5 min read

The giants of the tech industry have a lock on employer branding, but analysis of the personalities of their staff presents a different picture of what it’s really like in the trenches.

A study published recently by Good&Co analyzed the psychometric data gained from anonymous personality quizzes completed by 4,364 tech employees, of what they believe are perceived as the five most innovative companies in Silicon Valley: Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and IBM. In total, the two-year-long study also analyzed 10 million responses from 250,000 users. Questions ranged from thoughts and feelings about networking to how they handle problems at work. 

The study concluded that Facebook lags behind the others for cultivating a culture of creativity. Microsoft employees are more innovative than those at Apple. Both Apple and Twitter’s corporate cultures are the most accurate representation of how employees perceived them.

Research from the Workforce Institute at Kronos and WorkplaceTrends indicated that part of the disconnect came from a dissonance between HR, management, and staff regarding who was in charge of creating and driving a company’s culture. 

With respect to the technical professionals, the majority of the companies look for technical skills only. If it’s programming, they test them with many rounds. Only the survivors get the job offers. For tech people, technical skills are absolutely necessary, but there are other things that need equivalent validation.

Attitude and mindset matters 

There are those who are firmly in the “attitude camp.” They argue that you can teach skills but the attitude is a reflection of personality, something hardwired and difficult to both teach and change. They also share the view that even the most skilled and experienced employees will fail if they have a poor attitude. 

Managers who hire for attitude believe it ensures you employ people who are better able to collaborate, receive feedback, adapt to workplace changes, and ‘muck in’ when times get tough. That in doing so, you will always hire people who will go the extra mile, and continually seek ways to improve.

A lack of direct experience may be an asset 

The new hire’s lack of direct experience may actually serve as an asset, because with less history to cloud their vision, they may see problems in a new way and from a fresh perspective. This fresh perspective may result in them generating many new ideas and innovations. Lessexperienced new hires may be willing to take more risks because they haven’t developed the fear level that often comes with extensive corporate experience. 

A fresh perspective will also undoubtedly result in new hires questioning existing practices, and these inquiries may result in new approaches, ideas, and innovations. Because their lack of credentials in previous jobs may have increased the pressure on them to continually prove themselves, these lower-experienced new hires may have been forced to excel in other important areas including building relationships, creating stronger support networks, learning how to work harder, and how to bring a “find-a-way” approach to their work.

Train ’em up, watch ’em go 

So then, can you get it wrong when prioritizing attitude over skill? In short, yes.

Inexperienced employees with excellent attitudes generally rise to the challenge but they do require training from more experienced and costly employees, and this takes time and money. Let’s face it, developing in-depth industry specific skill sets and critical thinking can take months, if not years. And what happens when you invest in this and they take off?

Furthermore, many believe hiring for attitude rather than skill encourages bias, which can lead to discrimination and a lack of diversity in new hires. Is it healthy to have a team who all share the same attitudes?

What can go wrong? 

So what are the costs of getting it wrong? We all know hiring is no perfect science. In fact, it’s important to get it wrong, so you learn from your mistakes. And let’s face it, when highly experienced applicants are scarce, but you have an urgent requirement for the skill, it’s an easy trap to fall into, employing an applicant despite attitudinal ‘red flags’. If the choice is between leaving the position vacant for an unknown period of time versus managing the concerning characteristics, you can live with them, right? 

Well, many believe “no”, you can’t. Hiring someone because they are “really qualified” but have a bad attitude can poison a workplace. In a very short space of time, they can undo all the hard work you have done to build a fantastic team and culture. Plus, you risk losing some of your best people, who won’t want to work with them. And what manager wants to spend time closely monitoring and managing a toxic team member?

Final thoughts 

When hiring tech pros, of course one would hope they have sufficient technical skills and foundation. But it is also imperative to ensure that your new hire has the right values and attitude for the company, in order to fit the culture. After all, if they have a great working attitude, probation period checks and training can ensure that their skills are consistently honed and maintained. 

About the Author 

Hari Vignesh Jayapalan is a Google Certified Android app developer, IDF Certified UI & UX Professional, street magician, fitness freak, technology enthusiast, and wannabe entrepreneur. He can be found on Twitter @HariofSpades. 


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