At least a few times a month, I get a call from a client who wants me to “fix” an employee with training or coaching.
“He’s got great computer skills, but he’s rude to our customers.”
“She’s very efficient, but we had to move her to the back office because she can’t get along with her coworkers.”
“She does a great job when she’s trying, but she doesn’t try hard very often.”
“He’s very organized, but people walk on eggshells when he’s in ‘one of his moods.'”
Well guess what? The source of these behavioral problems isn’t usually a skill that needs to be learned, so training isn’t going to fix it. It’s an ATTITUDE that’s likely been with that person for a long time, and will take a long time and probably a lot of money to even begin to change it.
Therefore, if you don’t want to be in the shoes of the leaders of the people described above, focus less on skills in your hiring process and more on attitude.
I realize of course that you can’t SEE a person’s attitude in an interview – because attitude is about how someone thinks or feels.
Start With Your Job Announcement
Instead of making it sound like an 1800’s outlaw WANTED poster (Think: Wanted: Administrative Assistant, 2 years experience minimum, must type 268,000 WPM). Focus the announcement on attitude first so that you grab the attention of people who possess that attitude. The Peace Corps knows how to grab those with the right attitude with ads that read, “The corner office can wait. Some corners of the world can’t. Life is calling, how far will you go?”
Write Interview Questions that Assess the Behavior of Those With the Attitude You Seek
Look to your employees who you believe have great attitudes. What do they DO that lets you know they have the right attitude? Once you know, write interview questions that help you identify people who exhibit that behavior. If persistence or perseverance is a behavior exhibited by someone with an “always get the job done” attitude, you might ask, “Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond what was expected by your supervisor to get the job done.”
Weight Your Interview to Focus on Attitude
One of the biggest reasons people make hiring mistakes is because they focus too much in the interview on asking skill-based questions. Most of the time, you can assess skill in other ways. If attitude is critical to success (it is) then you’ll either want to give more weight when scoring (yes, you need to score the answers to each question and have benchmarks upon which to base your score) those questions or ask more questions about attitude than you do about skill.