Recruiting According to Attitude – What to Look for From Potential Trainees


Do you find yourself continually disappointed with the quality of staff coming through your recruitment process?

James Adonis is on hand to show you just how to find that pot of gold at the end of the recruitment rainbow.
In a world where finding talented people is hard enough and retaining them is even more difficult, employee engagement is more important than ever before. And here’s the key” engaging employees is easy when you have the ‘right’ people working for you.

That’s why engagement begins with the recruitment process. The people you recruit in to your call centre ultimately determine the success of it. Some people make sure they never miss a single team meeting, whereas others make sure they never miss a single tea break. Some people try to exceed performance targets, whereas others try to exceed personal warnings. Some people love to go to the extra mile for their customers, whereas others hate the thought of even offering further assistance.

Recruiting people who have a higher chance of being engaged has become absolutely critical in call centres around the world. And the biggest mistake managers are making is that they’re hiring based upon the applicant’s CV; their hiring decision is often determined by someone’s skills and experience. They’re so focused on getting people with the ‘right’ qualifications, the ‘right’ number of years in the industry and the ‘right’ capabilities, that they neglect the number one factor when hiring someone new” attitude.

It’s all about the right attitude

Skills can be taught, experience can be gained, and qualifications can be obtained. But a manager can’t teach someone to have the right attitude. That requires a total metamorphosis of an individual’s personality and character traits, and who has the time for that!? It would be like getting Santa Claus to wear a dress. It’s just not going to happen.

And yet hundreds of interview guides that managers are using all have a common theme. Almost all of the questions are centred on the candidate’s previous skills and experience, and often there aren’t any questions at all that ascertain whether someone has the right attitude. Instead, managers rely on their gut instinct, a hunch or intuition to judge whether someone has that special something. And often, because there are such wonderful actors out there, that judgement can be misguided.

However, there is hope. A model called The LMNOP Attitude Rainbow helps to determine attitude beautifully. Each letter of the rainbow represents one of the five key elements of attitude: Learn, Motivate, Natural, Optimistic and Proactive. And guess what? Simply implementing just one question during the interview process that addresses each one of these elements will dramatically increase the chances of recruiting someone with the right attitude.

Learn: A candidate with the right attitude has a hunger to learn, embraces the learning process, wants development, actively seeks it, and enthusiastically participates in training activities. If you’d like to avoid hiring employees that fall asleep during training sessions, don’t take on board feedback from coaching sessions, and think that learning is something that stops when you finish school, then a great question to use in an interview may be: “Give me an example of a time when you had to absorb complex information and run me through the steps you took to learn it.”

When asking difficult questions, especially unexpected ones, you’ll often get back a long silence, a glazed look, and then perhaps even a stuttering and mumbled response. Let the silence linger, give the candidate time to think of a response, and then, if after a short while you feel you’re getting nothing back, prod them a little. Not with a stick, but with a few words of encouragement, such as: “Maybe think of a time when you were brand new to a role.”

When they finally respond, look for an answer that shows the learning was in fact complex, that they actually enjoyed the learning process, and look at the method they used to absorb this learning. For example, did they ask questions, seek guidance, get a mentor, read a book, go on a course”? Or conversely, and inappropriately, did they have the learning forced upon them by their supervisor’s initiatives?

Motivate: Candidates with this element are easy to motivate and are often able to motivate themselves as well as others. If you’d like to avoid recruiting people that call in sick every Monday, cry every time a customer raises his voice, and spend more time in the tea room than they do on the phones, then a question you might use could be: “Tell me about a time when you worked on a task that was structured or repetitive. How did you maintain your focus and enthusiasm?”

Be careful in this instance that people don’t answer with what they would do in that situation – they need to respond with what they have done previously. Evidence of prior behaviour is more reliable than a hypothetical response.

The best response to this question would be one where the candidate was able to motivate others as well as him/herself. But there are people out there who can lie through their teeth, and lie well. So, how can you tell if the candidate is pulling your leg?

The key is to ask probing questions. Write down what they say and quiz their referees to make sure it’s true. Oh, and sometimes difficult group activities can also give you a good indication as to how bothered someone can be in a stressful, high-pressured call centre environment.

Employees need to be genuine, warm and friendly. They need to be able to get along with a diverse group of people. If you’ve got a habit of hiring people that yell, scream and threaten to stab their colleagues, perhaps try a question like this during the interview: “Give me an example of a time when you went out of your way to help a colleague.”

The key words in this question are ‘out of your way’. If the candidate gives you some lame story about a time his/her supervisor asked him/her to look after a new recruit, or proudly boasts that colleagues always ask him/her questions and seek his/her feedback, that’s not going ‘out of your way’.

