A major mindset shift is underway in Singapore.

Top schools in Singapore will begin to admit more than just the brightest students. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his 10th National Day Rally speech, called for top schools to admit students with character and resilience.

In a highly competitive society where a huge emphasis is placed on academic excellence, this signals an important shift in the way students will be assessed for entry into Singapore’s top schools.

This shift in mindset is proof that some influential decision-makers believe that good students are not defined simply by good academic grades. Besides academic grades, a good student is one who possesses other qualities such as character, resilience, leadership and drive.

If schools are now looking beyond academic excellence alone, what can organisations learn from this new approach when hiring employees?

Traditional approach to hiring

A recent survey revealed that 99 per cent of 4,000 participating companies believe they have a significant percentage of bad hires. These numbers are quite dismal considering the fact that large numbers of employees in Singapore are well-educated, with at least a diploma or a basic degree.

This seems to indicate that education is not the most reliable predictor of work performance.

The survey results also imply that employers are in dire need of a better approach to hiring to ensure they do not waste precious time, resources and opportunity costs acquiring “bad hires”.

The traditional approach to hiring is one that is based on skills, qualifications and experience.

Over the last decade, I have observed that when managers talk about hiring good people, they are almost always talking about “highly skilled” and “highly qualified” people.

In his best-selling book Good To Great, author Jim Collins says: “In determining “the right people”, the good-to-great companies placed greater weight on character attributes than on specific educational background, practical skills, specialised 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 you wish to hire good candidates for your organisation, you should look beyond skills, qualifications and experience.

If so, what should you look out for when hiring candidates?

The CAAP model

Perhaps it is time organisations shifted their hiring mindset to focus on what I term the “CAAP” model — cultural fit, attitude, aptitude and personality dimensions — for assessing potential candidates:

Cultural Fit

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


The candidate should also possess the right work attitude. For instance, a candidate with a positive attitude will not give up easily when faced with a challenge or a difficult and challenging task. Some examples of a positive attitude include:

•   Willingness to take on new challenges;

•   Willingness to take responsibility for things that go wrong; and

•   Willingness to admit mistakes and learn from them.



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 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, are inquisitive and feel they are a part of the organisation.


Personality is important because it governs how a person behaves towards others and how he reacts to others.

It governs how a person works within a team, how he communicates with others and how he behaves when working under stress.

Article by Steven Lock, the high performance strategist of FutureTHINK! Training & Consultancy, a training and consultancy firm. He is the author of Hiring For Performance: The CAAP® Model To Hiring And Building High-Performance Teams. For details, visit www.futurethink.com.sg