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Mindset vs skillset when hiring

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When it comes to the hiring process, employers find themselves facing a tough decision: should they prioritise a potential employee’s mindset or skillset? While it’s important to find candidates with the right qualifications, the right mindset is indispensable in creating a positive, productive and profitable work environment.

Pioneered by psychologist Carol Dweck, the term ‘growth mindset’ explains why some people thrive in challenging situations and others stagnate. I know which category I’d rather my employees fell into. Focus on employing individuals with a growth and learning mindset, offering huge potential to add value and improve business.

Mindset: The foundation for growth

Hiring the right workers for your organisation is vital. Considering the speed of AI and technology development, today’s skills may be redundant tomorrow. However, mindset has staying power, is unique and can’t be copied. People with a growth mindset are aware that their skills can be improved with work, effective instruction and tenacity. These are the people you want in your business.

Catherine B. Roy Business Coach, TEDx keynote speaker, and multi-award-winning thought leader says that when it comes to success, while a strong skillset is undoubtedly important, she firmly believes that mindset plays a pivotal role.

“In business, we have the ability to acquire and apply various skills, but it is our mindset that truly unlocks our potential. Recognising the inherent greatness within us as human beings and gaining a deep understanding of how our minds operate empowers us to work harmoniously with our inner resources, enabling personal growth and transformative change,” she says.

Invest in people

Sales coach and business strategist, David Angel, also recognises that some roles require specific technical skills and competencies that are crucial for successful job performance, but he places huge importance on the right mindset.

“It’s essential to evaluate a candidate’s willingness and ability to learn new skills. While specific technical knowledge may be lacking, a candidate with a growth mindset and a proven track record of acquiring new skills can be a valuable long-term investment,” he says.

Gallup’s 2022 State of the Workforce Report showed that stress among global workers has risen consistently since Covid-19 and a similar global survey by the Wellbeing Project showed that resilience is particularly low, especially among non-managers. It’s more important than ever to ensure any potential employees have the right mindset to manage these growing challenges in the current landscape.

Talent shortage

Justin Pahl, CEO of VMLY&R, acknowledges it can be tempting to hire purely for skill, especially when talent is in short supply and you have work to deliver yesterday. However, compromising on mindset solely for this can be corrosive over time and is often detrimental to the culture of any business.

“Businesses need to take steps to set themselves up for success in hiring and attracting the best talent. One key step is to get ahead of the skills challenge and divert some of your hiring budget into your training budget.

“Identify and encourage those with the enthusiasm and ambition to go out and learn new skills to build them up and share with their teams. Promote them, support them, and invest in them,” he says.

Anna Berry, Managing Director at EssenceMediacomX, reflects that as efforts to bridge this skills gap intensify, the spotlight shifts to upskilling, emphasising the importance of adopting the right mindset.

“Rather than relying on Government investment for modern skills training, it is imperative for businesses to proactively upskill their workforce to prevent stagnation. In this context, a candidate’s willingness to retrain, upskill, and adapt to evolving marketing roles and responsibilities becomes crucial,” she says.

How to Build a Winning Team

According to the annual Global Hiring Survey by HireVue, over a third (38%) of hiring teams make hiring decisions based on gut instinct, and just under a third (31%) hire based on personal connections. Consequently, one in three hires may simply be placed based solely on subjective, non-qualifying reasons instead of the candidate’s actual skills and abilities.

Like attracts like, according to Pahl.

“Once you have that amazing talent in the building, make sure your employee experience is in sharp focus to drive advocacy. Great people bring in more great people; they drive your office culture, are inspirational to work for, and help strengthen your employer brand,” he says.

Employee turnover is costly. Recruiting correctly is essential to creating a winning team. Employees are more likely to be motivated, engaged, and committed to reaching their goals if they share the organisation’s values and vision. Organisations should identify their core principles, write job descriptions that reflect the right attitude, conduct behavioural interviews, and employ psychometric tests to concentrate the recruitment process on finding the right candidates with the right mindset. Job done!

