After an intense period of hiring (5 roles in one month), we have spent some time thinking about the best way to hire. Our conclusion is that it is always better to hire on attitude than on capability without the right attitude. Someone really excited about the role, with good intrinsic motivation and strong organisational skills, is far more likely to stick around and fit into the existing team – even if they need to learn some aspects of the business first. Find tips on how to test for attitude below.
We’ve had an exciting month -we are hiring for 5 roles at Movemeon. As such, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing interview technique and how we can improve our hiring process. It’s also a common theme of discussions with employers we work with – especially high-growth start-ups.
We wanted to share what we’ve heard, and experienced first-hand, around interviewing. And also why we think people should focus more on attitude, and less on experience!
HIRING ON ATTITUDE
I’ve heard a lot of similar stories about when hiring has gone wrong. Almost all refer to a nagging doubt the interviewer had, and the majority refer to making the mistake of choosing capability over attitude. A common explanation goes along the lines: we were a bit worried about whether they were excited enough about the role and how they’d fit with the team, but we thought given their hugely relevant experience and high intelligence we’d hire them anyway.
Finding good candidates with the capabilities required is not the hardest part of recruiting. This is especially true for consultants, where their firms ensure they receive a high level of training and development.
The real issue is finding people with the right attitude. Hiring managers are typically looking for the same things: someone who is highly motivated, prepared to “get things done”, is naturally organized and who wants to develop. These important characteristics have a far larger impact on how the candidates go on to perform in the role. Any gaps in experience or capability can be quickly resolved if the attitude is the right one!
So we would implore anyone interviewing to ensure that the right attitude for the role is a non-negotiable factor! It’s certainly something we’ve stuck to.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR HIRING
Attitude is notoriously difficult to measure. Especially in an interview format, where all candidates are at least trying to feign excitement! We’ve therefore come up with some recommendations for an interview process, to ensure you’re testing the right things.
- Don’t place too much importance on case studies
As ex-consultants, it’s very tempting to test what you’re naturally good at: logical problem solving and structured communication. Whilst case studies test these skills well, and can give some invaluable information on how someone works in a team, they are just one data point. It’s always worth openly discussing how central a skill this will be in the job. We often found it was rare that it was the most important element of a role, so have battled our instincts to be over-reliant on them (or even use them in some cases).
- Ask direct questions about working style
A good initial assessment is made by asking someone how they prefer to work. This should always be caveated with the fact that there are no right answers: we want to find someone who will enjoy all aspects of the role. We ask a series of questions about working style, for example: when are you most productive? How do you organize your life? How do you approach repetitive tasks? By asking the same questions to each candidate, you get a good feel of different working styles.
- Experience based questions can be very effective in determining attitude
Whilst these direct questions were a good initial start-point, there is always the risk that people are thinking too much around what we want to hear. As such, we would then move into a few questions about their experience, drawing out examples of their attitude and working style. Particularly effective were asking questions around: what did you like most about your previous job; what did you like least; what’s the most complicated process you’ve had to manage. These would then be followed up with a series of questions to see what attitudes were driving their answers.
- Ensure the right people are doing the interviewing
You (the hiring manager) will not always be the best person to assess someone’s cultural/ attitudinal fit. You need to ensure that people who are already in the role, and who fully understand the role, will also get to assess the candidate’s fit. It’s essential when they are interviewing, that you are clear it’s not to test capability but instead work style/ cultural fit. The more data points you get, the richer the discussion/ decision-making process.
- Always try and disprove your initial conclusions
This is a great general rule for interviewing but feels especially pertinent for assessing attitude. We all jump to conclusions – it’;s part of human nature. However, they are often not right. We, therefore, have a rule when interviewing: if you think something about someone, try to disprove it. Remove your prejudices and understand that the person you are interviewing is under a lot more pressure than you.
- Spend some time with the candidate socially
Always end your interviewing process with a more social interaction. Going for a team lunch, or dinner, is a great way to see how someone fits when they are in a more relaxed setting.
I hope you find these tips helpful. We’d love to hear about anything you’ve found effective.
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