While impressive work history can get a candidate very far in the interviewing process, it's important that you see the value in talented hires who have the right attitude. In other words, you can't hire a candidate solely on the basis of their résumé and talent. 

In fact, according to one study, only 11 percent of hiring failures are the result of people lacking technical skills, while the remaining 89 percent of hiring failures are the result of candidates having wrong or negative attitudes. That said, the most common interview questions that hiring managers use are designed to potentially set candidates up for failure and ultimately ruin your chances to hire for attitude.

Think about it: Popular interview questions revolve around human behavior, such as conflict and disagreements in the workplace to predict future performance. Simply take a look at some popular interview questions and ask yourself which ones use problematic wording. 

  1. Tell me about a time you disagreed with a decision. What did you do?

  2. Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your manager. How did you resolve it?

  3. Tell me about a time you had an argument at work. How did you deal with it?

You may have noticed that all these questions steer negative. Each of those interview questions calls for one acceptable answer where the candidate did something wrong, resolved a conflict, or dealt with a problem. To put it in another way, they hint to the candidate that you want to identify someone that refuses to fail. However, when we choose to turn away from candidates who aren't afraid of telling us they have failed, we're losing valuable insight.

The solution? Eliminate problematic words and phrases to solicit "bad" responses. For example, here's how to rephrase one of the interview questions stated above: 

  • Instead of: Tell me about a time you disagreed with a decision. What did you do?
  • Try: What do you do in situations when you don't agree with the outcome of decision-making?

The question allows you to digest the candidate's experiences thoroughly to give you a better understanding of how they can fit in your company. Ultimately, this question allows the candidate to provide a specific example that focuses on one situation and highlights their attitude around it.

Modified, open-ended questions like this strip away negative connotations and invite the candidate to be open about their last memorable conflict without the guise of a desired response or resolution. Yes, the practical reality is that great candidates will never discuss a problem without automatically describing how they solved it. However, open-ended questions like the above give interviewees the space to tell their own story.  

By not coming into the interview with a list of right answers to check off, you'll come across some unique and very interesting responses that'll have you asking yourself, "Is this a candidate you want to hire?" 

Remember, to set up your new employees for success is to hire for the attitude. You want to look for candidates who have a positive attitude, are open to feedback and problem solving, and aren't afraid to bounce back from mistakes.