At a recent presentation, a member of the audience came up to me right before I went on stage and told me, “The most important thing to interview for is attitude!” This person is not alone in their belief that attitude is a key hiring requirement.
The problem is, IT’S NOT TRUE! Now before you dismiss the notion, let me explain. The problem with attitude (like fit, culture, chemistry, etc.) is that the label introduces ambiguity into your hiring process. Instead of clearly identifying what you need, using labels introduces emotional terms that each person interprets differently.
For example, if I told you a person works 45 hours a week. The person who works 60 hour weeks thinks this person has a bad attitude while the person working 40 hours a week thinks the person is a star. If I tell you a person works very well with other people, the manager who has a team environment sees a good attitude. Unfortunately, the manager that needs the person to work alone in a field office has a different reaction.
Don’t introduce any type of ambiguity into the hiring process because it only leads to mistakes. Instead of talking about (and interviewing for) attitude, try translating the label into specific behaviors. Here is a question I call the magic question that helps you get this done. “How does someone have to behave to earn your label of good attitude?” The answer is a description of the behavior necessary for success on your job.
The person develops new approaches to solving customer problems.
The person does exactly as they are told and does not vary from the company policy.
Here are two completely different behaviors that might be labeled as a good, or bad, attitude depending on your need. When you know you need someone to follow explicit instructions, you can interview for that specific behavior.
Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. In an interview, you want to seek out examples of how the person handled the same or similar situations in the past. By clearly defining the behavior necessary for success on your job, you go into an interview with a proven game plan.
Attitude, shmattitude, stick to defining and interviewing for behavior and your probability of hiring winners goes up!