Recruitment advertisements often emphasize the skills and experience required to apply for a job. This is understandable, but is also a mistake. Organizations should place more emphasis on recruiting the right attitudes during the hiring process. When you want to build an uplifting service culture, attitudes can be even more important than skills.

A great attitude accelerates an employee’s ability to contribute valuable results. A great attitude also has a multiplier effect, uplifting the moods and attitudes of every other member on your team.

One key component in a great attitude is “willingness”. Willingness means being pro-active and resourceful, finding ways to excel in different circumstances.

The three important elements include:

1. Willingness to Adapt

No organization operates in a static environment. The willingness to be flexible and adapt can be a strong impetus to achieving tangible and valuable results. When a person is highly skilled – but insists on doing things “the usual way” – using only those skills he is already comfortable using, this itself can become an obstacle.

The willingness to adapt is essential to meet continuous changes in technology competition, and customer expectations.

2. Willingness to Make Improvements

One part of good employee performance is the ability to make improvements over time. In a changing world, if an employee feels there is no need to make improvements in any aspect of his work, poor performance evaluations are sure to follow.

The willingness to make improvements also requires seeking feedback from colleagues and customers, asking for opportunities to do even better in the future. Asking “Is there anything I can do next time to make it even better for you?” is a powerful way to gain insight and ideas that lead to higher value performance and results.

3. Willingness to Listen

Candidates in an interview are often gauged on their ability to communicate, and their articulation is carefully evaluated when they speak. But listening skills are equally important – and for many service roles an even more important critera!

The best articulators may not necessarily be the best listeners. The willingness to actively listen to the concerns of customers and colleagues is crucial to deliver more valuable service. Only by listening carefully to what is being said – and unsaid – can a service provider appreciate the subtleties of each person’s preferences and priorities, customizing their service to deliver maximum value.

This value can be measured in tangible results including rankings and reputation, pricing and profitability, customer loyalty and employee satisfaction.

Attitude Contributes to Culture

When building an Uplifting Service Culture, recruitment for attitude is more important than prior existing skills. Skills can be taught, coached, developed and improved. Attitudes can change, too, but it takes a lot more effort.

It’s true that an Uplifting Service Culture can lift the spirit of everyone at work. But who do you want to hire next? Someone technically skilled who brings the mood down, or someone naturally up who makes your culture stronger?

The choice is yours. We recommend hiring for attitude first.

31 replies
  1. Kazim Sultan Ali
    Kazim Sultan Ali says:

    Yes attitude are basics of any human working or not. At work CHANGE and FLEXIBILITY towards improvement is important. On above article I am 100% agreed.

  2. Jackie
    Jackie says:

    This is excellent material – and very much needed in these parts of the world. I am a hospitality trainer – newly arrived from working at the Four Seasons Resorts and Hotels (California) and now working in Rwanda. Everything you say is spot on – and helps to bring the point home as I use Ron’s website a lot.
    Tremendous Value! – Keep them coming.

  3. Leandro de Almeida
    Leandro de Almeida says:

    Hi Ron, great article! I was missing such a text related to the individual’s “inner forces” that can be perceived through attitudes and actions. The referred “willingness” is exactly an example of an internal power that moves the person to a pro-active, cooperative, improving, positive way of behaving, working and developing relationships. Before talking about uplifting services or cultures, we need to be aware that this “desire to” ( = willingness) is – perhaps – the essence of serving. In my point of view, “serving” means – in a pure and simple way – the most genuine and spontaneous desire to do (or even not to do) something that will make a positive difference to someone else. The best examples of service usually come from people with this “inner force”. Good!

  4. Helcio
    Helcio says:

    Excellent insights indeed. I’m just now in a recruitment process and raised points are all important. Particularly the “willingness to listen” (to the customer in a first moment to delight them in a second moment) and “willingness to adapt” are crucial from my perspective. Thanks for that.

  5. bolognesek
    bolognesek says:

    Fantastic! Wish all employers currently recruiting would READ this!
    Thank you!

