Last week, I read Valeria Mentoni’s blog about hiring people for attitude–particularly when you’re hiring for customer service. If you missed this great post, click on this link to the Conversation Agent’s blogpost: Customer Service, Hire for Attitude.
My top three criteria for hiring beyond the resume have definitely included attitude, but I think two other critical factors are just as important: fit and the ability to hit the ground running.
1. Attitude A positive attitude can make the difference between a good and great employee. If a staffer is always willing to do more, learn new things and exhibit grace under pressure, the company wins at the same time the employee grows and establishes a positive reputation. In the customer service world, a “can-do” attitude can make the difference between winning customer loyalty versus turning that customer into an enemy. We all know that dissatisfied customers will talk about their experience far more often than satisfied customers, so the effect of a bad attitude can multiply many-fold beyond the initial interaction.
I’ve run a number of customer service departments, and realized that there is no substitute for a positive attitude–but it isn’t enough. Once, I had a woman call and give her doleful story of her divorce, medical operation and sad life. It turned out that this particular customer wasn’t a customer at all. In fact, she was trying to get her husband’s account transferred to her name out of revenge for not getting more from her divorce settlement. Another case involved an enthusiastic customer service rep who would satisfy the consumer at any cost. He took the customer’s view in every case at face value, and bad-mouthed the company on every call. A good customer service attitude is a great start, but judgement needs to temper customer response.
2. Fit Most of us hire someone as part of a team. The group may be large or small, but that group has an existing culture. Regardless of credentials and good attitude, everyone’s work will suffer if a new hire isn’t going to mesh and play well with the other team members.
I’m not talking about “fit” as disregarding someone who is unconventional, a devil’s advocate or a catalyst for change. These individuals can be the very best fit for your team. The key is to know the group dynamics so that the result will be a team that can work together to achieve greater results than they could without the new employee. The art of combining individuals can be alchemy or a long-term disaster–choose thoughtfully.
3. Hit the Ground Running Large organizations can afford the resources to hire interns and other people without experience. Small companies, particularly start-ups, can’t afford to hire trainees. There isn’t enough time or safety zone to allow an inexperienced staffer to come up-to-speed. Nor is there enough time for the manager to divert from her tasks to give direction and feedback while already juggling too many responsibilities.
Several times in my career I’ve had people offer their service free-of-charge, to get their foot in the door. These were recent graduates or people changing careers. I had to turn all of them down, because it wouldn’t be fair to either side. If my team’s progress was compromised because members would have to do too much hand-holding, or if the volunteer was relegated to menial tasks because of the press of business, then neither side wins.
In Sunday’s Denver Post article on Southwest Airlines, the Ground Operations Supervisor describes how the company hires Ramp employees. They look for employees with a “servant’s heart,” then “hire for attitude and train for aptitude.” If you can afford the time and money to follow this practice, go ahead and hire for attitude. If you’re like the rest of us struggling to keep up, then look for a combination of attitude, fit and aptitude already in place.