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Learn the single most important trait to look for when hiring

After almost 20 years of experience recruiting people, I’ve found over and over again that the single most important thing in hiring is attitude.

In my first ten years in business, I realised that I didn’t understand what that meant.  I didn’t know how to detect a bad attitude.

Since then, I’ve done a tremendous amount of research on the subject (and I’ve read all the research my team has done over the last 40 years).  I wish I had the information I have now 20 years ago!

One of my functions recently has been to help clients implement a recruitment system into their business that ensures they hire profitable team members.

Other than the tests and assessments that our research has created, I only know of one other company that has a decent understanding of detecting attitude when making a hire decision.  That company is LeadershipIQ.  Mark Murphy is the founder of the company.
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I stumbled upon an article written by Dan Schawbel in Forbes magazine earlier this year (it was written in 2012).  It was an interview with Mark (who also authored a book called Hiring for Attitude).  Here’s a link to the article if you’d like to read it.  I’ve quoted the important bit below:

When our research tracked 20,000 new hires, 46% of them failed within 18 months. But even more surprising than the failure rate, was that when new hires failed, 89% of the time it was for attitudinal reasons and only 11% of the time for a lack of skill. The attitudinal deficits that doomed these failed hires included a lack of coachability, low levels of emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament.

I loved this article because I’ve found it to be true.  We’ve documented an enormous amount about detecting attitudes as well as general and emotional competence in people.

While there is a tonne of information about the topic, here’s three things to look for in an applicant that can indicate a poor attitude:

  1. Job Hopper – when reviewing resume’s, if you see that a person has only been employed for less than two years at a time, it can be an indicator.  Our research has demonstrated that these people often leave just before they get caught out for poor performance or causing problems.
  2. Amazing Interview – This may seem funny to you.  Let’s categorise this… if we rank interviews from Poor to Amazing the people who are amazing have sometimes (maybe even usually) had interview training.  I’m not a fan of this because it means the person has practised and practised and practice interview skills and had their resume prepared for them.  What type of person goes through that training?  Someone who regularly has interviewed.  What’s the reason they are changing jobs every 6 or 12 or 18 months?  I’m not saying that this always means they have a bad attitude.  It is just an indicator, and this means there is more detail to uncover or pay attention to.
  3. Bad Mouthing – They start telling you about how bad their last employer was, and how poorly the company had been run.  While this may have truth behind it, I’ve found this is an indicator of a high blame trait.  This is more than likely going to be very subtle.

I’ve found attitude to be the most difficult thing to assess in an interview.  It’s one of the main reasons that our tests are so valuable – they take most of the guesswork out of recruiting.  It takes a huge amount of intention and awareness to detect a poor attitude via an interview, and the study that Mark’s company did proves it to be true.

If you’ve found this helpful, let me know what it did for you and share it.

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