    JAVAID says:

    I am convinced that right attitude is very important for uplifting service but partially disagree because at the same time it is the responsiblility to assess the capabilities of an employee. Willingness works if capability for adoption is there, Otherwise it will take alot of time to develope capabilities. Do you think in this competiitve environment companies have enough time to tolerate employees for long time with poor competencies despite of right attitude….?

  7. Leandro de Almeida
    Leandro de Almeida says:

    Ron, it’s clear that this is an issue that belongs to the recruiting process itself, but maybe you could explore a bit in another article how this attitude could be identified during a hiring process. Maybe with good/real life examples. Thanks.

  8. jayaram k parliakad
    jayaram k parliakad says:

    “Attitude first; skills second” – very true. Without attitude, great skill, competence and any other positive strength cannot work or create desired outcome!!! A great principle, succinctly spelt in this wonderful article. Hats off to you Ron Kaufman. I had a chance to listen to Ron Kaufman when he visited Kuwait a few years ago and addressed the entire bank staff. It was excellent!!!
    Prof P K Jayaram, India

  9. JessieTay
    JessieTay says:

    Good article, thnxs for sharing. Like it.
    Totally agree….Attitude first before qualifications and experience, but during the short span of time in an interview how can we identify if the candidate’s attitude is good or otherwise?

  10. Sharon Sperry
    Sharon Sperry says:

    Thanks Ron! I would add for folks who are inspired by this idea, that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, so if you want to recruit for attitude make sure your interview questions test for recent, relevant AND long-standing behaviors that demonstrate the attitude you’re looking for, and that your interviewers know what the desired behaviors look like. Also make sure that you can show what you’re recruiting for is a valid predictor of success in the job and environment, and that you’re aware of any local employment laws that may require a consistent and fair selection process 🙂

  11. Ashfaq Agha
    Ashfaq Agha says:

    Attitude is mother of high performances.Therefore while recruiting it should be given high ratings.

  12. Linda Lea Larson
    Linda Lea Larson says:

    I could not agree more — you can always train for skills but changing attitude can be very difficult. Attitude is often a thought process that people use to justify their behavior. To change attitude you first need to change the underlying behavior and that takes serious dedication to organizational change.

  13. Jayarajan Nair
    Jayarajan Nair says:

    Yes, fully agree with you, Lai Chun. Attitude always comes first. Skills can be taught. What’s the point of having an intelligent staff with a poor attitude. A staff with the right attitude will get everything else right with time.

  14. Hoa Phan
    Hoa Phan says:

    We have always talked to our managers about recruiting attitude first. Thanks for this which we can share with our team to strengthen their belief.

  15. Hans Mudde
    Hans Mudde says:

    I have always been recruiting in Logistics on attitude. My statement is that I can teach an employee easy on the usage of the logistics tools and processes. But to train somebody in how to communicate in a proper way to the customer f.i. a delivery delay, that will take some more time. The right way of communication should be already in the DNA of a person.

  16. Sdayal
    Sdayal says:

    Attitude will lead to success of course. A less qualified person who naturally has a positive attitude will realize the need to be competent and to overcome his disabilities, but how long can he sustain the quality of service and how well can he perform in a senior position in a competitive world?

  17. shakil meraj
    shakil meraj says:

    We always give importance to educational qualification and experience in the recruitment process, but it is not correct all the time. Attitude should come as the first criteria for recruitment. At the end of the it is “Attitude” which matters most. Would be grateful if you post another write up on how to find the person with the right attitude for a job? What will be the process to select the right person with right attitude. Thanks indeed!!

  18. Wong Lai Chun
    Wong Lai Chun says:

    Thanks all for your great comments!

    Javaid, I am glad you agree that attitude is important for Uplifting Service. In no way, are we recommending that attitude can substitute poor competencies and I agree it takes lots of time to develop them. It is about which take precedence when choosing the two – Skills or attitudes? Which would have a higher influence on your choice?

    Sharon – Thanks so much for sharing some ways in which we can recruit for attitude!

    For a start, we can look at how we define ‘positive attitude’ in our organization – what are the behaviors we want or clearly do not want in our team members?

