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Hiring for attitude: matching candidates to your company culture

Hiring for attitude: matching candidates to your company culture

What do companies like Southwest Airlines, Ritz-Carlton, and Zappos have in common? They hire for attitude and train for skill. It’s a simple mantra, but one that has a profound impact on how to successfully recruit and select new employees.

Hiring for attitude is about building a distinctive workplace culture and company brand that, unlike skill sets, can’t easily be copied in the market. It’s what gives companies like those mentioned above their unique character — and competitive advantage.

Follow the lead of these successful companies as you look to recruit great candidates. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Benefits of prioritizing soft skills

During their hiring process, companies like Zappos weigh attitudinal characteristics very heavily. These are personal attributes that are difficult to train, like being a people-person, having an upbeat personality, or possessing a keen ability to learn new things.

While these firms won’t ignore technical skills (Southwest doesn’t put unqualified pilots in the cockpit, no matter how bright and cheery they are) they nonetheless look very carefully at these soft skills — far more than most employers do.

These companies gain a lot from this hiring strategy. By focusing on personality characteristics that align with their company brand, they reinforce their distinctive company culture with each new hire. And because they’re hiring people whose values align with that culture, the end result is a workforce that’s happier, more engaged, and less likely to turn over.

But the benefits of this hiring process don’t stop there. When a workforce embodies the company brand (think about how Southwest employees exude “fun”), it differentiates the customer experience where it counts most — in consumers’ one-on-one interactions with your staff.

If you have any doubt about the power of that dynamic, just consider how Southwest, Ritz-Carlton and Zappos have dominated their respective markets.

Five steps to hiring for attitude

So how should you go about hiring for attitude, seeding your workforce with true brand ambassadors? You could run your applicants through personality tests and behavioral assessments, but that can be pricey, time-consuming, and onerous for the candidates.

Fortunately, there are other approaches you can use to put this strategy in practice. Here are five simple, low-cost ways to hire for attitude:

1. Be clear about expectations

Take advantage of candidate self-selection by clearly broadcasting what qualities you look for when bringing on new staff. For example, if you tell the world that you’re in the market for extroverts — fewer introverts will apply (and that’s a good outcome for you and them). By defining what personal qualities you’re searching for up-front, you make it more likely that candidates with those attributes will throw their hats into the ring.

2. Be proactive

Don’t just wait for people with the right attitude to apply for a job — spot them in the marketplace and make your pitch! When you see someone who clearly embodies the qualities you want on your team, give them your card and invite them to apply for employment. As any great recruiter knows, that extremely attentive waiter, remarkably patient sales associate, or well-spoken repairman could be your next great hire.

3. Focus on the person behind the paper

Gauging attitude from a resume requires insight and vision. Consider how the personal qualities you seek would manifest themselves in a candidate’s resume and background.

For example, individuals who are adept at overcoming adversity may have demonstrated that spirit in how they responded to a layoff. People-oriented extroverts may belong to a variety of business associations and community groups. Skilled communicators will likely design and organize their resume content in exceptional ways.

In addition, your interview questions can also reveal soft skills. Looking for someone with customer service in their DNA? Ask about the most over-the-top service they ever delivered (the best service people never forget such stories). Looking for someone with a sense of humor? Ask them about the time they laughed the hardest.

Whatever personality traits you’re seeking, the key is to look beyond the words on the resume and search for more subtle clues about a candidate’s character.

4. Observe applicants when they think no one is watching

Want to see a candidate’s true colors? See how they behave when they think no one is watching. How did the applicant treat your receptionist? Did he strike up conversation with other applicants in the waiting room? Did he eat alone in the cafeteria or introduce himself to a table of strangers?

What the candidate says and does outside of the hiring manager’s view can give you a glimpse into their true personality (which may differ from how they present in an interview). Use these clues to help judge if the applicant will really be a good fit in the culture you’re cultivating.

5. Enlist today’s stars to spot tomorrow’s standouts

Toward the end of the hiring process, see if it’s possible to have your job finalists spend some time shadowing existing employees.

This serves two objectives. First, candidates get an unfiltered look at the job they’d be performing, so there’s less risk of unpleasant surprises and post-hire buyers’ remorse. Second, by pairing these finalists with the best employees (the ones who embody the desired attitude), your existing staff can help identify those applicants who have the right stuff.

Mix hard and soft skills for a candidate that’s just right

With a crash course in hiring for attitude, you’re ready to start recruiting candidates that have just the right balance of hard and soft skills to match your company culture. Get started today with help from Monster Hiring Solutions’ expert recruiting advice and the latest in hiring trends.