other.