  19. Allan H Jensen
    Allan H Jensen says:


    I agree attitude is crucial. A manager needs insight into how individuals are serving customers and for that you need good feedback mechanisms in place. However monitoring will not make the service offering excellent in itself, so getting and maintaining people of the right attitude is crucial. In an interview situation, you may get “charmed” and be unable to uncover whether the right underlying attitudes are present.

    I would find it very valuable with a further article giving actionable steps in a hiring situation, to screen for attitude. The Singapore Quality Center used to have an assessment tool called the “Star Profiling” which was meant to screen for attitude. I didn’t find it very credible when I reviewed it but I very much like the idea of a more consistent manner of screening. Any thoughts on that?

  20. Jimmy
    Jimmy says:

    Ron, well said.
    “Skills can be taught, coached, developed and improved. Attitudes can change, too, but it takes a lot more effort.”
    Providing training will take care of the skill and experience issues bring along much benefits to the company.
    Engaging bad attitude employees can result in much losses to the company.

  21. Leon
    Leon says:


    I totally agree with this statement as I have seen in the past retail establishment’s in curtain regions have abolished this idea and have paid the price dearly, yes skills and experience counts but having a right attitude is more valuable in a costumer oriented environment more often than not.

  22. Anirban Sinha Ray
    Anirban Sinha Ray says:

    I have noticed that often recruiters look for a big tag name – as the previous employer – forgetting that even in the best of organizations there are and can be people with ‘poor’ attitude, which can spell doom for his/ her organization.
    Attitude maketh a man – so goes the saying, combine it with the right skill set and competency and you are choosing a winner

  23. Emily
    Emily says:

    Great article! Thumbs Up! An individual’s attitude can be an asset or liability in his/her personal capacity. Sadly, not many people realise it consciously.

  24. Sri Ram Devan
    Sri Ram Devan says:

    Great Article Lai Chun,

    But I do have a question that may require some form of reflection. Most graduates today may have high flying academic qualifications but then again they lack the right Attitude. As you put it, the willingness & the adaptability levels of staff is low. Maybe because of their personal pride and ego.

    The saddest part is these good right attitudes can be found in those who are less academically qualified compared to young graduates. They are found to be more adaptable and willing to do many things that graduates would hesitate to do. I feel the less qualified people fear being less competitive in the market. So here’s a big dillemma that most organizations would face: would they be ready to hire less academically qualified people compared to graduates? Just so they could have a talent pool with the right attitude ?

  25. Wong Lai Chun
    Wong Lai Chun says:

    @ Sri Ram Devan – thank you for raising a very real issue. It is common for us to hear from HR personnel that – in general – less academically qualified individuals are the ones with better attitudes.

    I do not see there is a BIG dilemma in that one attribute – such as being academically qualified – is something that is exclusive or clashes with the attribute of a great attitude in an individual. Both attributes CAN be present in one individual. Individuals with both these attributes (academically qualified and great attitude) are diamonds & gems in the employee market. It may take more time and effort to search and find such individuals but it is solely the recruiter’s decision if they are willing to spend the time and effort. It is important that any organization which is serious about successful recruitment take a long term view and not be myopic and hurriedly recruit what is quickest. In most of today’s affluent cities, there is no shortage of academically qualified people (whatever the definition of that may be. It could just mean the person is great in writing academic dissertations etc. Unless he is entering the academic field, paper qualifications are no guarantee to results that will be of value to an organization). There are also lots of true life stories of very successful and billionaire entrepreneurs who did not and still do not have great academic qualifications when they first started out. Most cases, it was their determination and relentless attitudes that made them who they are today. Having said that, I am in no way devaluing academic qualifications.

    When it does come to the crunch between qualifications and attitude, as I mentioned in the article -” Skills can be taught, coached, developed and improved.” If a person is short of academic qualifications or skills (but great in attitude), many organizations have the willingness and practice of sponsoring this individual to upgrade himself. There is a high likelihood there will be long term commitment and loyalty from this employee and it’s certainly a great investment.

    I like to reiterate I am not advocating one in place for the other or throwing the other out the door totally. I am recommending – ‘Hire attitude first’.

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