“An organization, no matter how well designed, is only as good as the people who live and work in it.”

Those were the wise words of Dee Hock, the Founder and ex-CEO of VISA International.

What Dee Hock is saying is very clear: People are the real assets of an organization. What is critical is not the form or the structure, but the substance of the organization; and the substance of an organization is its people. Most of us will agree and acknowledge that in order for an organization to excel, it needs great people.

But what does it really mean when we say we need great people? Does it mean we hire only the best qualified and the best skilled people? Or does it mean we hire the right people?

The Traditional Hiring Framework

In a landmark 2010 White Paper published by Manpower Inc., market research revealed that although unemployment rose steadily in developed economies, more and more companies were ironically finding it more difficult to fill key positions. Based on their research, employers in Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Poland and Singapore were some of the countries that were having the most difficult time finding the right people to fill jobs.

The key question we should be asking is: “Why?”

Why are employers in these countries finding it increasingly difficult to find the right people to fill job positions, amid increasing unemployment rates?

One of the main reasons behind this anomaly is because most organization’s focus is on hiring the best-qualified, best-skilled and the most experienced people. Their traditional approach to hiring is based on Skills, Qualifications and Experience (in HR parlance it is called Knowledge, Skills and Experience or KSE).

But let’s pause and ask ourselves these questions:

Are Skills, Qualifications and Experience sufficient to ensure you have the right people on board?

Are these requirements all you need to bring your organization to a higher level of performance?

George Anders, the author of the book ‘The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent before Everyone Else’ had this to say: “Transcripts, credentials, and job history still matter, but they aren’t the whole show anymore”.

So if skills, qualifications and experience are not sufficient, then what else do we need to look for?

The New Hiring Model

Jim Collins, the author of the best-selling book ‘Good to Great’ says that “In determining ‘the right people’, the good-to-great companies placed greater weight on character attributes than on specific educational background, practical skills, specialized knowledge, or work experience. Not that specific knowledge or skills are unimportant, but they view these traits as more teachable (or at least learnable), whereas they believed dimensions like character, work ethic, basic intelligence, dedication to fulfilling commitments, and values are more ingrained.”

In other words, if we wish to hire the right candidates for our organization, we should look beyond just skills, qualifications and experience. Our main focus should be on a candidate’s character attributes because character attributes defines how a person behaves, interacts, communicates, and relates to others around him/her. Character attributes also defines a person’s intrinsic motivation.

So what character attributes should we look out for when interviewing potential candidates? Do we look for positive attitude? Or do we look for great personalities?

Over many years, The Idea Smith has been using the CAAP® Model to ensure I hired the right candidates. The CAAP® Model is a planning and selection model that enables me to focus on specific character attributes of potential candidates, beyond traditional skills, qualifications and experience.

The CAAP® Model

CAAP® stands for Culture, Attitude, Aptitude and Personality.


Culture refers to Cultural Fit. It is important to select a candidate who is able to fit in with the prevailing culture of the organization or team. Selecting a candidate with the incorrect cultural fit could potentially spell trouble for both the candidate and the organization or team.

Take for instance, the corporate culture at General Electric Co. (GE). GE is well-known for its intensely competitive culture. When Jack Welch was the CEO, he was known to have categorized the employees into three categories: the top 20%, the middle 70% and the bottom 10%. The bottom 10% is the result of a process known as “Forced Ranking”. The top 20% will be showered with praises and financial rewards. The middle 70% would be managed differently and given stretch goals. The bottom 10% will be purged from the organization. As a result of this practice of “bottom slicing”, it created an intensely competitive environment within GE.

Therefore for a new hire to be successful in this case, the candidate needs to be able to fit in and adapt to the highly competitive GE environment.


In today’s highly competitive business landscape, candidates with the right cultural fit are no longer sufficient. The candidates should also possess the right work attitudes. For instance, a candidate with a positive attitude will not give up easily when faced with a challenge or a seemingly daunting task. Some examples of positive attitude include:

– Willingness to take on new challenges

– Willingness to take responsibility for things that go wrong

– Willingness to admit mistakes and learn from the mistakes

– Find ways to overcome obstacles

In contrast, bad attitude may include:

– Blaming others when things go wrong

– Criticizing others behind their backs

– Self-centered

– Arrogant


Aptitude is the ability to learn. The aptitude to learn should not be confined to just learning new skills or knowledge. It includes the ability to connect with people; to establish strong relationships with co-workers and peers; and the ability to learn and function as a team.

People who possess the aptitude to learn are continually in a learning mode. They usually possess a high level of personal mastery. They are inquisitive and feel they are part of the team or organization.


Personality is important because it governs how a person behaves towards others and how the person reacts to others. It governs how a person works within a team, how he/she communicates with others, and how that person makes decisions and manages change.

Interestingly, Manpower Inc. came up with the concept of “Teachable Fit” that encourages companies to look at how “teachable” the potential candidate is if the candidate does not meet the full range of skills required for the job position. In addition to skills, the “Teachable Fit” framework looks at the values and the mindset of the potential candidates, specifically looking at the candidate’s attitude towards work. It also encourages employers to look at personality and intelligence and at character traits such as empathy, emotional intelligence and other soft skills.


In today’s highly competitive and fast-changing business landscape, selecting and hiring the right candidates is crucial because people are the most important asset of any company and organization. It is no longer sufficient to hire candidates based on the traditional criteria of skills, qualifications and experience alone. If you want your team or organization to excel and outperform your competition, you need to adopt the CAAP® Model and select and hire candidates based on Culture, Attitude, Aptitude and Personality.

To know more about how The Idea Smith lean principles and PDCA methodology can help your company improve profitability by reducing lead times, costs and wastes while increasing throughput and customer satisfaction , get in touch .      

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