Experience vs attitude? What matters more?

Sometimes the decision you are making is not an easy one. How do you decide and who should you prioritize hiring? Here is a quick checklist to help you on your way.

Should you hire for experience or attitude? Which matters more?

“Hire for attitude, train for skills.” is a worn-out catch phrase that almost everyone working in the Recruitment field has heard at least once in their work life.

When starting to search for that perfect candidate for your vacancy, you usually begin with a list of requirements the candidate has to meet. A long list of requirements. No. 1 in that list is called either “relevant work experience” or “proven track record in a similar role” or “experience in a relatable field”, etc. Although experience is definitely a solid value a candidate can bring to the table, it’s not the No. 1 characteristic when recruiting suitable candidates.

  • Experience is described as the knowledge or skill acquired by a period of practical experience of something, especially that gained in a particular profession. It means that you are proficient in a particular area.
  • Attitude can be described as a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something; a choice how a person views something. You can control your attitude at any point in time, no matter the situation you’re in.


Although this can be seen as a more outdated way of hiring, it usually tends to be the go-to option. By simply looking at the candidate’s CV, you will already know, in which companies they have worked, the roles they have filled and what kind of responsibilities they have had. During the interview, you can go deeper in regards to the candidate’s exact skillset. But how do we measure experience?

  • Does an employment history of 10 years equal 10 times more experience compared to one year?
  • What about when some candidates have had different work experiences over the years, but none of them has lasted longer than 1 year?
  • Or when a candidate has taken a sabbatical to do volunteer work?

Can we prefer one type of experience to another? Is experience valuable only when it relates to the vacancy or company’s field of work?

You can assume that an experienced candidate has learned the basic skills needed to be successful in a work environment: take responsibility, have good communication skills, meet deadlines, handle conflicts. And that does not depend on the industry. During an interview, you also have the chance to ask about the challenges the candidate has overcome and how they have handled crisis. This will give you clarity, whether the candidate has what it takes to succeed in your offered vacancy.


And then there’s the other option: hire a candidate, who is not yet that experienced in the field, but has a great attitude towards work and life matters. These candidates are often seen as moldable, who can be shaped into fantastic employees. They’re also considered to be less biased and/or without rigid ways-of-doing-things. When hiring for attitude, you might be getting a very valuable employee, who is quickly becoming skilled but who is also inspiring others with their way of thinking.

But, how do we exactly measure attitude? It’s not exactly a substitute for experience either. A candidate might have a positive outlook on life, be hard-working and willing to tackle everything thrown at them, but still not possess relevant skills. The risk when hiring for attitude is that some candidates have the ambition, but not the talent.


However you choose to go about your hiring process, one is for sure – you also have to have clear process to ensure employees will grow. This means a well-organised onboarding process for new employees and mentoring to those, who lack experience. With such approach, the company makes sure that no matter who gets hired, they will be prepared to succeed both in the role and the company.

If we’d live a perfect world, all out candidates would have great skills as well as an excellent attitude. But as we live in the real world, we have to decide, whether to hire someone with talent and aptitude but lacking in attitude or vice versa.

At the end of the day, the most important aspect to bare in mind is that the candidates fit into your work environment. And this can be a candidate, whose mindset and goals align with the company’s vision, as well as a candidate, who has years and years of relevant experience. Both of them bring value to the company and have the potential to be excellent employees.


Sirli Spelman

A recruiter and human resource manager. Sirli has many years of practical experience in hiring for the IT industry – excellent in both finding new talent and organizing existing talent.

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