“The human mind possesses an extraordinary capacity for achievement, harbouring immense potential. It operates based on what it perceives as our desires and what it genuinely believes to be in our best interest. Intriguingly, every thought we entertain serves as a blueprint, prompting our minds to diligently shape our reality accordingly,” adds Roy.

Mindset matters at all levels

Employing people with a compatible mindset helps businesses foster an environment that is conducive to growth, innovation, and positivity. You develop your skill set, but you choose your mindset. Hire people who are driven to succeed. Even if you’re hiring for a basic position on your team, hire someone who is motivated by personal and professional development. Success is driven by ambition, which begins with the hires you make. There is no better method than to instil a growth-oriented, optimistic mindset at every level.

Chris Goulding, Managing Director of specialist HR recruitment firm Wade Macdonald, outlines the shortfalls of focusing solely on mindset.

“Wholly prioritising mindset could result in skills gaps, where the organisation is missing out on essential technical skills. There are also potential short-term cost-savings in hiring candidates who can hit the ground running with ready-made skillsets, rather than spending time and resources on training someone. Which, if not handled correctly, could result in short/mid-term performance issues, particularly if the skillset no longer exists in the organisation, because an employee has left,” he says.

The importance of culture

At an organisational level, mindset is often referred to as ‘culture’ – the culture of an organisation determines the types of people it attracts and retains, and employees will typically be attracted to an organisational culture that complements their values and priorities.

“Recognising the mindset wiring of potential employees, business partners, and peers is of utmost importance for every business leader, ensuring that our core values, goals and way of thinking are aligned. This can affect every possible business outcome and save us time and resources. The key lies within the mindset, as skills can be acquired in a shorter period of time,” adds Roy.

To reach the best balance when hiring, Angel advises businesses to take the following steps:

Define Job Requirements Clearly
Assess Both Mindset and Skillset
Consider Growth Potential
Provide Opportunities for Development

Richard Branson hires staff based on their attitude and personality and trains for skills, allowing a culture of like-minded individuals with a common purpose.

A change of direction

We are seeing a shift towards employers prioritising mindset over skillset in their hiring approaches, the benefits of doing so are several-fold. Goulding outlines them below:

“As an employer, you are more likely to get positive, flexible people who are willing and wanting to learn – all of which are integral to the growth and future-proofing of a business.

“By putting mindset first when hiring, you are essentially prioritising attributes that are conducive to business progression rather than technical know-how, such as innovation, collaboration, and diversity of thought. Arguably all attributes that cannot be taught as easily as technical skillsets.”

He goes on to outline further benefits awaiting companies that adopt a mindset-first approach.

“Fostering a positive company culture is becoming increasingly sought after and, in many cases, lends itself to improved profitability, employee wellbeing and increased rates of retention. By hiring by mindset, you may be more likely to gain employees who have the same work ethic, helpful attitude and will be pulling in the same direction, all helping to cultivate a positive working environment. A positive byproduct of hiring based on mindset is gaining potentially more loyal employees in the long-term, who are grateful for being given the opportunity to shine,” he adds.


In the coming years, mindset will play an increasingly significant role in hiring decisions to mitigate the skills shortage. Nevertheless, the primary focus will remain on attracting top talent with adaptable and transferrable skillsets, ensuring that businesses can maintain growth and deliver breakthroughs that will drive results for their clients, according to Berry.

Recruiting people with the right skill set is important but the right mindset is essential. Employees are more likely to be motivated, engaged, and committed to reaching their goals if they share the organisation’s vision.

“While both mindset and skills are crucial for hiring decisions, placing a greater emphasis on mindset can lead to long-term success. A candidate’s ability to adapt, collaborate, and grow will contribute to their overall effectiveness and positively impact the organisation as a whole.

“By finding the right balance between mindset and skill set, you can build a team that is not only competent but also resilient and ready to face the challenges of the future,” advises Angel.

When hiring, think about mindset first. Potential employees’ experience, qualifications and training will have impacted their past, but their mindset will shape your business’s future.

Are you looking to build an inspiring and dedicated team for your Life Science organisation? QTC Recruitment is specialised in connecting employers with motivated and skilled professionals in the industry. Our extensive network lets us identify and match the right and motivated talent to your organisation. Make sure to check out how you can be helped here.

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