The Head of Talent Acquisition at Southwest Airlines offered some critical career advice to students participating in a CFES Brilliant Pathways Webinar on May 13 focused on Essential Skills: we hire for attitude first, skills second.

“I absolutely love the concept of the Essential Skills,” said Muccio. “It’s what Southwest was founded on. Our beginning mantra was ‘hire for attitude, train for skill.’ We knew we could train people to do the technical elements of the job, but that attitude piece was something that was, well, the price of admission, and we haven’t backed off that.”

The 30-minute webinar was the latest in a bi-monthly professional development series by CFES for College and Career Readiness Advisors, educators, high school students and their families.
Event moderator, CFES President Rick Dalton, started by asking Muccio how he trains the thousands of employees he hires annually to develop Essential Skills like perseverance, agility and teamwork.

“I like to think of the Essential Skills as a muscle,” said Muccio. “If you want to grow or strengthen any muscle in your body, you have to work at it, you have to exercise it. You can’t learn teamwork if you are not on teams, whether it’s getting involved in sports or school projects. To me, half of the school projects or work students do should be in a team environment. That’s what work is today.”

Muccio, who is responsible for employment branding, workforce development, and hiring strategy, has quarterly check-ins with employees, emphasized the importance of providing feedback in real time. He suggested praising students when they show leadership, for example, but to also question their perseverance if, say, they don’t complete a homework assignment.

“Development in Essential Skills isn’t something that you are going to pull up in a spread sheet or necessarily even in a report card,” said Muccio. “It’s really important to ask a young person ‘hey, what do you want to be known for?’ Then you have a playing field that allows you as a teacher to say ‘hey Greg, you said you want to improve in this area and I want you to know that I’ve really seen that by what you did here, here and here.”

Since COVID-19 hit the airline industry, Muccio said the need for Essential Skills have become more important than ever. Some employees have actually increased productivity, he said, while others have struggled to adopt. “I gotta know that you are going to show up and that you are going to bring you’re A-game,” he said. “You cannot be talented enough or smart enough and not show up, and that means being able to pay hurt … can I count on you is the number one thing.”

The next CFES webinar is slated for May 20 at 4:30 p.m. featuring Francesco Cesareo, President of Assumption College, and J. Bart Morrison, CFES Board Chair and Associate Professor of Management at Assumption College. They will discuss the probable impact of the COVID-19 crisis on postsecondary institutions.