There’s a debate going on among career experts about which is more important: skillset or mindset. While skills are certainly desirable for many positions, does having the right ones guarantee you’ll get the job?
What if you have the mindset to get the work accomplished, but currently lack certain skills requested by the employer? Jennifer Fremont-Smith, CEO of Smarterer, and Paul G. Stoltz, PhD, co-author of Put Your Mindset to Work: The One Asset You Really Need to Win and Keep the Job You Love, recently sat down with U.S. News to sound off on this issue.
HH: What is more important to today’s employers: skillset or mindset? Why?
JFS: For many jobs, skillset needs to come first. The employer absolutely must find people who have the hard skills to do whatever it is they are being hired to do. Programmers have to know how to program. Data analysts need to know how to crunch numbers in Excel. Marketers must know their marketing tools and software. Social media managers must know the tools of their trade like Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, and have writing and communication skills.
After the employer has identified candidates with these hard skills, they can shift their focus to their candidates’ mindsets--attitude, integrity, work ethic, personality, etc.
PGS: Mindset utterly trumps skillset.
HH: Do you have any data or statistics to back up your argument?
JFS: Despite record high unemployment, many jobs sit empty because employers can’t find candidates with the right skills. In a recent survey cited in the Wall Street Journal, over 50 percent of companies reported difficulty finding candidates with the right skills. Companies are running lean and mean in this economy–they don’t have the time to train for those key skills.
PGS: [Co-author James Reed and I] asked tens of thousands of top employers worldwide this question: If you were hiring someone today, which would you pick, A) the person with the perfect skills and qualifications, but lacking the desired mindset, or B) the person with the desired mindset, but lacking the rest? Ninety-eight percent pick A. Add to this that 97 percent said it is more likely that a person with the right mindset will develop the right skillset, rather than the other way around.
HH: How do you define skillset?
JFS: At Smarterer, we define skillset as the set of digital, social, and technical tools professionals use to be effective in the workforce. Professionals are rapidly accumulating these skills, and the tools themselves are proliferating and evolving–we’re giving people a simple, smart way for people to validate their skillset and articulate it to the world.
HH: How do you define mindset?
PGS: We define mindset as "the lens through which you see and navigate life." It undergirds and affects all that you think, see, believe, say, and do.
HH: How can job seekers show they have the skillset employers are seeking throughout the entire hiring process?
JFS: At the beginning of the process, seekers can showcase the skills they have by incorporating them, such as their Smarterer scores, throughout their professional and personal brand materials. They should be articulating their skills in their resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, blog, website–everywhere they express their professional identity.
HH: How can job seekers show they have the mindset employers are seeking throughout the entire hiring process?
PGS: One of the most head-spinning studies we did, which was conducted by an independent statistician showed, out of 30,000 CVs/resumes, when you look at who gets the job and who does not:
A. The conventional wisdom fails (at best). None of the classic, accepted advice, like using action verbs or including hobbies/interests actually made any difference.
B. The only factor that made the difference was, those who had one of the 72 mindset qualities from our master model, articulated in their CV/resume, in a specific way, were three times as likely to get the job. Those who had two or more of these statements, were seven times more likely to get the job, often over other, more qualified candidates.
It’s safe to say the jury is still out on this one. What do you think: skillset or mindset?
Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010) and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.