Hiring: How to Spot a Bad Apple

In the search for your next superstar employee, which reigns supreme: experience or attitude? HR veteran Pat Eardley weighs in on finding talent for the long haul

Post by Pat Eardley (above) from Center for Women's "Job Coaches" series, part of their Job Counseling Program. 


Karen owned a small design firm and was ready to hire another employee. After she placed an ad, she was thrilled to review a couple of resumes that seemed to showcase the exact type of experience that she needed the new hire to have. She brought the best candidates in for interviews and hired the person with the most experience and best portfolio. The new hire lasted only about three months before Karen had to start the expensive and time-consuming hiring process all over again. What went wrong?


Looking back, Karen admitted that she had been a little put off by the arrogance of this person during the interview. Still, even though she had reservations about her attitude, she hired her because of her experience.


This mistake is quite common, especially among small-business owners who are looking for superstar employees to help them grow their businesses to the next level. But here's the takeaway: When you hire, you should be hiring for attitude as well as for experience.


Why is hiring for attitude important? When you hire someone with an attitude that is not conducive to a peaceful work environment, it is going to have an impact on every other employee. Also, a manager or small-business owner with any experience can tell you that it is going to take more effort and time to manage an employee with a bad attitude. There is no amount of experience that is worth risking the morale in your workplace or adding to your own workload.


Use your instincts: While it is not always possible to spot those who have an arrogant or condescending attitude, you may be able to weed out some potential problem employees just by listening to your instincts. In the interview, ask how they have handled confrontation in the past. Also, ask if they have ever had a work situation where they did not get along with another employee. If you do not have a good feeling about the candidate, do not ignore that gut feeling just because he or she has a great resume.


You can’t teach attitude: Karen ended up replacing her problem employee by hiring one of her interns. The intern had very little experience but a great attitude. She was a team player who was always willing to go the extra mile. The intern turned out to be a model employee. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”


This is not to say a small-business owner should hire someone with no relevant experience, but remember that many skills can be taught. Attitude, however, cannot.


Pat Eardley is a human resources adviser with more than 16 years’ experience in H.R. management. She supports small-business owners, allowing them to have more time by focusing on creating a successful business environment for them and their employees. Have questions for the Center for Women's Job Counseling Program, or want to make an appointment? Call 843-763-7333 or email info@c4women.org.


First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, July 9, 2010.