Can Background Checking Screen for Attitude?

I just got back from a long flight. It was your typical business trip. Head to the airport – jump on a plane (after suffering the crush of too many people trying to avoid “Bag Check”), get off the plane, rent the car, find the hotel, sleep poorly, get up early to work out (this for maintaining sanity) then spend the day working with a client. Then off to the airport (30 minutes later than you intended to leave, which puts you in a heated rush) and do all the same in reverse. When I get on that plane is it too much to ask that the airline personnel don’t act sullen and churlish? Yes – I do run into the occasional happy flight attendant, but so many of them act like the passengers are simply a necessary evil. This got me wondering, how do you best screen for attitude?

There are pre employment tests that try and figure out a person’s psychological profile and then map that profile to the job type. These might work – but I wonder if the airlines are using them.

Background checking companies often talk about the fact that they want to help find the right person for the job. We conduct criminal history searches, driving records, credit history, previous employment, education verification and occasionally personal and professional references. At the end of all that, we have helped you “screen out” people who have a background that creates risk in your organization. But does any of this help you find the people who show up with a good attitude and willingness to work?

At Tandem Select we have worked with a few psychological profiling companies. Maybe there is some hope these tools will get better. Maybe a social media search will help. Whatever. Maybe some of the so called soft tools that we use to assess someone’s attitude do help. Maybe you can’t really test for that. But I am hoping that the airlines I fly most frequently figure something out soon!

Views: 116

Comment by Valentino Martinez on June 16, 2011 at 1:30pm



You make a good point about people with bad attitudes working in jobs with customer contact, particularly in the airline industry where the customer has a vote in repeating the experience, or not.


I also value testing on matters of technical or skill competence--those makes sense, but psychological profiling has a BIG BROTHER tinge to it that I've never quite embraced.  It also has a tendency to favor skilled "test takers" who can manipulate a test to predictable outcomes.  Yes, there are test designers who claim their tests can capture the essence of a person, but I beg to differ.

In my experience customer service oriented professionals have a little quirk that distinguishes them from others--they smile a lot, even in the face of the grim reaper.  And they find a way to delight their customers.  These are skills that are readily recognizable at fifty paces.  Testing for them is not necessary when you can make time to observe them in action--or validate input from others who have.

My view of a personality test is as follows...(apologies to those who have already seen it in other postings of mine).

Comment by Mat von Kroeker on June 17, 2011 at 12:54pm
Although I agree with your theory in principle-- in reality, an interpretation of one's "attitude" (at any given moment in time) is purely subjective, and doesn't take into account the past or present variables that could account for said "bad attitude".  When was the last time you stood on your feet for hours at a time-- and tried to keep a Polly-anna "attitude" for the duration?  How do you know there wasn't a gaggle of very difficult passengers prior to you walking onto the plane?  I have many friends who work food service, hospitality, customer service-- and regardless of how much we'd like to think the best of all people, all the time?  It isn't-- and they certainly aren't.
Comment by Valentino Martinez on June 18, 2011 at 5:24pm

Mat makes an important observation about contributing circumstances to "good" or "bad" attitudes employees display on the job--to also include:  a hostile work environment, a dead-end job; and or job "Burnout"--or the combination of such factors, coupled with personal problems, all feeding on each other can pull any smile down to a frown.

The consummate professional can mask such feelings from customers, but in the end we're only human.


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