Skills or passion? It's actually both!
Ian Dyason. 16 May 2021
Credits: 1. Book cover of Cal Newport's book taken off Bookdepository; 2. Quotation from Simon Sinek taken from social media
So what do you hire for, skills or passion / attitude?
You would probably have seen these various types of posts on LinkedIn and other social media. I follow these two authors; Cal Newport is a Georgetown University computer science professor and best selling author of various titles, including Deep Work and How To Be A Straight A Student. I have been a keen follower of his work because they are filled with practical common sense. Many people are also familiar with Simon Sinek, especially after his Start With Why book. My latest Sinek read was his 2014 title, Leaders Eat Last. Sinek is an inspirational speaker and as inspirational speakers go, he sells you ideas that you will either gravitate to or not.
I share my thoughts from a point of view of a very poor hirer... most of the people I have hired have not lasted, and those who have may not have contributed much.
So these two authors stand on either side of the divide, each saying the opposite of the other. This makes one wonder whether there is a truly universal component to look out for in hiring. In this article, I share my thoughts from a point of view of a very poor hirer... most of the people I have hired have not lasted. Only two outstanding hires come to mind and based on that, I share my thoughts. Please feel free to share yours as well.
I have always said in my webinars that experience may not be a good thing; because we don't know whether the experience is relevant to the current situation or not. Relying on outdated experience may be worse than not having any experience at all because at least in the latter situation, we can focus on building the relevant experience through trial and error. In the case of the former, where we stick to the old and irrelevant experience, we may be leading the business down a very dangerous track.
experience is good, but only when it is totally relevant to the job at hand, and when the skills gained are congruent to requirements.
Don't get me wrong, I am not insinuating that experience is not important. But the over-reliance of experience over skills and attitude may make one fixed in the wrong position. Wait... did I say experience over skills? Isn't it true that an experienced person is skilled in what (s)he is experienced in? Unfortunately, no. A person may have had 4 years of sending out unsolicited email for their corporate business, but that does not mean the person is skilled in mass communication or business development. At best, the person is skilled in sending unsolicited emails, which in today's PDPA age, is totally irrelevant.
Experience can also cause a person to pick up the wrong skills. For example, in construction, there are many ways to short-cut the building process, and save costs. This makes the project cheaper and faster to do; but it certainly might not make it safer! Hiring someone with such experiences in a construction project is tantamount to putting the whole project in jeopardy, including lives.
Hence, experience is good, but only when it is totally relevant to the job at hand, and when the skills gained are congruent to requirements.
It's certainly not about age!
Now, let's say for a moment that the person has had years of relevant experience; that would be a great applicant, wouldn't it? Do you expect this person to be younger or older? That is rhetorical, actually. Yet, in Singapore, there is this unhealthy disdain for older workers. In fact, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) considers workers who are aged 40 and above to be "matured". This is not in line with their own perceptions but the perceptions of the market. Hiring managers seem to discriminate against applicants who are 40 and above. This is totally preposterous! Considering that the life-expectancy in Singapore is one of the highest in the world, at 83.2 years, 40 years is not even mid-life! We can contribute well into our 60s or even 70s! With another 30 more years of economic value, why would hiring managers discriminate against such people? And considering that more experience will be held by people who are naturally older, why do we shun applicants who are 40 and above?
Hiring managers seem to discriminate against applicants who are 40 and above. This is totally preposterous! Considering that the life-expectancy in Singapore is one of the highest in the world, at 83.2 years, 40 years is not even mid-life!
Some people think that older people are more expensive, since they have more debts to service. Others think that they are more stubborn and are not open to learning new skills. Others feel like they will not be able to report to a younger supervisor. And still more think that these people are more argumentative and use their age against others ("I have eaten salt more than you have eaten rice!") While some people may exhibit these behaviours, they are not representative of all the people in this age group. It boils down to their mindset.
What about education?
Elon Musk once commented, "I hate when people confuse education with intelligence. You can have a degree and still be an idiot."
Then there is education. Singapore has a high preponderance of using education level over many other traits of a job applicant for hiring. That is the reason why parents are so anxious for they children to attend university and graduate with a degree - ANY degree. There seems to be this n