Why it’s important to hire mindset not skills set

Brain on light bulb on blue background. Concept of mindset


Lydia Kothmeier, VP of Operations at enterprise CMS Storyblok, explains why hiring for the right mindset rather than skill set can be a powerful strategy for plugging skills gaps.

We all know that hiring and retaining quality tech talent is hard.

And it’s getting harder. Even in the wake of the recent wave of major tech industry layoffs, the reality is that there is still a huge mismatch between supply and demand. A recent Microsoft study found that 65% of hiring managers worldwide report difficulty finding qualified digital talent. Elsewhere, a new index published by Lloyds Bank revealed nearly 7.5 million people do not have the required digital skills for the workplace.

Armed with these statistics, it becomes clear that to succeed going forward tech businesses must rethink how they bridge the skills gap. Enter a growing impetus for hiring for mindset over skills set: an approach which values a candidate’s attitudes, personal traits, and thought processes as much as, or even more than, their industry experience or qualification. In short, it prioritises potential and cultural fit over a person’s qualifications or last job title.

Storyblok is unique in that operating on a completely remote basis since we first started out in 2017 enabled us to form an incredibly varied community of individuals who are all very unique but share a common mindset of learning, improving and innovating. Today, Storyblok is home to a team of 230+ people in 45+ countries, and we celebrate each team member’s uniqueness, background and life experience – something which has been key to our rapid growth. Here’s how to establish a hiring strategy which puts mindset over skills set:

Look past the CV

Yes, a candidate’s CV can provide a useful starting point, helping you to get a basic understanding of their experience and qualifications. It also shows if the person has the relevant industry experience you are looking for. But that’s pretty much where it ends. At Storyblok, we are generally much more interested in finding out about the actual person, what they are looking for, their aspirations, where their passion lies.  

This requires a conversation – but not a standard stuffy interview. Instead, we tend to look for other more innovative interview techniques that allow candidates to showcase their abilities in a more interactive and practical way, for example, a problem-solving task or some sort of gamification. The end goal is to get to know who they are and how they think rather than what they’ve done.  We find that this is a much more effective way of getting a true representation of a candidate’s potential and suitability for the role and our culture. 

Go global 

What’s great about operating on a remote basis is that it enables you to access a wider range of candidates, people who may think differently, are able to contribute new novel ideas and concepts, and are ready to challenge the status quo.

Of course, the reality is that not every company can adapt to this type of setup as there will always be jobs that simply cannot be done remotely and require a physical presence. The tech industry, however, is the type of sector which can enable this way of working, if not thrive on it through the ability to draw from a much wider talent pool and ensure a broader appeal.

Indicative of this, according to Harvard Business Review research digital nomads work in professions where talent shortages are common. From our experience too, the types of digitally savvy and highly professional individuals we tend to attract thrive on the freedom and flexibility afforded by remote working – for some, we know it was one of the key factors which originally attracted them to the job. In this way, where it is possible and relevant, businesses who want to attract and retain the highest calibre of talent should begin to adopt this growing trend.

Close-knit culture 

Having an eclectic, forward-thinking team is one thing – but creating the right conditions for that team to work together involves a plan – especially when you’re all working remotely.

One of the most common pitfalls can be to expect everyone to ‘fit in’ to your company’s culture. The reality is if you want to benefit from a unique calibre of talent, you need to move beyond a ‘one size fits all’ approach. It’s critical to take the time to curate a genuinely inclusive culture that celebrates employee differences and varying viewpoints and respects them.

At Storyblok, for example, we go to great lengths to ensure a variety of points of communication to ensure that everyone gets their chance to speak up and express their thoughts, needs or ideas. From regular ‘Ask me Anything’ sessions under the premise that no question is wrong or ‘too out there’, through to regular employee surveys and annual reviews, the remit is to ensure our people feel safe sharing any concerns and putting their suggestions forward. We also organise randomised ‘coffee chats’  where people speak for 30 minutes to their colleagues in different teams. This enables people to break the ice with people they may not get the chance to regularly interact with. It also means new members get to share their ideas and thought processes with more senior executives too.

Our management style is also very fluid. We believe every team member is different so applying one rule book for all simply isn’t conducive so unlocking potential. With this each manager will take time to develop an bespoke management approach – whether that’s regular check-ins over coffee, monthly reviews or just impromptu catch ups as and when needed. This is crucial to our focus on creating an open working environment – one which nurtures new thinking, embraces curiosity and  enables our people to grow and evolve. 

An innovative advantage

It’s no surprise to see more tech businesses reconsider their hiring approach. After all, innovation is the lifeblood of business growth under normal conditions, but even more so as a means to fuel recovery in an economic downturn. Thus by transitioning to a hiring strategy which places precedence on mindset, attitude and an aptitude for innovation, firms will have the best chance of not just surviving but thriving during this challenging chapter. 

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