The Secret to Successfully Hiring for Attitude

Do your clients know how to hire for attitude?

According to Mark Murphy, author of Hiring for Attitude, employers' inability to successfully assess candidates' attitudes during the hiring process is the reason why so many fail so quickly.  In a recent Forbes interview, he said that of the 200,000 new hires his research company recently tracked, 46% failed within the first 18 months.  Attitudinal reasons, such as lack of coachability, low levels of emotional intelligence, motivation, and temperament, accounted for 89% of those bad hires. 

Attitude is harder to assess than skills because candidates can easily be tested for skills.  But if a candidate doesn't possess all the necessary skills, they may be able to gain them through training. But training can't change a candidate's attitude.  

So how can employers find candidates with the right attitudes?  Murphy recommends asking better interview questions and getting referrals from their star employees.  But the only way to truly know if a candidate's attitude meshes with the company culture is to see them in action. Your clients can do that by initially bringing workers in on a contract-to-direct basis. That way they can assess a candidate's attitude for a certain amount of time before making the risky, and often costly, direct-hire commitment.

There are some things that the traditional job interview just cannot tell an employer.  By allowing your clients try-before-they-buy, you can help them reduce their bad hires and become their valued partner as a result.

Debbie Fledderjohann is the President of Top Echelon Contracting, Inc.

Views: 571

Comment by Ilona Jerabek on March 23, 2012 at 11:12am

You are right, Debbie, that attitudes and personality traits are difficult to assess in an interview, and some quirks don't surface until a few month after the person is hired. And you are right that trying out an employee on a contractual basis is a good idea.

However, there is a way to assess these elusive concepts - psychological assessments. While these are not 100% bullet-proof either, they do tend to have a better predictive value than interviews and references alone.

Let me give you an example. My company is specialized in personality, career, attitude and intelligence testing. We have many recruiters among out clients. One of them called her sales rep recently and complained that one of the candidates she was going to present to a client did not perform as well as she expected on the test, and she was a bit upset about it - the test must be wrong, because the candidate presents well, has 7 years of experience running his own business etc. She wanted to talk to me, so that I could explain how it's possible that such a great candidate scores poorly on some of the key aspects.

I got the test results a couple of days later, reviewed them, braced myself for a discussion with an unsatisfied customer and sent her an email to let her know I am ready to talk. Then I got a reply from her, saying that it's not really necessary. She sat down with the candidate, talked to him about the results of the assessment, and the candidate told her that it pretty much summed up his personality. She decided not to present him to the company, as it would not have been a good fit. I let out a sight of relief.

This is a skilled recruiter with over a decade of experience. She assessed correctly the candidate's sales skills - he did score well on presentation skills, knowledge of sales techniques and many other aspects. However, he scored low on patience, listening skills and a few other scales that are not readily observable. The systematic evaluation by a test can pick up certain issues that an experienced interviewer cannot.

So yes, try-before-you-buy strategy is a good one, but you still run a high risk of getting it wrong.You are making the hire "risk-free" instead of "risk-proof."

Employing tests when hiring for attitude is the real secret. If you want to see some examples, check out this page:

More info is available at, or contact me.

Ilona Jerabek, PhD


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