Rather, look for an answer that shows the candidate saw someone in need and offered his/her help. Look for an answer that shows the candidate feels as strongly about the team’s performance as he/she does about their own. And look for an answer that shows the candidate sees assisting his/her colleagues as part of their job, not as a nuisance.

Optimistic: Every manager has had an employee that’s been opposed to everything, been against change, and was generally pessimistic in nature. To avoid hiring these people, as well as others who feel that their lives are about to end just because there’s a systems’ upgrade, this is a great interview question to ask: “Tell me about a time when you were in an environment that was overly negative and everything around you was going wrong. How did you get through it?”

Look for specific actions to this response. For example, let’s say the candidate replies with something like “I just kept on working through it” or “I ignored what was happening around me”, then that’s not good enough. You need to see that the candidate actually did things to stop the negativity. Things like using positive language, encouraging his/her peers to see the good side of what was happening, or talking to his/her manager about ideas on how to make it a better place to work. Interestingly, vagueness in a response to this question can be a strong indicator that the candidate had a part to play in the negativity.

Proactive: The best people in any business are those that go the extra mile for their employer, their customers, their peers and for themselves. And it’s always people with an excellent attitude that do this. Here is a question that addresses this area, and which could potentially stop you from recruiting people who feel that the parameters of their role is to just show up for work: “Outline a few occasions where you’ve done more than what’s required.”

Emphasis on the word ‘more’. Analyse what this candidate’s definition of ‘more’ is and you’ll get a very good indicator as to how proactive he or she is. Does ‘more’ to this person mean tolerating a longer talk time when he/she had an elderly customer on the phone? Or is ‘more’ defined to this candidate as a time when he/she pioneered a change in a process that made things easier for lots of customers? Ask for a few examples, not just one, because the level of a person’s proactiveness is one of the strongest signs of their attitude.

What to do next

Once your interview is complete, you’ll have responses to two lots of questions: attitude questions and then ‘the others’ – these others consisting of questions that ascertain a candidate’s skills, experience and qualifications. But what do you do with all this information?

My advice is to use a grading system so that you give the attitude responses an overall rating of A, B, or C, and do the same with the others, too. An ‘A’ for the attitude questions is a must if you’d like to recruit someone with a better attitude. This is non-negotiable. However, with ‘the others’ a B is fine. Why? Because you can train someone on skills, they’ll eventually get the experience they need, and you can even get them to obtain the qualifications they need. But attitude – well, attitude is ingrained.
The actual questions that are asked don’t matter, so long as there is at least one question that delves in to each element of the LMNOP Attitude Rainbow. It’s easy to coach and develop someone when it comes to blocking any skilling gaps, but it’s almost impossible to train someone out of having a bad attitude and even harder to fix all the damage a bad attitude problem can make to your call centre.

The truth is this: building an engaged call centre team is easy when you have the right people in place.

James Adonis is an engagement expert. He consults managers on how to engage their employees, and individuals on how to engage themselves. He is also a motivational speaker and workshop facilitator.
Tel: +65 2 9331 2465
Website: www.jamesadonis.comJames Adonis’ newly released book “Love your Team” shows managers how to halve their employee turnover in less than 90 days. Providing managers with hundreds of ideas on how to get their employees to be totally loyal to their organisation, Adonis reveals in the book that the most effective way to retain employees is by implementing the right kind of engagement initiatives.”Love Your Team” can be purchased via Adonis’ website.

The following comments have been posted relating to this article:

We have an agent who was sent back to Recruiting Department because the trainer said she had an attitude problem.  Later, we found out that the trainee felt she was humiliated and the trainer’s style of coaching made the class believe they were dumb and incompetent.

According to the agent, this trainer has a habit of explaining the topic only once and entertains questions only once except for those “favored” trainees.

One time, a trainee really wanted to understand the topic so he volunteered to ask a question so the trainer can elaborate more.  The trainer was heard saying “are you really testing my capabilities and knowledge on this subject?”
The class believes he is just too lazy to extend more time in making the trainees understand the topic.

We think that the agent was telling the truth but since she is new (barely 3 months) we cannot vouch for her 100% as the trainer has been with the company for over 2 years. This is the usual problem we have with recruitment in our company.
There is too much politics and we have a hard time recruiting “floating agents” whom we reserve for other programs.

Each time we endorse them to other programs, it seems that they already have a mark on their faces and the other program do not accept them either. What should be the best possible solution to this?

Author: Jonty Pearce

Published On: 28th Jun 2006 - Last modified: 21st Jul 2017
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