“What exactly is attitude?” The Oxford dictionary defines attitude as “A settled way of thinking or feeling about something”. Psychologists talk about framing a situation whereby someone has a positive or negative cognitive bias. To me, it’s all about mind-set!
Your mind-set is your frame of reference that includes any biases created by your beliefs and world-view. Someone with a so-called “can-do” attitude has a mind-set bias whereby they will do whatever it takes to get the desired outcome. Another person with a “slack” attitude will try to get away with the minimum effort possible and justify poor results by blaming others or coming up with excuses as to why things didn’t work out.
So back to the question of whether you can find out someone’s attitude in an interview. Taking into account the obvious limitations of the interview process itself, it is absolutely possible to determine someone’s attitude in an interview. Start by asking open ended questions that get to the heart of the person’s mind-set. Ask them why they believe they achieved or failed. Very quickly you can see if their attitude is can-do, or whether they tend to blame and make excuses. Listen carefully to how they frame the scenarios listed and to what words are used. Being realistic is sensible and admirable in the right context, but it can also be a red flag that the person’s mindset is pessimistic and that they want to set safe, easily achieved goals. To get a winning team, make sure when interviewing that you do not only verify their skills and validate their successes on the resume, but that you also ask the right questions to reveal the mindset that sits behind the skills and achievements, or even failures.
Lastly, I have observed in practise that a great attitude on its own, does not always guarantee great behaviour, or great results. I support the view that says, “you can hire on attitude and train for skills, but you can’t hire on skills and train for attitude”, but I do think you need both.
A truly valuable team member is someone who has a great attitude but also delivers great results.