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Attitude – Aptitude – Attributes

Mapping the Three A'sIf you are an employer looking to hire people, there are many excellent articles and blog posts from recruiters and HR professionals on the topic of how to structure your team to and hire the best talent for success at your company.  Moreover at the same time, there are just as many articles on the topic of how to write and polish your resume so that you can get to the first interview.  I do not have to repeat contents from the many good resources found on the Internet, but the Hiring and Recruiting section of on LinkedIn is always worth sometime whether you are hiring or looking.


As a hiring manager and an employer for many years, I have my share of painful mistakes and have many anecdotal stories to tell.  I have seen hundreds of resumes and have done conducted hundreds of interviews; as well as being a job candidate myself. I have learned a lot from being on both sides of the hiring process. Identifying, recruiting and keeping great employees has taught me with many lessons over the years.  For me, the hiring process is as much art as it is science.  There is one tool that I have developed to perfect the art for hiring. The tool enables me to use a consistent, disciplined approach to assessing those intangible qualities that make a great hire. I have named this tool – “Mapping the Three A’s” my framework to finding my A+ hire.

When employers, including someone like me, think about the right fit of a candidate, I believe we are all essentially talking about the following 3 A’s – attitude, aptitude and attributes.


Personally, the attitude that the candidate possess is the most important to me.  This is particularly important in filling customer facing jobs, such as IT Help Desk or customer contact call center.  This is related to the age old question, “Does a person view the world as glass half full or half empty?” Every one of us has customers in our job setting whether they are external or internal to the company.

I have run many IT service organizations in the past two decades and attitude is my number one criteria.  It is hard to teach someone to have positive attitude. It must be part of the candidate personal make-up. It cannot be faked.  You either have it or you don’t. I look for real examples of positive attitude in the candidates past by asking about their likes and dislikes about their positions or what he or she might consider to be a negative interaction with a customer.

Take an example of a position in my IT Help Desk organization.  When a customer comes to the IT Help Desk, they are already having a problem.  They are frustrated.  The customer is reaching out because he or she needs help.  I am sure that the customer had already tried to remedy the issue by trying to fix it.  The last thing they need is a wise-guy IT guy person that has an attitude, treating them like an idiot.  It already feels bad enough that something is not working, and they can’t figure out how to fix it.  .

One of the best things I have done in the past is to hire someone for the Help Desk who worked in the hospitality industry, like restaurants or hotels, who wanted a career change.  That person took appropriate technical courses and got certifications.  She was technically qualified, motivated and knew what it is like to work with angry customers while keeping things cool.   She also came to the interview with the question, “How can I help?” rather than “What’s in it for me?” The internal reference point for her was being of service, not being selfish. The differences in the two attitude questions above manifest in the service quality in the end.  Of course, this employee regularly goes out of her way to help out customers, and the customer satisfaction is very high.  I did not force her to do this.  She came to the job with the right attitude.

When an employee has a bad attitude, that person creates starts a negative downward spiral.  I cannot afford to have that in my team.


Obviously, the great attitude without job specific skills will not get you hired.  Candidates must bring the skills needed for the job on day one.  Many employers do not have the time, budget or inclination to train personnel these days.  A candidate must demonstrate the minimum skills, preferably more, required for the job.

With that said, I do not necessarily look necessarily for candidates that have are a 100% skill match with an open position.  Rather, I look for a series of transferable skills and related experiences that apply to the position.  I look for demonstrated creativity and consistent application of knowledge and experience to solve business problems. Most employers start with a long list of skills and experience for the position they want to fill, but more often than not, this list that is way too long and unrealistic with irrelevant details for the job at hand.

If you a hiring manager, you have to make sure that you have very clear ideas of the core competencies, attitude, and aptitudes which are realistic and relevant for job success.


Even if a candidate has the great attitude and skills aptitudes to compete for the a position, I need to be convinced that the person possesses the right has the right attributes as well.  Attributes are things like natural curiosity, steadiness, ability to follow directions, comfortable with ambiguity and change, and empathy. For example, if you are not naturally curious and hungry for learning, your current skills will become stale and maybe less valuable as a member of my team over time. With rapid changes in the technology, I will ask job candidates to give me examples where he or she was willing to learn on the job and spend extra time learning something new. Or, I will ask for a specific example when the candidate asked questions of others to learn from peers and/or customers? I look for real life examples.

Finding the Right Blend

The qualities needed for job success will depend on the specific job and the specific organization, but by emphasizing the Three A’s, you will be better able to focus on the right criteria when evaluating candidates. Whether going it alone or using a team approach to interview candidates, it is helpful to have those involve in the selection process understand desired Three A’s for the position.

Whenever I am hiring, I have my team use the Three A’s mapping tool.  To download a copy of DRC’s Mapping the Three A’s, click here. Feel free to contact me directly if you want to know more.

Author:  Taiji Saotome, Vice President, Dartmouth Research & Consulting