The graph above highlights the main reasons why employees fail. Leadership IQ produced a study from over 5,000 hiring managers who have collectively hired more than 20,000 employees during the study period. They found that 46% of newly hired employees fail within 18 months and only 19% become truly great at what they do. 26% failed due to lack of coachability, 23% due to lack of emotional intelligence. Only 11% fail due to incompetence.

I’ve been recruiting tech leaders for more than 27 years and it’s rare, indeed, to see someone with a positive attitude get fired. Even when they’re found lacking in an area, or when the situation has changed and they don’t have all the skills needed, the leadership team will bend over backwards to try and find a place for these folks in their company. It’s because a positive attitude is priceless!

People are let go because they’re not coachable or they p_ss people off or they’re simply more trouble than they’re worth. You know what it feels like when you have someone with a lousy attitude in your group. It’s like a ball and chain around your leg. You wake up in the morning wondering how you hired them in the first place and wishing you could move them on. They’re just not worth the effort to try and change their attitude.

Top performers are people who are a pleasure to be around and who make your job easier. They take ownership of problems, they collaborate, they aren’t afraid to try things and make mistakes, and they have empathy.

Lousy performers suck the energy out of you and drag down everyone around them. They find the the negative, they do the bare minimum, they get overwhelmed easily and they blame others for their mistakes.

So here are some questions you might want to consider to help you uncover critical attitudinal traits such as humility, honesty, perseverance, initiative and determination.

1. Tell me about a time where you felt defeated; e.g., your project was falling apart, you were unable to meet your boss’s timeline goals, your idea was dismissed, etc. How did you respond to the adversity?
2. Describe a time when you were asked to perform a task or spearhead an initiative that went against your values. What did you do? What was the outcome?
3. Think about the most exciting and energizing aspect of your current or most recent position. What did you specifically enjoy about it? Why?
4. Think back to one of the most energy-depleting periods in your current or most recent position. What was going on? How did you respond to it? What was the outcome?
5. Tell me about a time when you went the extra mile when it would have been just as acceptable to perform the bare minimum. Why did you exert the effort? What was the outcome?
6. Provide an example of a difficult situation with a major client that you had to resolve. What steps did you take? What was the outcome?
7. Tell me about a time when you had to convince another staff member or leader, whom you had no direct authority over, to buy into a new idea or project? How did you accomplish this?
8. Tell me about a time you made a blunder on the job that cost your company time or money. How did you handle the aftermath?

In addition to the interview process make the effort to dig deep through their references. Let the candidate know that you’re going to be speaking to their manager’s. Let them know that in addition to the references that they provide, you’ll also be asking third party and random references for insights as to their attitude.

By doing this you’ll push the candidate to be honest with you and also let them know that you’re digging deep…where attitude lies.