Attitude in a Job Interview

by Leigh on February 29, 2012 · 0 comments

in Career,Culture,Leadership,Management

Out of 20,000 new hires, the failure rate was 46% according to Mark Murphy, founder and CEO of Leadership IQ.  His research on this topic revealed that the reason the failure rate was so high was because 89% of the new hires demonstrated a lack of coachability, poor emotional intelligence, mixed motivation (to do or to be paid?), and temperament.  In only 11% of new hires was a lack a technical skills a failure factor.

“Hiring for Attitude” was one in the series of Thought Leader Teleforums offered by Marshall Goldsmith and Patricia Wheeler at Leading News.  Guest speaker Murphy talked about what he learned writing his most recent book, Hiring for Attitude:  A Revolutionary Approach to Recruiting and Selecting People with Both Tremendous Skills and Superb Attitude (McGraw Hill, 2011).  He summarized his book by saying, “Hire for attitude, train for aptitude” because “companies want attitudes that perfectly match their unique culture.”

Hiring for attitude is applicable at all levels within an organization.  For instance, CEOs fail so often because they misread the organization’s culture, Murphy said.  In my previous post “The Price of Ignoring Workplace Culture”, I write about why Jack Griffin, Chairman and CEO of Time Inc., was forced out after less than six months of starting at the company.  The basic reason for his departure was because he didn’t closely read the organization’s culture but instead moved forward with his own agenda without consulting with his staff.

“Who do you want by your side?” is one of the questions an interviewer can ask employees at their company use to discover the attitude needed by a job candidate.  By soliciting input from the staff, it is possible to create a checklist of the needed attitudes because the interviewer is looking for the psychological characteristics of what the company needs on their team.  For instance, Murphy shared the example of ‘brown shorts.’  Southwest Airlines brought in pilots for interviews.  One of the first things the interviewers did was ask the pilots if they would change from their suits and instead put on brown shorts.  Not all the candidates were willing to change their attire.  And guess what?  It was those who did put on the brown shorts who continued to be interviewed.  The others were eliminated because they didn’t have a sense of humor, one of the required attributes of a pilot at the airline.

Murphy’s “Five Part Interview” was an eye-opener.  Here’s what the interviewer will ask the candidate.  1)  Think about your job before your current one, name a key person there, and spell out the person’s name.  2)  Tell me about that person; describe them.  3)  How could you have improved your working relationship with that person?  4)  What would that person say were your strengths?  5)  What would that person say about your weaknesses (like not being open to coaching?).  The purpose of this is to generate self-awareness in the candidate and personal reflections on whether he is a good fit for the new company culture.

Researching the corporate culture of the workplace to see if you will be a good fit is the key to having the right —and authentic attitude—when you apply.  Don’t try on brown shorts if that is not something you want to do at an interview.  Be yourself and you will find the culture that is a good fit for your career.

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