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 Hiring for Attitude How to Succeed in an Attitude Interview

By Joe Stein

In 2012, we are entering a whole different era of interviewing.  The focus is shifting away from skills and experience, and more towards hiring for attitude. 

There are several reasons why many interviewers are adjusting their focus. The most basic being that, for most positions, there generally are a sizable number of qualified applicants vying for the same position, so why not hire the one with the best attitude.  There have also been a number of studies conducted over the last several years that seem to conclude that a key indicator of success (or failure) of a new hire is their attitude.

As a job seeker, there are some key attitude traits that most companies will hold dear.  Companies will also tailor their desired attitude, when recruiting, to their existing culture and the overall work environment.  The ideal being to hire the person who is the best “fit” for the position, department and organization.

There is a difference between “attitude” interview questions and the “behavioral” based interview questions that you probably have just started to become used to being asked.  Behavioral-based interviewing focuses more on what you have done and how you did it (i.e., “Tell me about a time when you faced a challenging problem and how you went about solving it?”).  The primary purpose is still to validate technical competence.  Attitude-based interviewing stresses to a greater degree what motivates you and your overall perspective and outlook.  For example, you may be asked, “Tell me about a time you went beyond what was required while expecting and receiving no recognition”.  This type of question would inform the interviewer regarding your flexibility and your teamwork.  These are essential attitudes in today’s work environment.

So, you may thinking to yourself at this point, “Oh great, another type of interview; how do I ace it?”  Let’s take a look at some of the attitude attributes that Interviewers may be probing about and how you may want to answer these questions.

• Teamwork – So much of what we do now are in teams or groups.  Expect to be asked questions regarding how you work in this collaborative environment.  An example of this type of question is noted above.  You will want to stress how much you enjoy working with others and how you enjoy sharing the credit when a job is well done.
•  Desire to Learn – In order to stay current in today’s work world, a person needs to constantly want to learn something new.  In an attitude interview, you may be asked a question such as, “What is the most important thing you have learned in the last year?”  You will want to explain not only what you have learned, but why you did it (i.e., you enjoy learning and feel it is important).
• Coachability – If you think about who makes the final hiring decision regarding whether or not you receive an offer, it will (most likely) be your future supervisor.  It is only logical, then, that this person will probe regarding your attitude towards feedback, both positive and constructive criticism.  You may be asked something such as, “When have you last asked for feedback (asked being a key word noting that you sought it out) and what did you do with it?”  You will want to show that you are very open to coaching and feedback, and will use it for improvement.
• Customer Service Focus – In our tough economy, every customer is at a premium.  Not only do you want to satisfy during the existing order, but also in order to ensure future business.  Expect to be asked questions regarding your attitude towards serving customers (if you will not touch external ones, the questions may focus on internal people).  This area may seem like an easy slam dunk, but can actually be a bit of a slippery slope.  For example, a popular attitude question is “Tell me about a time when you had to bend a rule to satisfy a customer?”  Your initial reaction might be: rules are rules, never to be bent or broken. The reality is most companies want individuals who will go the extra mile to make a customer happy.  You will want to communicate how important customers are to you and how you “get it” regarding their importance.  This is always the area where you might also receive a more traditional behavioral-based question such as, “Tell me about how you serviced a difficult customer?”
• Flexibility – The business world today changes so rapidly.  It is important to have employees who are flexible to the daily corrections and adaptable to the longer-term adjustments.  You may be asked about a basic daily occurrence such as “What do you do if a co-worker fails to do their share?”, or a longer-term situation involving a change in strategy.  For this category, emphasize how you can work with a variety of other people in different situations and can adapt to change.

Attitude-based interview questions should not be scary.  They do dig a little deeper than just questions about your experiences or education.  A positive way to think about it is that if you do want to do the right thing and you do have a good “attitude”, these questions can service to differentiate you from your competition.