That is why putting emphasis on a candidate’s attitude matters so much. But how do you recruit for attitude? Here are 5 recommendations.
Look (way) past the curriculum vitae
What matters most when you pick up a candidates resume? Is it the layout on the page? Perhaps it’s the amount of different jobs they appear to have held in a given period of time.
Or maybe, you are someone who filters candidates by their educational track record? I know people for whom this matters (way) too much. Was it a ‘Red Brick’ University (UK) or an Ivy League school (USA)?
Now of course education matters. However, what about the “School of Life and Knocks” and what it can do to form your character as an individual?
I get it. Your industry or company has ‘standards’ or prerequisites for candidates. That works for me to an extent. There are tons of potential candidates out there and you have to start somewhere.
My recommendation is that you look beyond the words on the page and evaluate the person themselves. Take the time to meet people you may want on your team. Give yourself a chance to get to know them first.
The importance of attitude
Whether you work in a small business seeking growth, or a large organization looking for efficiencies, you rely on your people to solve problems and overcome issues.
During 2014 and 2015, we recruited quite a number of people to our team. It’s such a rewarding sensation to be in a business that is growing, wouldn’t you agree?
It takes us time to find the right people though. One of the primary reasons for that is the emphasis we put on “attitude” and cultural fit.
What do I mean by that? Well, the way a person approaches a situation matters a lot when you work in a customer-oriented role. It is much easier to train people how to ‘do’ things your way. It is much harder to get them to behave in a certain way.
There are plenty of times when people will be very busy, perhaps overworked as you grow. It’s in those moments that the soft skills like attitude, passion and going the extra mile are the things that make all the difference.
Build a diverse team
In a 2011 interview (Hire for Attitude, Tran for Skill, HBR), Arkadi Kuhlmann, former CEO of ING Direct USA and ING Direct Canada is quoted as saying, “don’t hire people from [your] industry. You’ve got to untrain them and then retrain them. I’d rather hire a jazz musician, a dancer, or a captain in the Israeli army. They can learn about banking. It’s much harder for bankers to unlearn their bad habits.”
I have been fortunate to work in several countries, including Belgium, France, Germany, the UK and New Zealand. I have visited many more. My unique journey and experience tells me diversity matters a lot.
Some of the highest achieving or best performing teams I have worked in comprised people from completely different backgrounds. For instance, mixing cultures, nationalities, industries and ages works really well. It enables you to learn from one another as well as helping one another learn the skills needed to do the job at hand.
Three top questions for the interview
- “What are your 3 key strengths and 3 things you’re working on?” Although many suggest this question is outdated, it is surprising how many candidates still take time to search for their answers. This tells me how well a candidate knows themselves. Do they listen to the feedback others give them. Are they interested in personal development? Asking follow-up questions enables us to find out more.
- “Tell me about an achievement in your life you are particularly proud of.” I find this enables me to explore beyond what is written on the page and get to know the person sitting in front of me better. Often, they will have activities outside of work that show me they are rounded and are not solely motivated by work.
- “Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a complex issue or problem, and how you did that.” This open-ended questions allows us to explore how the candidate approached a challenging situation. It does not have to be work-related, of course. It is key to keep them focussed on the role ‘they’ played during the story. I find it helpful to get them to tell the story and then probe for more information based on what comes up.
Finally – recruit people who smile!
You want problem-solvers not problem-makers on your team. One of the best and most sure-fire ways of identifying people with the right attitude is to look out for the smile.
Southwest Airlines has long been championed as leaders when it comes to hiring practices. Lots of others follow their lead. JetBlue actually hires people that smile. Now, it’s not quite as simple as: walk in the door, smile, get the job.
It’s all about your personality and whether or not you smile naturally. Do you have the right attitude. Are you positively minded.
I recall in my first job, working in technical support for Texas Instruments many moons ago in Paris, being told: “the customer can hear you when you smile!”. I thought it was a joke. Until I experienced it myself.
So next time you call up a company, (perhaps your own!) why not see whether you can tell if the person on the other end of the line is smiling. Try it yourself. Next time you are talking to someone on the phone, a) stand up and b) smile. It will transform the conversation.
People who smile have the right attitude. They will help make others feel better. When people get along and have a ‘can do’ attitude, you can move mountains.
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