Looking for a Junior Team Member? Attitude Outperforms Skills

As a recruiter, I’ve seen many organisations looking for junior team members, and make the decision to hire a candidate with the right attitude and personality over someone with specific skills and experience. And I have seen this achieve exceptional outcomes for both the organisation and new team member.
Looking past the basics on a CV to a candidate’s true nature can deliver huge benefits in the form of retention, loyalty and culture-fit.

This approach to hiring happens in both the public and private sectors, proving hiring true juniors with limited experience is definitely worth considering for organisations that are struggling to find great people.

If your organisation still operates under the assumption that every job, even junior roles, requires prior experience and a long list of highly developed skills, here are some considerations that may help you change your mind…

People with no experience are a blank canvas

How often have you heard “That’s not how I’m used to doing it,” or “At my old job they did it like this…”?

For a person who has spent years in a similar role, you run the risk that they have become stuck in their ways and will be more difficult to train.

On the flip side, when you work with someone who has no prior experience, they are a blank slate; ready to be upskilled and nurtured by you. You can train them in your specific practices, using your tools and methods – and they are generally very motivated to learn and succeed.

Hiring for attitude breeds a positive culture

Recent studies have proven that driving a positive culture should be at the very top of every employer’s list of priorities. And when you hire purely for qualifications and experience, you decrease the odds of finding someone who is also the perfect culture fit.

Whenever I speak to employers about what they’re most looking for in a new junior level recruit, they speak almost entirely about attributes: personable, good communicator, engaged, and so on.

However, the majority then still try to hire based on experience and skills.

Instead, consider looking for people whose CVs demonstrate the attributes you’re seeking and then use interviews to back up your assumptions. For example, when we hire here at HorizonOne we may ask a candidate to “Tell us about the last good deed you did.” This is just one question that helps us understand if a candidate’s attributes and values match our own.

I’ve seen progressive companies reap huge rewards for considering people from all walks of life who have similar values, while paying less attention to prior experience.

For example, one of my clients focuses on how well applicants can think conceptually and strategically. Their entire recruitment process is based on:

  • Tenure (how long an applicant has been with their current or previous employer)
  • Aptitude testing
  • Culture fit

This client has hired everyone from a former banker to a beauty therapist. An enviable percentage of their new recruits thrive, because they are highly suited to the nature of the work and receive extensive training after they’re onboarded.

I’ve also seen instances where organisations have hired ex-travel agents, fitness trainers, and retail staff for administrative roles. These are people who exhibited traits that were exactly what the employer was seeking – and the organisation is all too happy to upskill them after they have been recruited.

What goes around comes around

Mentoring someone who is at the beginning of their career can have a lasting impact, and this is an opportunity you’re unlikely to get with someone who has already had their experience elsewhere.

With a positive first experience in the workplace or a new field of work, that person is likely to become a brand advocate for you for years to come – potentially sending other great people your way in the future.

Canberra is a small town, and giving a keen starter a leg up in their career can lead to waves of good karma.

What’s in it for the candidate?

Why would someone want a job as a receptionist when they already have 3 years’ experience in that type of role? What growth is there for them? If your organisation offers none, is the candidate likely to be invested and be a high performer, given they aren’t looking to stretch themselves?

This is particularly true of candidates who have bounced between several entry level roles in the space of a few years. Sure, they have the experience, but how long are they going to commit to you? There is a vast difference between changing jobs to achieve career progression, and changing jobs for the sake of change.

Instead, consider the growth opportunities for a person who has never held an office-based role before. The learning curve may be steeper, but with the right attitude they are far more likely to be a high performer in the role…and stick around for a lot longer.

At the end of the day, hiring for attributes and culture fit almost always outperforms hiring for skills. Why? The first cannot be taught. The second can.


Sarah Tamasi Recruitment Manager Sarah Tamasi
Recruitment Manager – Administration & Office Support

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