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Hire For Attitude, Train For Skills
by Mel Kleiman

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Robin Hood is reputed to have said, "I can't hit the target when I don't know what it looks like." While he wasn't talking about hiring new employees, the quote aptly illustrates the first thing you need to do before you recruit and hire anyone — make sure you know what your target employee looks like. I'm not talking about physical characteristics or even a job description. I'm talking about analyzing what it takes to be successful in the job.

A great acronym to use here is CAPS — capacities, attitudes, personality, and skills. Visualize a pyramid with four layers. Label the base layer with the C, which stands for capacities. This base layer holds the rest of the pyramid up and reminds you that if an applicant doesn't have the capacities needed to do the job, nothing else matters.

There are two kinds of capacities required for every job. The first is physical capacity. What does the job require physically and can the person do those things? Does the person have to be able to carry and place open house signs? Climb stairs? Stand for long periods of time?

The second part of capacity is mental. How smart does the person have to be to do the job? Can the person understand real estate law and write contracts — either now or with training? Physical and mental capacities are the bare minimum requirements needed to do any job.

The second layer in the pyramid is attitude. Once you know an applicant has the required capacities, you need to find out if they have the attitudes needed to do a good job. After all, 80 percent of the people who don't make it in this industry don't wash out because they can't do the job, but because they won't — and that's an attitude problem.

When 1,000 employers were asked what the most important trait an employee could have was, the No. 1 answer was a positive attitude. The No. 2 answer was dependability, and No. 3 was honesty. These are all attitudes. Customer service is an attitude, dependability is an attitude, and, honesty is an attitude. The employee who is consistently late, believes that being on time isn't that important. You need to define the attitudes that are important to success on the job and then test for them.

The third layer of the pyramid is personality. When you consider personality, you have to understand that there are three personality fits to look for. First, the job has a personality. A job that requires an employee to interact with a lot of people would, of course, be best suited to someone who likes working with others. Think of the employees who have been successful in the position you need to fill and try to pin down the personality traits that set them apart.

The second personality fit to look for is whether they have a personality that fits the manager's personality. Ideally, the employee should prefer to be managed the way the manager prefers to manage. At the extremes, some managers micromanage and some encourage their people to manage themselves. Analyze your management style and ask applicants who their favorite manager was and why. This will give you a good idea if it will be a good match.

Finally, you've got the company fit. Does the personality of the applicant match the personality of the company — its culture and organization? While you'll never find one person who perfectly matches all three personality fits, if they have the capacities and attitudes you need, most likely, they will be able to manage their personality (do things they don't necessarily like to do) in order to get the job done.

At the peak of the CAPS pyramid is skill. Skill is the least important thing you should look for in a potential employee. While it's always possible to train a person in the skills needed to do most any job, there's simply no way to train them to have the right mental and physical capacities, attitudes, or personality. So, always hire for capacities, attitudes, and personality and train for skills.

They next time you have to hire, remember the C.A.P.S. pyramid. You'll be surprised how much easier it is to find just the right person when you know exactly what you're looking for.

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Copyright© 2002, Mel Kleiman. All right reserved. Mel Kleiman is a nationally-known authority and consultant on employee recruiting, selection, and retention. This article is excerpted in part from Mel Kleiman's latest book, Hire Tough, Manage Easy. He also serves as president of Humetrics, Incorporated, which provides employee recruiting and selection systems, pre-employment testing, as well as educational presentations and in-depth training workshops.More of his work appears on FrogPond ( For more information, contact the FrogPond at 800.704.FROG(3764) or email

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