Review: Hiring for Attitude—Mark Murphy

Prabesh Aryal
March 6, 2012

Hiring for Attitude is a top-rated book by Mark Murphy, chairman and CEO of Leadership IQ. Murphy has used the famous Brown Shorts* approach throughout the book and writes, over seven sections, in a very systematic way.

Starting from ‘Discover Your Brown Shorts’ to ‘Put Your Brown Shorts to Work for more than just Hiring’, the book will guide you on how to choose right people and retain them. The Brown Shorts are a metaphor for the unique attitudinal characteristics that make a company different from others; Murphy includes exercises in the book so you can identify what they are and combines it with a simple but powerful formula that distills the probability of attracting high performers to apply for jobs.

In the analysis of the five biggest reasons why new hires fail, Murphy’s company tracked 20,000 new hires and discovered that lack of skills or technical competence only accounted for 11% of new hire failures. More often than not when a new hire was wrong, it was due to attitude and not due lack of skills.

The book elaborates on two basic characteristics of people: one whose attitude just doesn’t fit organisational culture and another who has a problem attitude. Using the dimensions of performance, skills and attitude, the author describes common encounters with well meaning but unskilled workers, whom he calls ‘Bless their hearts’ (after the Southern USA phrase meaning ‘thanks for trying’) and those who are skilled but have lousy attitudes, ‘talented terrors’. Both are considered low performers.

In this book, you will find tests to discover the attitudinal characteristics and interview questions to get the truth from role candidates. The questions are designed to target the attitudes and test whether or not a candidate is a match for a specific organisation. Furthermore, the answer keys provided in Hiring for Attitude predicts good or bad fit candidates based on various factors; the grammar they use is just one the tips to find talented pipelines with the right attitude.

The author also illustrates how to develop more high performers from your existing pool and teach a technique called Word Pictures, which can be used to turn what you learned in hiring for attitude into a method for teaching attitude in orientation and on-boarding. There are also worthy case studies from Southwest Airlines, Microchip, Google and others.

In summary, the content of the book is all about attitude; how to select for attitude, interview for attitude, recruit for attitude, assess attitude and teach attitude. I believe this book would be a very good reference for project managers to assemble an attitude oriented project team. I would also recommend this as a must-read book for HR and management professionals.

Hiring For Attitude: A Revolutionary Approach to Recruiting and Selecting People with Both Tremendous Skills and Superb Attitude
By Mark Murphy
RRP $29.95
Published by McGraw-Hill (purchase online)

* Brown Shorts refers to an anecdote Murphy tells about Southwest Airlines. Continue to page 2 for a transcript of the anecdote.

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Prabesh Aryal
Prabesh Aryal is the associate director at FHI360 in Nepal and the representative for the Project Management Association Nepal (PMAN) at a regional and international level. He can be contacted at
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