Most organisations have a solid understanding of the skills a good employee needs to be successful. But how many companies really understand the attitudes that are important for success in their organisation? How many hiring managers or recruiters know how to determine whether a candidate’s true attitudes reflect those required to succeed in your business?
Mark Murphy, in his book “Hiring for Attitude” describes an approach to discovering the attitudes that matter in your organisation and the methods needed to uncover whether a candidate has those attitudes or not. And the good news is that it can be replicated by all organisations, large and small.
Below is a brief summary of Murphy’s method.
1 Define the attitudes that make a difference in your organisation
The temptation is to write down a long list of traits we want to see in all employees, including for example honesty, reliability integrity etc. The problem though is that these traits often exist in both successful and unsuccessful employees (there are plenty of honest reliable but unsuccessful employees out there). They do not help us separate those people that have the best chance of success in your organisation from the others. We need to find two distinct groups of attitudes, those that only exist in the successful people in your company and those that only appear in the unsuccessful people in your company (the differential characteristics).
Murphy suggests uncovering these attitudes by questioning the people in your organisation who will have witnessed them. But the trick is to get very specific examples of and descriptions of the behaviours. But don’t get fooled by “fuzzy language”. Descriptions like ‘maintains the highest level of professionalism’ or ‘leads by example’ are open for interpretation. What you understand as professionalism can be quite different from my definition. Murphy’s test is to ask yourself ‘could two strangers have observed those behaviours’?
The output of this phase is a table with two columns, one listing the positive differentiating attitudes (those that exist in successful employees), the other listing the corresponding negative differentiating attitudes (those that exist in employees that do not succeed).
2 Create Interview Questions that highlight the difference
Creating these questions is a four-step process:
Step 1 – Select one of the Characteristics from your table
Step 2 – Identify a differential situation to highlight characteristic
Step 3 – Begin the question by asking “could you tell me about a time you …” and insert the differential situation you have identified
Step 4 – Leave the question hanging
Seems simple enough. But simple doesn’t mean easy, finding the right situation takes some effort and usually need you to look back at the examples you were given when you were surveying your colleagues.
And what does step 4 mean? Murphy explains that too often good behavioural questions are spoiled by leading the candidate to the solution, e.g. “Tell me about a time when you had to adapt to a difficult situation. What did you do?” Well you have just said that they should adapt to it. Leave the question hanging means not leading them to the answer.
3 Creating answer guidelines
Why do we need answer guidelines? For two main reasons, to ensure we have a consistent understanding across the organisation and to give interviewers cues to listen for in the interview.
To get the full picture on hiring for attitude please consult Mark Murphy’s 2012 book; Hiring for attitude; a revolutionary approach to recruiting star performers with both tremendous skills and superb attitude.