Hire for Attitude

Does your hiring process give you the flexibility to assess a candidate’s attitude before you make a hiring decision?

I am reading Richard Branson’s book, “The Virgin Way”.  Richard is held in high regard for his leadership, and one of the best practices he advocates is to ‘hire for attitude’.

Richard tells a story of a friend of his who forced his HR department to change their hiring practices when he discovered a remarkable woman who had been turned down for employment in his company because she did not pass their test.  They ultimately hired the woman and she advanced quickly through their organization.


A number of years ago I was working for a prestigious consulting firm in Calgary, Alberta.  We recruited from the University of Calgary as well as other universities in western Canada.  In my first year there I was put in charge of the recruiting process.  Our process included soliciting resumes from business students, selecting 20 candidates to interview on campus, and then selecting 8 to come to our office for further interviews.  We would offer jobs to 4 of the 8 we brought into the office.

Selecting 20 candidates out of 200 – 300 resumes was not easy.  Getting from 200 to 40 was not a problem but deciding on the final 20 sometimes involved a coin flip.  After we informed the university of the 20 candidates we wanted to interview, one of those whom we had not selected called our offices to find out why he had not been selected.

The manager who had screened the resumes and made the cut to 20, came into my office to inform me of the phone call.  He told me that when he told the young man that he did not qualify because he did not make it through the screening process, the young man told him that he had “made a mistake.”  He added that he would be the best employee that we ever hired.

The manager went on to tell me that when he reviewed the young man’s resume he could not determine why he had not been selected other than that he had been on the wrong end of one of those coin flips.

We decided that we would add the young man, his name was Ken, to our interview list.

Ken did an amazing job in his on-campus interview and we invited him into the office.  He continued to do well in the office interview, so we offered him a job.  Four years later Ken was promoted to manager, ahead of his peers.

One of the characteristics of strong leaders is that they are willing to challenge existing processes and take risks.  Hiring people frequently involves taking risk as very few people fit perfectly into the job description you have defined.


Does your hiring process give you the flexibility to assess a candidate’s attitude before you make a hiring decision?


Leadership Excellence

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