Skillset vs Mindset

Skillset is obviously very important and you always want to make sure that the person you are considering for a senior role has the training and talent necessary to perform the job you are looking for them to do.

However, there is a critical aspect here to consider when applying this to roles that require innovative thinking, creating something from scratch or doing something that is greenfield for your business.   This aspect is around the approach, style or what many call mindset that the individual has and will bring to the role.

In the case of innovating, creating something from scratch or doing something that is greenfield the ability to adapt, use intuition, recover from a setback and essentially deal with the potential “unknown” is all about mindset and has very little to do with skillset. In these cases, having the right mindset is the key.

What’s the difference between a mindset and a skillset in the context of hiring talent?

At its core, a skillset is something you can be taught or trained. Often many factors play into your ability to master a particular skill. For example, I will never be a Premiere League star no matter how much I practice. But to a general sense, most skills can be obtained over time with enough practice and dedication.

Mindset is a different animal. There is a great deal of research on what a mindset, the work done by Paul Stoltz on Adversity is insightful. He explains how one’s mindset and ability to deal with adversity plays an enormous part in how individuals can cope with one simple fact – that things change – and not necessarily how we thought they would.

Mindset is essentially the core being of the person. It is their beliefs, their understandings, accepted norms, paradigms and approach to life in general. It is often what makes them who they are. And, it is something that does not necessarily change quickly, if at all.

In contrast, at its core, a skillset is something that can be taught or trained. Some are more naturally skilled at certain things than others, but in general, this principal will hold true.

How then do you shift this emphasis from skillset to mindset in the hiring practice?

If you were to ask most leaders what they would value the most – someone having the right skills or someone have the right mindset – I bet most answers would be similar to, “Well mindset, of course!” But if we were to examine closely the types of questions and interactions people have during the interview process itself, I believe we see the interviewing efforts are more aligned with determining the skillset of the person and have very fleeting glimpses into the real mindset of the individual.

In fact I would argue that when considering skillset vs. mindset, in many cases we say we want mindset but only screen for skillset.

This is only natural because it is much easier to assess skills than mindset, but we need to realize it and really assess the mindset of an individual. If a leader or organisation is serious about innovation, growth and entering new markets and is looking for talent to drive this effort, either internally or externally, then it is critical that the focus be on those who demonstrate the natural mindset to think disruptively.

The key to this is more in-depth candidate assessment.

Recruitment and selection can be complex because people are complex.  In a basic level recruitment process employers make hiring decisions on what candidates Appear to be, their presence, manner how they come across.  This is Level 1 of assessment.

If the interviewer is more skilled they will extract information regarding what the candidate Can do, by exploring the knowledge, skills and experience that the candidate has amassed and utilised in their career.  This is Level 2 of assessment and it is where the assessment process stops for most companies and where a decision on the candidate is made.

A powerful behavioural based psychometric assessment approach such as McQuaig’s can explore what a candidate Will do by uncovering their real underlying mindset of a candidate including their attitudes and beliefs, self motivation and temperament.  This is Level 3 of assessment and it is by assessing and understanding these character traits that the hiring manager can be more certain of the impact that a candidate might have in the role and on the success of the business.

How we assess people















“Companies hire on Level 1 & 2…and fire on Level 3” Ian Cameron, MD, The McQuaig Institute

Assessing candidates to a Level 3 standard against job requirements ensures we make smarter people decisions. This saves us time. This saves us money.

At Mindset Search we have the right methodology to assess candidates to a Level 3 standard.

Mindset matters. That’s why we look beyond skills and experience and explore the attitude, temperament and self motivation of the senior talent we shortlist. Our in depth process helps to determine whether these candidates have the right mindset fit with your company culture and with the specific demands of your senior role.

We manage your search assignment through our unique online assessment portal, My-Mindset. Our award-winning combination of advanced technology and cutting-edge methodology produces, in-depth candidate assessment that reveals candidate mindsets, reducing guess work, streamlining the recruitment process, and improving new employee retention.

Our clients use our behavioural profiler tool to create a benchmark person profile for each role. Candidates create and upload their own content, including an elevator pitch video, so they can highlight specific elements of their skills and experience that they feel are most important whilst behavioural assessments, video interviewing and competency questionnaires provide in-depth candidate analysis.

We conduct thorough due diligence on your chosen candidate gaining references from previous line managers, clients and from their previous direct employees. 96% of new employees recruited using my-mindset are still in place after a minimum of 12 months

We are so confident in our methodology that we offer a full 12 month replacement guarantee on the successful hire. Get in touch find out how we can improve the quality, culture fit and retention of your senior hires.




Tony Talbot



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