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Is Talent and Attitude more important than Intelligence and Skill?

Is talent and attitude more important than intelligence and skill?


I recently came across a very interesting article by Mel Kleiman, Humetrics. He reported how Harvard Business School found that there are four factors critical to success in business;

  • Information
  • Intelligence
  • Attitude
  • Skills

He went on to say, “the really interesting part of this is that Intelligence and Skills combined, accounted for only 7% of success while attitude and talent accounted for 93%“.

These statistics come as no surprise, as employers become increasingly concerned about “cultural fit” and making sure they have round pegs for round holes. It also goes a long way to supporting recent feedback from candidates, when summarising their interview experience.

While aptitude, that is, your skills and your ability to execute the task at hand is extremely important to job success, the attitude you bring to work every day can be the final determinant of whether you get to keep your job.

”They seemed more interested in my personality than my experience!”
“It was all about cultural fit and not my skill level”


Talent and Attitude more important than Intelligence and Skill?

Are technical and soft skills less important than attitude?

“So why is attitude not technical ability, the top predictor of a new hire’s success or failure?  I hear you ask! ”

It’s not that technical skills aren’t important, but they’re more measurable and can be corroborated. Virtually every job has tests that can assess technical proficiency. But what those tests don’t assess is attitude; whether a person is motivated to learn new skills, think innovatively, cope with failure, work as part of a team, assess their overall behavioral patterns and so on. Organisations that do not assess these vital proficiencies are  increasing their chances of poor hires. Overall competency for any role is the sum total of skills, knowledge and attitude, manifested in the employee’s behaviour.  

Poor hire costs 30% of the first year’s salary

According to the U.S. Department of Labour, the cost of a poor hire is at least 30% of the first year’s salary. This, in part, explains how the recruitment process has become so much more forensic.

It also explains the increasing use of less traditional methods of recruiting, particularly in the use of psychological tests, either online or in situ. It is becoming increasingly rare to secure a role with a major employer without going though this process. In addition to these, for senior roles, some corporations use assessment centres.

“If you’re recruiting for senior people these days, you will usually do something called an assessment centre – this will involve an interview, a work sampling and a psychometric test”

 Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University

Perhaps, most significantly, the use of presentations in the selection process has become widespread, and not merely at the top levels either. They are used to assess candidates ability to organise information in a rational and logical form, and, more obviously, to see people’s communication skills in large or small group situations.

So, what’s the over all significance of the above to those in the recruitment process?

Primarily, the CV doesn’t tell everything! There is a saying, “your CV is your sales brochure”, however, apart from obvious educational attainments, experience and skill sets, there are a number of factors that are not immediately discernible. These include;

  • Cultural fit.
  • Communication and Influencing Skills
  • Leadership capability
  • Team working, particularly cross functionally
  • Ability to prioritise and reprioritise.

What a CV reveals is very interesting, but what it hides is vital!!


by Brian Flynn, Executive Search

Original article: Mel Klieman, Humetrics


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