Hire for attitude and find your brown shorts

Hiring is a vital component of recruitment, and it can be challenging to know how to find someone to hire with the right attitude, the right skills and the right cultural fit for each organisation. Since the world got turned on its head, the phrase ‘hire for attitude, train for skill’ has never been as prominent.

It has become hard to ignore that a vast portion of failure in new hires is related to substandard, misaligned attitudes. A personal growth culture is high on the priority list for potential candidates in modern business. Finding people with the values that best reflect your organisation makes a real difference.

Reasons to hire for attitude

  • It will be a catalyst for success in your organisation
  • It promotes a progressive culture
  • The right attitude will welcome collaboration
  • Your business embraces a new perspective
  • Your workforce will be passionate

How to hire for the right attitude

Interview questions that differentiate positive and negative behaviours – in other words, brown shorts interview questions – that’s what!

Recruiting managers often struggle because their company culture isn’t always easy to define, and ‘values’ can mean different things.

We help companies define and articulate their values in a meaningful way to be applied and measured in all their HR and ‘people’ activities.

Hiring for attitude - Penguin in brown shorts

But first, a story about brown shorts

Imagine a group of pilots waiting to be interviewed for a top job with a leading airline. The recruiting manager hands them a pair of brown shorts and invites them to put them on (changing rooms are available). Less than half take up the invitation and change; those who don’t are thanked for their time and told their applications won’t be taken further.

Does this seem OK to you? Extreme? Some people I told this story to said it might be ‘discriminatory’ (but let’s not go there!). Most have laughed. But for some, it was a light bulb moment – great stuff.

Here’s the thing. The people at Southwest Airlines like fun, and one of their fundamental company values is a very special kind of fun. So they must hire people who will exemplify this value in their day-to-day work.

Their award-winning PR blog is called Nuts About Southwest, and the point (in the recruiting room) is that if you are nuts about Southwest, you put on those brown shorts.

What are brown shorts?

  • The attitudes that define your best people
  • The characteristics of the people who are not achieving or performing well
  • They help you tell who you should hire and identify who not to hire

If managers don’t truly understand their brown shorts, i.e. the values that underpin their organisation, then:

  • They’re not going to be asking the right interview questions
  • They won’t be able to recognise the behaviours and attitudes that exemplify the company’s values and, more importantly, those that don’t
  • Recruiting the right people with the right attitudes, if it happens at all, will tend to be through luck, not judgement

Mark Murphy, author of Hiring for Attitude, uses his brown shorts theory to show how companies can use a range of interview techniques to find the people they want to work for them.

You can see his Hiring for Attitude thoughts here.

Discover your brown shorts and hire for the right attitude?

Murphy says you must discover your brown shorts, but you have to realise they won’t be brown and they won’t be shorts.

Once you’ve discovered your own company’s brown shorts, you can then find ways to ensure your employees (metaphorically) wear them all the time.

Whatever the season, you should wear your brown shorts when:

  • Recruiting
  • Keeping employees engaged
  • Managing performance
  • Communicating with each other
  • Training and developing
  • Rewarding
  • Strategising and planning
  • Branding
  • Serving customers
  • and so on…the list is endless

Don’t be caught with your brown shorts around your ankles.

Contact us to find out how we can help you align your culture and values to your people activities and ensure you hire and keep the right people for your business.