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It's all about attitude

It's all about attitude


Taking the time to think about the type of people you want to recruit, not just the skills they will bring, can save you a lot of trouble in the long run, advises Sally Prentis

What’s the first thing you look for when you hire? Experience? Skills? Knowledge? Most likely a mix of all three. But what about when you get to the point where you know it’s not working out? Is it normally about the experience, skills, and knowledge of the individual? No, most likely it’s about their attitude. It’s about how they apply their experience, skills, and knowledge. We tend to hire for the skills a person will bring and fire because of bad attitude.

Of course, the individual will need to come along with the right set of skills and qualifications, but once you know that’s a given, the recruitment process should really be about what type of person you’re looking for and how they will fit in with your team and deliver the kind of service that will keep your clients loyal and turn them into the best kind of marketing your practice can have: ambassadors for your firm.

You might think that the ideal candidate should have been cast in the same mould as you. Well, think again. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of our clients and think about what kind of person they want to be acting for them. We also need to consider what kind of person will work effectively and interact positively with the current team. While we may think we need someone who will maintain the status quo and fit in seamlessly, in many instances what is really needed is someone who brings a different perspective and perhaps even a different set of behavioural skills to ensure that a well-rounded service is provided to clients.

It can be complex and time consuming to consider what traits will be a good fit for your vacancy, but is it ever going to be as complicated and time consuming as dealing with the aftermath of recruiting the wrong person? All that time and money spent selecting, training, and basically bringing them into the fold. Then there is the time spent when it starts to go wrong and yet another team member knocks on your door for a ‘quick word’ and you find yourself listening once again to how the new person isn’t fitting in as expected. You end up picking up the pieces and papering over the cracks that begin to appear.

So where do you start? Involve people: ask everyone who is going to be working with the new person for their input. The best way to do this is to have a short meeting, say 30 minutes, and set the specific task of agreeing what traits you should be looking for when recruiting for the role. The output should be a list of words or phrases that describe the ideal person. Be realistic – it would be unusual to find someone who would be equally good at networking and building relationships and working on their own and being meticulous and thorough.

This is where psychometric testing comes into its own. Some of the tools in the marketplace will provide you with an accurate and detailed report on a person’s behavioural preferences for as little as £100. As long as you use the reports in a well-intentioned way and understand that they aren’t a measure of competence but of preference, they can be invaluable in helping you to find the right person.

My favourite, and one I worked with for many years, is Insights Discovery. Many clients I have worked with profile their whole team to help them understand the dynamic and how to get the best from them. After all, we are all unique so having a ‘user guide’ is a valuable tool.

Once you have a good idea of who you’re looking for and what skills, knowledge, and experience you want them to bring, then don’t give up if you can’t find them straight away. Yes, you may have to compromise, but do not give in to desperation and hire the wrong person because they have everything else you are looking for. It’s simply not worth it.

And remember that second interviews are a must, not an option. You’ll see more of the real person at a second interview, so show them around, introduce them to your team, and watch how they interact. You will learn so much more about them.

Take your time and plan to get it right.

Sally Prentis is a business consultant at Symphony Legal