How to Hire People With Good Attitudes

How to Hire People With Good Attitudes

Too much pain comes from hiring someone whose attitude goes bad over time (leadership pain, team pain, customer pain). It doesn’t start bad because we wouldn’t hire them. (Right?!)

How does it happen?

We might make a hiring mistake to begin with by being lazy, rushing the process, or being inattentive at certain moments while we’re learning about them. Maybe we miss a lack of a needed skill or we don’t catch an attitude glitch (they’re temperamental in difficult moments and drain teammates, they lack a sense of urgency, they don’t push for better, too much ego, they’re uncoachable, etc.).

Or, we might not do a good and consistent job of a helping a solid person grow (we forget to Lead Simply) … another issue on its own.

But the front end of all of it starts by getting to know someone before you really have a chance to work with them. Three weeks into it … six weeks into it you’ll see much more truth in action. During the hiring process, things can be a little more polished.

Here’s a simple idea to bettering your chances of identifying someone with a positive and service-oriented attitude … use a book, article, or video in your interview process.

Find something you feel illustrates some important points about the type of attitude you’re looking for. You could use anything, but make it’s something that requires less than an hour of your candidate’s time (or whatever time you feel is a reasonable request of someone who’s not yet committed to you and your organization).

At, we use my book Smile & Move because it’s short and hits everything we think is important when it comes to the attitude of our teammates. Plus, it’s our baby :-).

See below for the way we do it. If you use something other than Smile & Move, you can still use the approach. Just plug in your content of choice.

Smile & Move. A 20-minute attitude check. Get the book.

After the first interview…

If you feel like you’ll have the person back for a second interview, give them a copy of Smile & Move and ask them to read it before the next visit. Because it’s no more than a 20-minute-read, it shouldn’t be a problem for your next superstar.

I enjoyed talking with you today. I’d like to have you back to talk again and also to have you meet with some other people. Is the opportunity still something you’d like to pursue?”

If yes, set up a time or agree that you’ll follow-up to set up a time and then…

Here’s a book we enjoy here. It’s called Smile & Move. Quick read, 20 minutes at most. Do me a favor and read it before we meet again and we’ll discuss it a little, Okay?”

Now, pay attention to the response.

Is the person excited, indifferent, or put off? It’s probably an unusual request, so an excited response might be unlikely. You’re really just looking for someone who might be put off by the request for the additional work. It’s probably not going to be the case because if you’re asking the person back, you’ve got a good feeling about him/ her. It’s just an added interaction to give you more information for your ultimate decision. Also, it gives your candidate more information about your expectations (and since you’re a Smover [someone who Smiles & Moves], your expectations are high). If they’re put off by it, maybe they’ll decide not to continue with the interview process and save everyone time. (If they want the book, let them keep it. Maybe you’ll have influenced something positive in their lives … even if it takes them a year or two to realize it.)

At the next interview…

Ask them a few questions about their thoughts on the book and then listen (no leading, no prompting, no interrupting). Be the Smover you hope they’ll be and listen with both your ears and eyes (from Chapter 1, Being Awake). Be sure to remember the “gap of silence” idea as you listen*.

  • What did you think of the book?
  • What stood out for you?
  • With which principle do you think you have the biggest challenge?
  • With which principle do you feel strongest?
  • Can you give me an example of when you last [insert strength point they gave]?
  • Can you give me an example of when you [insert your favorite Smovish principle]?
  • What did you disagree with? Why?

Hopefully, you’ll have an engaged person in front of you and won’t need to ask the reasons for their answers. They’ll simply expand on their own (a good sign). If not, you can always follow with “Why?”.

Again … listen without prompting, leading, or interrupting. You will learn so much more about the person (which is what you want because you’re trying to decide on something that may be very important to the future of your organization … organization … the one hire that made all the difference … a future leader in the company … maybe even the future president … and you’re the one who started it all … not bad, Smover 😉 ).

You’re looking for truth.

One way to prompt it is to share with your candidate where you’re challenged in Smoving and give a quick example. (See below.)

Quick. Inspiring. Real. Smile & Move. Get the book.

Opening up to them may help them feel more comfortable opening up with you.

My toughest challenge is being approachable. Maybe having more of a sense of urgency, too. Sometimes I don’t remember that people are just as busy as me and I need to make sure I act with that in mind.”

If you don’t like all of your candidate’s answers, it doesn’t mean s/he might not be a strong hire (perhaps they’re coachable**). Again, it just gives you more information about the person’s emotional development and attitude toward work.

Remember … hiring someone who’s not a match has a negative impact on everyone. You want someone who’s positive and service-oriented internally (with their colleagues) and externally (with your customers). You want a Smover.

Don’t rush the process.
Stay objective (don’t fall in love or wish someone in).
Stay attentive during discussions.

A more enjoyable day for everyone. That’s the goal.


* Gap of Silence

To make better connections with people (and learn much more) when you’re talking with them, be sure to allow a small gap of silence between what they say … and your response. This will give them an opportunity to share more and help them know you’re really listening. (Remember: a breath is not always taken at the end of a sentence or thought.)

** Coachable

If you want someone who’s coachable, make sure at some point to ask them if they feel they’re coachable … point blank.

Almost everyone will say they are. If that’s what you’re looking for (you are, right?), be sure to let them know it’s an important quality of being a member of your organization, group, or team. Someone who’s not coachable can make things very difficult on everyone.

If you want to take it a step further and you’ve noticed something during the interview that you can coach them on (something small because you likely don’t have much of a relationship yet), give them your thought and see how it’s received. “For example, I’ve noticed you tend to interrupt/ say the word ‘like’ frequently/ seem distracted.” (More thoughts and an 8-point check on coachability here.)