How to Interview for a Bad Attitude

“We hire people for their technical skills, but we fire them for who they are.” Russell complained.

“Tell me more. What do you mean you fire them for who they are?” I asked.

“Well, they may have the right experience, know how to handle the technical part of the job, but their attitude is a little out of whack. In the beginning, attitude doesn’t show up, but after a couple of months, little things appear. After six months, this strange behavior actually begins to flourish and it’s downhill from there.”

“What do mean, strange behavior?” I was getting curious.

“Sometimes, it’s people skills. They are a little gruff at first, then a couple of people get on their bad side. Pretty soon, they become downright rude. They publicly dress people down in meetings. No one can disagree with them without a huge public confrontation.”

“Do you interview to discover this type of behavior?”

“No, usually the person is pretty well coached by a headhunter on how to handle the interview, so we don’t find out until later.” Russell stopped, his brow furrowed. “You mean you can interview for a bad attitude?”

I nodded.

“What? You can’t just ask them if they have a bad attitude,” Russell protested.

“Tell me, when does bad attitude show itself?”

“It usually stays hidden. It stays hidden, until there is a confrontation, a disagreement, a difficult problem that can’t be solved.”

“So, you can’t ask directly about attitude, but can you ask about a time when there was a disagreement on a project, a time when there was difficult problem that couldn’t be solved?” I wanted to know.

“I suppose,” Russell listened.

“For all the soft side, like attitude, character traits, just think about how that attitude will emerge as a behavior. I ask myself – How does a person with that attitude behave? Then I interview for that behavior.”

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