Born Ready or An Old Hand? Balancing Attitude and Aptitude

Skills can be learned, but attitude is something you’re born with. But when it comes to creating your rockstar procurement team, should one really be prioritised over the other?

experience vs attitude

This article was written by Dee Clarke, Davidson Projects & Operations.

“Please find me procurement professionals who have an equal balance of personality and drive and skills and experience.”

I hear this statement from my clients on an almost daily basis. It’s a significant move away from the days when clients would state the five mandatory fields for candidates as:

  • Education;
  • Experience;
  • Years with a company;
  • Size of projects; and
  • Reference checks.

Now, those are just the start of the conversation, and the first step in developing the success profile of potential candidates.

Furthermore, the same clients are asking for psychometric assessments (personality testing) to be conducted on all potential candidates before the shortlist is even sent to them. In the past, this would have only been carried out when the shortlist had been confirmed, if at all.

These key facts point to the rising trend within the procurement profession of companies looking beyond the CV.

Natural Attributes or Learned Skills

So why is attitude so important? And can it really outweigh experience and qualifications when looking at a future recruit?

With strategic partnerships and vendor management a strong focus for procurement teams, there is an increased need for individuals to have effective stakeholder engagement, influencing skills and, overall, a great attitude.

Many within the profession believe skills can be learned. However, attitude is something you are born with. It is, therefore, the more important quality to look for when hiring a new employee.

I personally believe it all comes down to the role in question, and how that person and the role fits into the objectives of the organisation.

Attitude vs. Aptitude – Pros and Cons

Let’s look at some key factors when it comes to recruiting attitude over aptitude.

Cultural Fit

Ensuring a new employee fits with the company culture is important. Not just for the organisation, but also for the candidate to feel comfortable in their surroundings, and ensure they perform to the best of their abilities.

This is where personality testing can come in handy to look at this before they even get to the final stages of interviews.

Communication

The right attitude in a key procurement project lead can make or break the outcome of the project. With the need to liaise with a variety of different stakeholders, both internally and externally, how they interact and communicate with these people is essential to the success of a project.

Training & Support

Hiring someone with limited experience in procurement, but who has the drive and passion to progress their career in this area, needs a large amount of support, mentoring and access to training to become a loyal employee.

This leads me to ask, does your company have that internally, or via connections externally?

Team Balance

In order to be able to hire someone based on attitude over skills, you need to ensure there is already a high level of experience within the team. You need to balance the pendulum, or else you may have a great team culture, but no success to go with it.

Managing Expectations

One of my greatest concerns when a client hires a new employee based on attitude over aptitude is ‘expectations.’ When I take a role brief, we discuss the role and candidate expectations and what will the candidate have to do.

Measuring Success

What will the candidate have to achieve in six to 12 months to be successful in the role? These are usually decided on before potential candidates are interviewed. Once a decision is made to recruit a less skilled person, expectations of the role may need to be adjusted.

Speed of Learning

While, yes, skills can be learned some people develop skills at a slower pace than others so you need to ask yourself before making the final hiring decision, can the role expectations be adjusted?

And how much time can you allow for the individual to develop the skills they are lacking?

Clear Cut Decision?

I do agree that attitude is probably more important than aptitude, but only slightly.

As you can see above, it’s not a clear cut decision or process for future recruitment strategies.

It goes further than a question of balancing attitude vs aptitude. The answer lies in the internal processes you have to support this, and the time you will allow that person to develop required skills.

Arthur Freudiger, Procurement Solutions Manager at Charles Kendall, sums it up best. “While culture and attitude is critical, there needs to be the right balance depending on the position to ensure projects and KPIs are met. Otherwise it’s all pointless.”

Dee Clarke, is a Senior Consultant within the Davidson Projects & Operations team, which delivers the right technical and project expertise for any stage of a project or asset’s life cycle.

She has more than 10 years’ experience in recruitment across the Australian and Irish markets. During this time, Dee has forged a strong expertise in Procurement and Contracts and is an Affiliate Member of CIPSA.