Your Company Won’t Scale If You’re Not Hiring For Attitude

Your Company Won’t Scale If You’re Not Hiring For Attitude

How much time has your company’s executive team wasted dealing with low performers? Or trying to accommodate temperamental personalities? Or repeating a laborious hiring process because you selected the wrong person the first time around?

When you’re scaling an organization, you don’t have a minute to waste on poor hires. That time, money and focus that executives are spending on trying to correct bad hires is better spent aligning and growing the business. During the scaling stage, even a few mishires can derail your growth plans and waste precious weeks, months or even years.

As intuitive as that sounds, companies still get this wrong because they misunderstand the source of bad hires. The biggest cause of hiring failures isn’t hiring people that lack skills; it’s hiring people with the wrong attitudes.

As we learned with the landmark Hiring For Attitude research, a lack of skills only accounts for 11% of hiring failures. By contrast, 89% of hiring failures are the result of candidates having the wrong (or poor) attitudes.

Skills are important, of course, but technical competence is very easy to assess. There’s no excuse for hiring someone whose programming, engineering, or financial skills are subpar because there are tests to assess virtually every technical skill.

But assessing whether a candidate is resilient or fragile, disciplined or unfocused, proactive or reactive, ambitious or lazy, is considerably more difficult. It’s not impossible, but successfully hiring for attitude requires three steps. And missing even one of those steps jeopardizes the project.

Step 1: Define The Attitudes That Differentiate Your High Performers

Has your company clearly and scientifically defined the attitudes that distinguish the highest performers from everyone else? When we asked that question of more than 600 companies, we discovered that only 15% said that they had “thoroughly defined” those attitudes. Meanwhile, 51% said they had “somewhat defined” the attitudes that distinguish high performers and 34% had “not defined” them.

How can you ensure that every new hire is as good as your current high performers if you don’t know precisely which attitudes differentiate your star employees? You can’t just take another company’s attitudes and think those will work for your culture. You wouldn’t use another company’s marketing material to sell your unique product, so why on earth would it make sense to hire for your competitors’ attitudes? The “right” attitudes that define a high performer will vary from culture to culture.

For instance, the person who becomes a high performer at Southwest Airlines is a totally different personality than someone who becomes a high performer at The Ritz-Carlton. Both organizations are famous for their customer service, but Southwest sings the seat belt instructions while The Ritz- Carlton serves high tea. Similarly, Google and Apple are both also great companies, but their cultures are quite different.

Step 2: Ask Interview Questions That Directly Assess Your Attitudes

Most hiring managers suffer from a particular type of bias, namely that they unconsciously want candidates to pass the interview. Most interviewers unknowingly give away the right answers to their interview questions, and in doing so, ruin their ability to assess candidates accurately.

Take the following interview question: “Tell me about a time when you adapted to a difficult change and how you overcame it.” This interview question clearly tells the candidate that they should share a success story about how they “adapted” to a difficult change and “how they overcame it.”

Because this question gives away the correct answer, almost no candidate will share a time that they failed to adapt or overcome a difficult change. Yet, there are a great many people who neither adapted to, nor overcame, the difficult changes they’ve faced. And it’s those failures that must reveal during our interviews.

A much better attitudinal interview question would encourage candidates to tell us about all the times they didn’t adapt to, or didn’t overcome, difficult changes.

A true attitudinal interview question, one that doesn’t give away the answer, is almost painfully open-ended and focuses on a challenging situation.

Step 3: Know How To Grade Candidate’s Answers

You wouldn’t ask skills-based interview questions without first knowing the right answer, otherwise, there’s no point in asking the question.

Attitudinal interview questions work the same way. If hiring managers are making gut-based hiring decisions, your company will never achieve consistent quality of hires, and your ability to scale will be severely compromised.

But when you’ve got an answer key that spotlights good and bad answers, you’ll have a system for consistently and accurately rating candidates’ responses. And there’s a mountain of science for predicting whether a candidate’s answer is great or troubling.

We used advanced linguistic analysis to assess candidates” answers. Among the many findings, we discovered that bad interview answers use the word “you” 392% more than good interview answers, and “they” 90% more. Bad interview answers also contain 40% more adverbs, 92% more negative emotions, and 103% more absolutes. 

Here’s the bottom line: If you’re serious about scaling your organization, you simply can’t afford to waste time, money and energy on poor hires. And with 89% of hiring failures resulting from poor attitudes, it’s time for companies to get serious about hiring for attitude.

 

Source:  Mark Murphy via Forbes.com