February 27, 2020
Hiring 26 February 2018
4 Attitudes You Must Focus on While Assessing Potential Candidates
Sreeram Sreenivasan

Did you know that 89% of new hires who fail within the first 18 months, do so because of attitudinal issues, and not lack of skills?

We all know from our own experience that employee performance is more a matter of attitude than hard skills. Although it’s possible for employees to learn new skills over time, it can be very difficult to change their attitude.

Attitude determines the way employees behave in the workplace, how they interact with their bosses, colleagues and even customers. Almost every area of the workplace is affected by attitude - whether it is collaboration, customer service, office expenses and more.

Every person who wants to build a great team that drives better results has to focus on attitude while recruiting or promoting people in their organization.

But what attitudes should you look for in your potential candidates?

1. Focus on what the person CAN do

What a person can do is determined by their reasoning abilities. It governs the type of problems they can tackle and how they respond to different situations. It also gives an idea of their speed and clarity of thought. If you need someone capable of picking up new skills and reinventing themselves from time to time, you must look for this attitude.

Many times, we’re faced with situations that offer multiple ways to proceed, each having an inherent tradeoff. In such cases, the ability to think clearly makes all the difference - whether it’s about project execution or career progression

However, ensure that you don’t end up with geniuses. It can be quite difficult to work with them or place them in a team environment. If you’re looking to hire high performing people, make sure to keep them busy with the right challenges. Also, ensure that they’re capable of working with people.

2. Figure out what they WANT to do

This attitude is about the fundamental needs of the people you hire. Remember that not everyone has a clear idea of what they want in life and career, and what motivates them to be better. That’s why it’s important to dig deeper while interviewing candidates.

There are two kinds of motivators that drive people to do better - the pursuit of rewards and avoidance of threats. High contributing employees are always attracted by the former and proactively pursue growth. They are the ones who want to reach high positions in your organization and constantly venture out of their comfort zones. 

They’re attracted by rewards such as:

  • Greater influence

  • More autonomy

  • Freedom to create things or drive performance

  • Achieving excellence in their field of work

People who avoid threats look for:

  • Constant security

  • Risk avoidance

  • Maintaining work-life balance

  • Working in a disciplined environment

It’s essential to have both kinds of employees to make a team successful. Look for the above traits to determine what drives each candidate, so you can give them suitable responsibilities and create the right growth opportunities.

3. Determine how they will behave

Every job throws up a mix of normal and high-pressure situations, and if your employee is unable to respond appropriately to each situation, it can be detrimental to your organization. 

How we behave really depends on our personality which is a result of all our experiences - our education, how we’ve been cherished or rejected in life. They not only impact us in a profound way, but also affect the people around us. 

Here’s a simple framework to evaluate the personality of each candidate. Every person is a combination of 1-2 of the following styles:


They’re generally quite dominant and like to be in charge of whatever they do. Whether it’s strategic decision-making or tactical execution, they’re looking to create a significant impact. They’re most comfortable in leading teams and telling people what they should do. Such people often speak loudly and are very assertive. They don’t use small words like ‘little’ or uncertain words like perhaps. Sometimes, they can be controlling. They perform well in positions with a lot of responsibilities.


Creative people, on the other hand, are comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. They’re always playing around with ideas and are able to connect the dots and see how things could be instead of how they’re currently. As a result, they’re able to see opportunities, where others see obstacles. They’re easy going and tend to focus on emotions and feelings while communicating their ideas.

They do really well in positions that require innovation (such as supply chain management, R&D) or need creativity (such as marketing and design). However, make sure to check their reasoning abilities as well. Otherwise, they’ll come up with an unnecessarily complicated solution to a seemingly trivial problem.


These are people who want to build long-lasting, meaningful relationships. They’re not interested in superficialities and like to connect with people on a deeper level. They develop strong connections and come to be respected by everyone in the team. Such people are required to help you deal with conflicting situations and arrive at a mutually beneficial solution. Since they’re good with people, they’re very patient and make great managers who can push your project till the very end.


Structured people are very precise, disciplined and organized in their work - like engineers, accountants, IT professionals. They don't look for a creative way to do things. Instead, they rely on best practices to come up with the optimal solution. They’re great at solving technical problems and always go for a long-term solution, instead of putting together a short-term fix. They’re generally quiet in team meetings. However, when they speak, they’ll be precise and detailed.

4. It’s about your specific culture

There’s no ‘ideal’ combination of abilities and personality traits to look for while evaluating potential candidates. The key is to find a person whose attitude matches the ones required by the job opening. For example, you can’t look for the same qualities while hiring a sales leader and a programmer.

You need to ensure that the style of your potential candidate matches your organization’s culture. It’s not only important that they have the required skills but they should also be able to strive in the given environment.

Wrapping up

Hiring employees with the wrong attitude, or worse, an attitude problem can lead to low productivity, poor collaboration and a negative work culture. It can also increase your attrition rate and inflate your hiring expenses. Use the above tips to discover the right candidates for your team, people who can deliver high performance and immense value.

Sreeram Sreenivasan has worked with various Fortune 500 Companies in areas of Business Growth & Marketing Strategy. He’s the Founder of Ubiq BI, a BI Platform for SMBs & Enterprises. He also runs the Fedingo blog that covers a wide range of marketing topics.