What Interview Questions Uncover a “Can Do” Attitude?

As extended unemployment benefits continue to wane and people begin re-entering the workforce, employers may discover that finding top talent is like finding a needle in a haystack. When it comes to effective hiring, gauging a candidate’s attitude is just as important as evaluating their skills and experience. Because even if an employee performs their job adequately, doing so with a bad attitude can bring their entire team or department down.  

A can-do attitude shows an employer that a candidate is going to work hard for their company. Unfortunately, it’s tough to spot a whiner during the interview process. They may put on a cheery façade to mask their negativity and fool you into thinking they’re a team player.  

Here are a few interview questions you should ask:

  • Describe a major obstacle you faced on the job. How did you overcome it?
    A candidate with a great attitude views obstacles as temporary and something they can surmount. 
  • How do you handle situations in which you’re asked to do something beyond your capabilities?
    An individual with a positive outlook embraces change and isn’t afraid to occasionally be pushed outside their comfort zone. 
  • Tell me about a time that you caused an issue within your team or department. How did you resolve the situation?
    Questions that reveal how a candidate relates to others under difficult circumstances are typically good indicators of their true attitude. Look for responses that show the candidate can manage confrontations effectively and professionally. 
  • How have you helped someone on the job, at an inconvenience to yourself?
    Candidates with a “can do” attitude will go above and beyond the call of duty to help a coworker, supervisor or customer in need. If the candidate struggles to provide even a single example, consider it a red flag. 

With those bases covered, it’s time to address the elephant in the interview room: the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus changed our work lives—maybe forever—and candidates with good attitudes will have captured something positive from their experiences. Here are interview questions to ask candidates that will help you uncover a can-do attitude: 

  • How did you expand your horizons during the pandemic?  
    Like it or not, we all had time on our hands. How did the candidate use theirs? Did they learn a new skill? Write a book? Get a degree? Individuals with a positive attitude will find a way to grow during the worst of times. 
  • How did you help others? 
    Look for answers that tell you the employee’s positive attitude extends to other people. Someone who reached out to help friends, family, and community during the pandemic will make an excellent team member. 
  • How did you adapt to working remotely during the pandemic?
    A person with a can-do attitude will be able to roll with unexpected punches. Listen for answers that show resilience and the ability to be proactive. For example, maybe the candidate turned their closet into a work space or created “office hours” with their children to manage their time more effectively. 
  • How did the pandemic affect your career goals?
    Did the candidate put their career on hold and hunker down for the duration? Or did they use the time to develop their skills by watching videos, reading books, or taking online classes in their field? Can they identify one way in which their work perspective has changed for the better post-pandemic? An individual with a great attitude will have found a way to stay engaged in their work life. 
  • What is your motivation for choosing to leave your current employer? 
    Many unhappy workers chose to stay with their employers during the pandemic because the job market was uncertain. Now many are quitting in a movement entitled “The Great Resignation.” Find out if your candidate is escaping an unfortunate job match or running enthusiastically toward your company searching for their dream job. A candidate with a great attitude will be able to explain not just why they are leaving their previous employer but why they want to join your team. 

Perhaps the biggest interview tip is this: empathy matters. You never know what someone experienced during the pandemic until they tell you. Be respectful of the answers you receive, even if they aren’t what you were expecting. And if a candidate displays empathy toward others as well as a positive attitude, they might be a fantastic addition to your team.

Related posts: 

Key Differentiators that Separate Good vs. Great Candidates 

Down to Two Candidates? Here’s Who to Hire! 

Avoid Making These Mistakes When Hiring Employees 

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