A Person Specification is your tool for attracting and identifying candidates with the right attitude

How to hire the right person with the right attitude

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference”… those are the words of Winston Churchill, and if you’ve ever hired someone with the wrong attitude, you’ll know just how true that statement is!

The right attitude makes a big difference to your business

If you hire someone with the right attitude, they’ll fit smoothly into your team; work hard to meet your goals; and will be pleasant to work with.

Conversely, an employee with a bad (or wrong attitude) can make your workplace a living nightmare.

That person will upset your other employees – as well as your suppliers and customers. Their job performance won’t meet your expectations, and you’ll dread even the slightest encounter with them – let alone performance appraisals.

Does attitude really matter if a candidate has amazing skills?

Yes, attitude absolute matters, regardless of an applicant’s super-hero skills or spectacular qualifications.

You see, all those star attributes are worth nothing if your workplace is disrupted by someone with a bad attitude. And just because someone has good skills, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll perform in the way you want them to.

You can train a person’s skills, but you cannot train someone to try and change their attitude. I’ve seen companies try to do this, but believe me, it never works. You’re better off to hire someone with the right attitude from the get-go, and not compromise on that.

So how do you hire someone with the right attitude?

It’s actually very easy to ensure that you attract job applicants with the right attitude: you write a Person Specification.

What’s a Person Specification – and how is it different to a Position Description?

Whilst a Position Description covers the tasks and responsibilities of a role, the Person Specification lists the experience, skills, qualifications, attributes and other traits of your “ideal” employee.

It’s a good idea to write a Person Specification for every role in your business, and it’s something you can (and should) use with contractors as well as with employees.

How do you write a Person Specification?

Think of the Person Specification as a list describing your absolute perfect employee. So write down your wish list and make sure it covers the following aspects:

  • Qualifications
  • Experience
  • Technical Skills
  • Physical Skills
  • Personal behaviours and competencies

If you’re replacing an employee in an established role, think about a great previous employee you’ve had in that role and list what was so great about them!

Then make it your goal to find someone similar – but don’t settle for anything less. “Settling” is a mistake that many business owners make these days, and that’s often when I’m called in to find the right person.

If you can, get input from other team members as well as the direct manager of the role you’re recruiting. You’ll get some really interesting feedback on what’s important to them.

You can read more tips on how to write a Person Specification here.

How do you use a Person Specification? 

Once you’ve written your Person Specification, you can use it as an in-house tool for your recruitment. (It’s not a document that’s made public.)

You use the Person Specification in conjunction with the Position Description to write the following:

  •   Job ad
  •   Email screening questions
  •   Phone screening questions
  •  Interview questions
  •  Reference checking questions
  •  Psychometric profiling needs.

Once you know exactly what kind of person you’re looking for, you’ll be able to gauge applicants against your criteria.

If you do that, you stand the best possible chance of finding a good employee that’ll be a good fit with your team.

Or, as Winston Churchill puts it, “I am easily satisfied with the very best.”


  • Skills can be learned, but attitude is just about impossible to change.
  •  Recruiting someone with the right attitude will enable your company to flourish and grow.
  •  Recruiting someone with the wrong attitude disrupts your team, suppliers, customers, profitability, and stress levels.
  •  A Person Specification is your tool for attracting and selecting candidates with the right attitude. It is your wish list of attributes of the perfect employee.

The Person Specification covers:

  • Qualifications
  • Experience
  • Technical skills
  • Physical skills
  • Personal attributes
  • Personal behaviours and competencies

Once you’ve written it, the Person Specification is an in-house tool for writing:

  •  Job ad
  •  Email screening questions
  •  Phone screening questions
  •  Interview questions
  •  Reference checking questions
  •  Psychometric profiling needs.

Next step:

Need some help with writing Person Specifications?

It’s easy to DIY with the Person Specification Description Template… it’s all set up and ready for you to use.

Buy the Person Specification Template in Recruit NZ's online DocShop.

Or would you prefer us to help you?

 Contact our friendly team today to discuss your recruitment needs.

Contact us to find out how we can help your business.

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Tanya Gray is your strategic HR partner, passionate about driving clients’ productivity with innovative solutions and collaboration.

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