Why Hiring for Attitude and Behaviour can Have Tremendous Benefits

January 2, 20190

By Kerrie Briggs (HR Advisor)

For almost two decades the competency-based interviews testing individuals’ skills and capabilities to handle certain workplace situations have been the norm in most organisations when recruiting new talent and still to this day it remains dominant. General interest in hiring based on attitude and behaviour and teaching technical skills on the job are creating a shift in thinking. But why is attitude and behaviour arguably more beneficial than skill?

With an ever-growing need for employees to embrace a company’s culture, connect with their values and just generally ‘get’ the business and how it operates, an individual’s attitude and behaviours are what enables these connections. More than 80% of new hires that are hired based on technical skills fail as an employee due to their inability to connect to company culture. So how do we get this right as a business?

Understanding your external message

Candidate attraction is primarily based on what an individual knows or can find out about you. This means that your external message is key. Simple things like publicising your company values and mission on your internet page has massive advantages when attracting the right talent and deterring those who simply wouldn’t be right for your business.
Having worked in Human Resources for several years my primary driver to join a business is all about the values they exude. I must feel that I not only connect with those values on a personal level, but I believe in them. Without this connection I simply would not be able to do my role effectively. How could I sell the business to prospective employees if I do not connect with it myself?

When I joined Our HR Team it was an interesting journey having originally spoken to Tracey and Kylie (Directors) whilst still in the UK in April. I couldn’t start working in Brisbane until July, so what was there to keep me interested and them interested in me for that long? My draw for Our HR Team was their values around a true partnership with the businesses they support and becoming “part of the fabric”.

For me it was important to be able to build a relationship with my clients based on being a trusted advisor and Our HR Team seemed to sing from the same hymn sheet. This was only really elevated for me through consistent interactions with Kylie and Tracey whilst I was in the UK, lots of lovely little messages saying “we are super busy and can’t wait to have you on board” actually truly instilled in me that even 16,500km away I was already becoming a part of Our HR Team’s fabric and I could really see they were true to their values. One of my favourite quotes seems to fit this story so well “Big things often have little beginnings” So, what does your business say about you and your journey?

Understanding your requirement

Once you have delivered your cultural message successfully into the public domain, you then need to consider your target attitude. Whether recruiting for new positions or replacing individuals that have left your business, take some time to consider the type of personality you are looking for. Rather than looking for a like for like replacement are you actually hoping someone may come in and shake things up? Or are the team working and connecting well already and you are looking for someone that can compliment a team that already works well?

Get team members involved

Bringing team members who will work alongside this role into the interview process is always a good technique to test how well they may interact with your prospective new employee. This gives both parties the opportunity to gauge each other and see how they connect.

A previous company I worked for, following interviews with candidates used to speak to the receptionist to find out how the individual was when dealing with them, were they polite/rude, how did they react when they thought they weren’t being accessed and this would help shape whether they thought the candidate was a cultural fit.

Richard Branson; a key advocate for hiring for attitude, does a similar but more elaborate form of this known as his ‘Taxi Driver’ test. He once flew candidates to his house for an interview and had an 85-year-old taxi driver pick them up from the airport. Once arrived at his house and after unloading their bags he pulled of his mask to reveal he was the taxi driver. He admitted although an extreme example he saw the individual’s true colours when the majority of applicants had either been rude to the taxi driver or had mocked him. Needless to say, no one got the job.

Bring in Behavioural questions to interview

Behavioural interview questions are based on the assumption that past behaviour is the best indication of what future behaviour will be like. Adding some behavioural questions such as “Describe a time when……” with a focus on the key areas of attitude you require such as communication or team work will allow you to test an individual’s past experiences and how they have reacted in similar situations.
Another technique I have used in the past is a case study to test an individual’s ability to do a task but also how they do it. One aspect of the tasks tests their skill to do the job right. The second aspect tests their ability to prioritise a group of tasks and how and why they would do it in that order. Understanding an individual’s motivations to do certain tasks talks a lot about an individual’s behaviour and attitude.

Pay attention to your recent hires

Don’t forget the individuals who have recently started with your business, these individuals can represent a top source of referrals to your business. There are many benefits relating to referrals, according to HR technologist, referred candidates are 55% faster to hire, compared with employees sourced through career sites. According to LinkedIn research 88% of employers said that referrals are the #1 best source for above-average applicants.

New employee check ins with candidates in the first 3 months of their employment is a great source of insight not only into reputation as an organisation but also your induction process and an opportunity to gain referrals for top talent.

Attitude and cultural fit will never entirely take over the need for a skilled hire, clearly a certain level of skill is needed to accomplish the role however giving the time to understand whether that skill can be developed to instead identify the right fit based on attitude and cultural fit brings tremendous benefits. Not only can it bring an increased time to proficiency and better levels of retention, you are also getting more excited, enthused and dedicated new hires ready to grow with your business and follow you on your journey to success.


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