Why a good attitude can matter more than experience

Why a good attitude can matter more than experience
SEEK content teamupdated on 16 July, 2021

Many of us will have seen a job advertised that sounds great, but then held back from applying for it because we didn’t think we ticked enough boxes.

But if you rule out certain jobs because you don’t have the qualifications or exact experience listed in the job ad, you might be missing out on an opportunity that could be great for you.

Having passion for the role, a good attitude and a willingness to learn can make you more attractive to hirers than someone who has plenty of experience but comes across as bored, jaded or disinterested.

Here’s why – and what you can do to demonstrate a great attitude when you apply for a role, and in the workplace.

Most employers choose passion over experience

Recent research conducted for SEEK shows that hirers value a good attitude in job seekers, which they say includes things like motivation, willingness to learn and participate, and a capability for self-directed learning. In other words, someone who is keen to take part and actively expand their skills and knowledge.

Employers see these qualities as transferable and often prefer job seekers who have them over technical skills or industry experience. In fact, 2 out of 3 employers would prefer to hire someone who has passion for a role but limited experience, over someone who’s fully qualified but lacks passion.

Many have made this choice before: 4 out of 5 hirers have employed someone who is enthusiastic, willing to learn and motivated, but who lacks the right technical skills. And 90% of these hirers were happy with that decision ­– even when the job seeker didn’t originally have the relevant qualifications or experience.

So how can you show an employer your enthusiasm and can-do attitude, and can you build these attributes within yourself? Kirsty Ferguson from Interview Chix offers her advice to help you.

Your positive attitude can transform a workplace

Employers value a positive attitude because of the impact it can have on a workplace.

And it’s not just senior roles like managers or leaders that can make a difference. It’s important to remember that any role – no matter how big or small – gives you an opportunity to make a positive impact through the way you work, Ferguson says. “There are no menial jobs, there is work and how you work and who you are when you work. Any job can have an impact,” she says.

Employers are looking for people who add to the culture

Workplace culture is important to employers, and the benefits you bring to the collective culture often matter more than your experience and qualifications, Ferguson says.

The good news is that means there’s more flexibility in how you present yourself during your job search. Remember that employers hire the whole person, and your positive attitude can push you over the line, Ferguson says.

“If they can’t imagine sitting beside you and working on a project, then it's really hard to hire you.

“So if you don't show your personality, then it’s difficult for them to choose you over somebody who's got the same qualifications or experience.”

How to build a positive attitude

If you’ve been in the job hunt for a while, it can be hard to keep up a passionate attitude. But Ferguson has some tips for building your self-motivation.

  • Stop comparing yourself to others: Value your own uniqueness – that’s the key to confidence, Ferguson says. “An employer is hiring the whole person, and that’s what can push you over the line. The stats show that employers will hire for what you can bring to the team culture more often than they'll hire for experience and qualifications.”
  • Don’t set up your own roadblocks: We can be our own harshest critics, but it’s often good to take on new challenges even if you have some doubts. You’re often more capable than you realise, and can always ask for support or advice from others along the way if you get stuck. Rather than asking yourself “why me”, try asking yourself “why not me?”
  • Find a champion: Champions are people who actively support you and promote you to their networks, and are more active than mentors. They will know you better than simply what’s on your resume, and should be able to highlight your personal strengths. It could be someone you’ve worked for previously, know through education, or have connected with in your industry. You could also find a champion by building and regularly maintaining your professional networks and harnessing social media as a powerful networking tool.

How to demonstrate a great attitude to employers

It’s not always easy to show employers how you think, but a great attitude can go a long way. Here’s how to show you have self-awareness and are willing to give new things a go in your current role:

  • Say yes to new opportunities: We learn a lot when we’re doing new things. Don’t be afraid of taking on new responsibilities. If you’ve managed to solve most problems that come to you in previous roles, that means you can do that for a lot of the things a new role throws at you.
  • Own your mistakes: Take responsibility for any mistakes you make, and be honest, transparent and vulnerable. “That shows you have self-awareness and self-knowledge, that you don’t blame others, and you’re willing to learn and grow,” says Ferguson.
  • Embrace ongoing learning: Ferguson suggests always being open to learning new skills when you can on the job, as it has the double advantage of helping you to grow as well as showing that you’re always willing to learn. “If you haven’t done something before, give it a red hot go. You will be amazed at what you can turn your hand too if you don’t limit yourself.”

When you’re applying for a new role, demonstrate that you’ve got a great attitude by explaining to the employer that you are motivated and keen to learn at each step – starting with your cover letter, through to in an interview. Remember to always back up what you say with examples.

  • Show that you’re motivated: by using an example of a time where you did great work that went beyond what was asked of you, or a time you overcame a challenge or set yourself an ambitious goal. You could talk about how you’re motivated to take on a new role in the industry that you’re applying in. You can also show your motivated through giving a great response to the interview question ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’
  • Show that you’re willing to learn: by providing examples of how you’ve taught yourself a new skill, adapted to new technology or processes in a previous job, plus any courses, seminars, or other learning opportunities you’ve taken on – at work or outside of it – and how they’ve benefitted you professionally.
  • Show that you’re passionate about the role: by thinking about why you like to – or want to – work in a certain field or role, and share this in your cover letter and interview. For example, if you’re a stylist it might be, ‘helping others feel confident’. Or for a software developer, it might be ‘improving what technology can do for people’.

    This gives you a purpose you can tie things back to. Share any courses you’ve taken, groups you’re involved in, or projects you’ve worked on that support this purpose. Show how you keep up to date with the industry, perhaps by reading related websites or magazines.

    Do as much research as you can about the role and the company, then use this information to help you answer questions in the interview – and to ask detailed questions of your own to show that you’re interested. The way you answer ‘So tell me about yourself’ in an interview is another opportunity to show your passion.

Knowing how to show your enthusiasm to employers can make a huge difference to whether you’re considered for a role. A great attitude can help you stand out – even if you’re up against others who may be more qualified or experienced.

You've got more skills than you know. Discover your hidden talents today and put your skills to work.

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4800 Australians annually. Published June 2021.

Read more:

Workplace skills

Browse top search terms

Did you know many candidates preparing a resume also research their industry by exploring top search terms?
Select an industry to uncover the top search terms
Did you find this helpful?

Subscribe to Career Advice

Get expert career advice delivered to your inbox.
You can cancel emails at any time. By clicking ‘subscribe’ you agree to SEEK’s Privacy Statement.