Screening, Assessment, Interviewing

Is Attitude Everything in a Candidate? That’s What This Professional Says

Welcome to a special edition of the Recruiting Daily Advisor. Today we’ll be looking at an HR Works podcast episode between our Managing Editor Steve Bruce and HR and Recruiting expert Arte Nathan. If you would like, feel free to listen to this episode (number 28) on our HR Works podcast.

Steve Bruce

Hi everyone, and welcome to HR works, brought to you by BLR®. I’m your host Steve Bruce. HR Works provides clear, relevant, actionable information on topics that matter to HR professionals. When you’re armed with best practices plus the knowledge to keep your organization in compliance, HR Works.

Suddenly with the improving economy, recruiting is on the front burner again. Organizations from all types of industries are experiencing difficulty hiring workers and at all levels. For some guidance on how to kick-start your recruiting, we’ve asked Arte Nathan to join us. Arte is the principal of strategic development worldwide. He served as chief human resources officer for Steve Wynn’s gaming company from 1983 to 2006 and opened all of Wynn’s casinos in Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Mississippi, and China. He retired from the gaming industry in 2006 and moved to Southern California to open the resort at Pelican Hill. In 2013, he returned to Los Vegas where he’s engaged with several start-ups and provides advisory services to companies interested in optimizing their human capital. Arte, welcome to HR Works.

Arte Nathan

Thanks Steve, good to be here.

Steve Bruce

When you’re deciding what to look for in a candidate, what’s your priority? Do you look for attitude, or skills, or education, or what?

Arte Nathan

I think initially candidates who go through human resources should be screened for attitude only. In all the work I’ve done over the years, and I hired more than 125,000 people from close to four million applications, we in Human Resources screened every one of those people, and we screened them for attitude only. We knocked out about 28% of the people who didn’t have the attitude that we were looking for.

Then we leave a pool of candidates that are available to the hiring manager, and they look for skills and education and those other things that are appropriate to the job level. We in Human Resources make sure that the person or the candidates with the right attitudes are the only ones they get to interview.
Steve Bruce

That seems to make sense to me. One of the biggest mistakes that recruiters and hiring managers make is not clearly defining what they’re looking for. How do you suggest they go about figuring out what’s right for their organizations?

Arte Nathan

It’s not a simple task. It took me years to figure out exactly what we were looking for in the service business. The gaming business or hospitality business is part of the service sector of the economy. We studied this long and hard, and we looked at a lot of other sectors and what they look for and it has to be an immutable skill, something that the candidate has when they walk in the door that cannot be trained. If they have it good, if they don’t have it you have to have the discipline to screen them out. We took a great deal of time figuring out what that was for the service sector in general and our business in particular.

Steve Bruce

Once you know that then what sort of test or selection techniques do you recommend for finding out if candidates have the characteristics you’re looking for?

Arte Nathan

Well, I appreciate that you didn’t ask what the attitude or the immutable thing was that we look for. Basically we look for people who like to be interrupted. We came to that after studying our business and what goes on with the people and our customers. Frankly, in the service industry you get interrupted by customers all day long, and you have to be thrilled about that. You have to react and respond positively. We kind of boiled that down and defined it as general optimism. We have two different tests; we work with an organizational psychologist who could define and create a single test for general optimism, 15 questions and it’s validated. But my test actually was kind of weird. I used a handshake. I interrupted people while they were not expecting it, and I introduced myself, and I saw how they reacted and responded to that. Frankly, the number of people who got screened in or out percentage-wise was exactly the same with my handshake test as with the validated paper and pencil written test that the psychologist had developed.

Steve Bruce

People can try the handshake interrupting test. We hear a lot about the role of social media in hiring today, so how do you recommend using social media for hiring?

Arte Nathan

First off, I think that the question can be broken down into two components. The methodology, I think, of using mobile devices is critical today, and I think using some of the applications that apply to mobile devices like Skype or Facetime or something like that, I think that gives you a great opportunity to screen or meet more people almost face-to-face or virtual face-to-face, and I think that’s important. The social media, I think that’s still a moving target. I know a lot of people use LinkedIn® and a growing number of people use Facebook, and I see people using WhatsApp. I think all of those things are interesting. I think that promoting your brand through social media and seeing how many people you can attract through social media is very important. I think certainly it has replaced the newspapers. I think it is replacing the job boards. I think static job boards without any of the bells and whistles that allow people to interact are just not as robust.

I think that the social media is going to be an increasingly important component of recruiting, but I think that there are people using Facebook today in very clever ways, and I know that people have used LinkedIn for many years. I did the passive searching in the past, so, I think the way to search their database is very impressive. I think it’s still evolving. I think it’s got to be based on using mobile devices. That’s how people interact today.

Steve Bruce

That’s great, thank you.

Tomorrow we’ll look at some of Nathan’s outside-the-box recruiting notions.

HR Works is our very own podcast run by the managing editor of HR.BLR.com®, Chris Ceplenski.