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How Do Employers Judge Attitude?

By Harry Urschel

Job seekers often hear how important a positive attitude is for a successful job search. However, they often don’t grasp how their attitude is perceived by employers.

Simply acting "cheerful" is not enough. There are several subtle, and not so subtle, ways that employers get a sense of whether you have a positive attitude or not.

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Certainly there are some obvious indicators of a poor disposition…

  • Coming to an interview with a scowl on your face, or never cracking a smile
  • Blatantly complaining about your previous manager or peers.
  • Or, expressing a strong disdain for your previous company’s policies, processes, or culture

However, people often make more subtle comments that can indicate an attitude problem as well…

  • "I can’t believe they laid me off, it will take three people to take over all my responsibilities."
    (Subtle meaning: No one else can do what I can do. I think I’m superior and irreplaceable.)
  • "The ‘senior management’ was set in their course, and wouldn’t take my advice."
    (Subtle meaning: I knew better than they did… regardless of the fact that they had more information.)
  • "The company was mismanaged, and they made decisions that ran the organization into the ground."
    (Subtle meaning: I lost my job, and I’m still angry about it.)
  • "I carried the team / did the ‘heavy lifting’ on that project."
    (Subtle meaning: They were all a bunch of slugs, and I was the only one on the ball.)
  • "They never paid me what I was worth."
    (Subtle meaning: I’m better than others think I am. Or… They’re cheap.)
  • …and many others.

Any of those comments may reflect the reality of your previous situation. However, typically when an employer hears comments like those, they are perceived as "red flags" about your attitude.

A positive attitude is reflected in discussion that shows you are a team player, respectful of those in authority over you, professional in your interactions with others, optimistic about your responsibilities, willing to learn, and humble.

Bottom Line

As you prepare for networking conversations and interviews, certainly be conscious about the obvious attitude indicators. However, also be careful about other comments you make that may cause them to question your temperament as well.


About the author...

Harry Urschel has over 25 years experience as an independent recruiter in Minnesota. He currently operates as e-Executives, writes a blog for Job Seekers called The Wise Job Search, and can be found on Twitter as @eExecutives and on Google +. He can be contacted by email at: harry@eexecutives.net