A positive attitude is one of the best predictors of success in the workplace. Yet it receives little focus during the interview process. Despite the fact that poor attitude is responsible for most firings of new employees, hiring managers continue to give scant attention to attitudinal factors and devote the majority of their resources to assessing the technical skills of job candidates.
The Relationship Between Attitude and Job Failure Among New Hires
Researcher Mark Murphy and his team tracked the performance of 20,000 new hires. Murphy and the professionals at Leadership IQ found that 46% of these new hires were fired or disciplined within the first year and a half on the job. Even more surprising was the finding that 89% of the new hires failed because they displayed a poor attitude. Only 11% failed due to poor performance or lack of skills.
The Key Reasons Why So Many New Hires Are Fired or Disciplined
In his book, Hiring For Attitude, Murphy looks at the reasons why so many new hires fail to last more than 18 months on the job before being disciplined or fired. Below are the top four reasons why new hires experience failure so quickly with their new employers:
1) Bad Temperament: New hires have personalities that are not a good fit for their jobs
2) Poor Motivation: Employees lack initiative and require prodding to meet minimum requirements
3) Low Emotional Intelligence: New hires have problems understanding the emotions of their peers and superiors
4) Lack of Coachability: Employees are unable to accept direction and constructive criticism from others
Why Hiring Managers Fail to Select Candidates with a Positive Attitude
In spite of increasing research highlighting the need to place more emphasis on attitude and soft skills, many employers continue to make the same hiring mistakes. There are three primary reasons why hiring managers continue to hire unmotivated and emotionally unstable employees:
- Hiring managers focus almost exclusively on intelligence, skills, or capabilities. When evaluating job candidates, hiring managers tend to zero in on their ability to meet key performance goals associated with a particular job. These goals are typically quantifiable, enabling managers to look at an applicant’s past job performance and predict whether the applicant will be able to meet minimum job requirements.
- Employers do not know how to assess a job applicant’s attitude. Assessing a job applicant’s motivation and temperament is not easy. Many hiring managers do not have the tools or expertise to evaluate a candidate’s soft skills or attitude. Most pre-employment tests or screening tools assess a candidate’s technical skills or proficiency but do not include questions that evaluate motivation or the ability to cooperate with co-workers.
- Job candidates falsely describe themselves as positive and motivated. Some job candidates know that a positive attitude is sought by employers. In an effort to secure the job, these candidates will falsely describe themselves as positive and motivated.
How Employers Can Screen for a Positive Attitude in Job Candidates
In order to hire and retain employees with a positive attitude, employers must make some adjustments to their procedures to evaluate job candidates. Specifically, employers must pay closer attention to the candidate’s interview behavior and take extra measures to screen for the presence of negativity or potentially disruptive behavior. Below are seven steps that can help employers weed out job applicants with a bad temperament and identify candidates with a positive attitude.
1) Run a background check to weed out people with past employment problems. In addition to helping you eliminate candidates who are prone to violence or threatening behavior, background checks highlight incidents of workplace theft and dishonesty.
2) Contact references and inquire about the candidate’s attitude in the workplace. If possible, speak with the candidate’s previous managers about the person’s temperament and motivation at work. Ask if the candidate got along well with colleagues and demonstrated appropriate workplace behavior.
3) Be wary of candidates with a pattern of job hopping. A person’s inability to keep a job for more than a few months is a red flag to hiring managers. Job hoppers often have difficulty maintaining relationships with co-workers.
4) Be cautious of candidates who criticize their former employers and colleagues. It is inappropriate to disparage former employers and co-workers during an interview with a new potential employer. And criticism of former co-workers suggests that the person may be prone to attitude problems.
5) Pay attention to nonverbal clues about a candidate’s attitude. Job candidates who are late for their meetings with potential employers or who seem bored or disinterested during the interview process are exhibiting a poor attitude and low motivation. They should not be considered for an open position.
6) Consider administering a brief personality test or screening tool to applicants. A short screening test such as the DISC or POP (Personal Orientation Profile) will assess a job candidate’s personality and may help to predict behavior in the workplace. Results of these screening tools should be considered in conjunction with the candidate’s resume and interview behavior.
7) Introduce candidates to your team members to see how the candidate interacts with others. Interviewees who express genuine interest in meeting others and becoming a part of your work team are more apt to display a positive attitude at work if they are hired.
Clearly, a positive attitude is a highly desirable trait to have in your employees. Please contact us to learn more about how you can effectively assess a job candidate’s attitude and potential for success as an employee. We look forward to hearing from you.