How to Find People Who Fit Your Culture

How to Find People Who Fit Your Culture

Attitude, aptitude, accomplishments, adaptability, appreciation, amiability. Those are the six key attributes of “Attributional Interviewing” and they’re key to finding the right people for your company. Brad Owens, Culture Coach and recruiter for Fortune 500 companies, joins us to talk corporate culture, interview strategies and his sought-after best practices for hiring. We’ll cover the six attributes, why they’re important and how the interview can change everything.

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 Run Time: 36:04

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Brandon Laws: Hey, welcome back for another episode. I’m your host, Brandon Laws. Thanks for the download and thanks for the ongoing support. Hey, continue to reach out to me on LinkedIn as a lot of you have. I love hearing how the podcast is resonating with you and what episodes that you’ve loved. A lot of you have reached out and said you’ve loved specific episodes and how you tried to incorporate that in your HR practices, in your business. And I love hearing that. This is why I do what I do on the podcasting side. So keep doing that.

We also have a survey for the podcast. And if you fill that out, you can be entered into a drawing. We try to do that monthly. We’re giving away books of authors that I’ve interviewed on the podcast. So please, submit that survey. You can find the link on the show notes.

In today’s episode, I interview Brad Owens. He has his own podcast, which we’ll talk about in a little bit. But Brad has over a decade of experience as an external recruiter. He is working with Fortune 500 companies all over the country to help them hire talent from straight of school all the way to top levels of the organization.

Through his experience, he has learned how the best companies attract, hire, and retain their teams. And we’ve talked about that on the show a lot. Brad lends a lot of great expertise on the subject.

So Brad now calls himself the Robin Hood of Hiring as he shares best practices from the largest companies in the world that you can apply even in your small business. And that’s what this podcast is all about – small business.

He is also the host of a small business hiring podcast that you can find at And on that show, he speaks with small businesses just like yours that have been voted “best place to work.” He has them share exactly what they do to develop such a great corporate culture.

You can also catch him answering questions live every Thursday at 1:00 PM Eastern Time at And we’ll put links in the show notes to his guide on attributional interviewing, which is what our topic is today on the podcast. And if you want to connect with Brad, we’ll put the links up as well.

So, I’ll get out of the way. And here is the episode and interview with Brad. I hope you enjoy it.

Brandon: Hey, Brad. It’s great to have you on the podcast. Welcome.

Brad Owens: Well, Brandon, thanks so much for having me be a part of it. Quite honestly, it’s an absolute honor.

Brandon: Good to have another friendly podcast voice on the podcast. So Brad, on this podcast and in my regular job, I talk about this quite a bit, especially in the HR industry. Other people are talking about this a lot, and that’s hiring for culture fit. Are you a believer in hiring for culture fit or for skill?

Brad: Without a doubt, cultural fit is by far the best thing that people should be looking for. If they’re simply looking at skillset for their position, they’re not finding someone that’s going to last with their organization long term. You might have someone who is fantastic at, I don’t know, programming Java or something, and that’s great until Java is no longer necessary. And then what are you left with? You’re left with someone that might not fit in the organization in just one skillset they have coming in. They might be hard to work with. People might not get along with them. So by far, cultural fit.

Brandon: What’s the biggest argument you hear from people when they say, “Hire for skilled. Absolutely. You need some really smart people, people who can get stuff in who are really good at their job.” Like what do you say to those people when they push back and say, “No, skill over culture.”

Brad: So, there is this mentality in startup culture. That’s where I get most of the pushback is from people with small companies that need a very specific person. Let me use an example here from a super small company.

I had someone who was a home inspector. And all they needed was someone to come in, do marketing for them so they could have more jobs to go out on because they were simply – they didn’t have enough time in the day. They couldn’t go out on these jobs and then also market their business.


So I talked with them. I said, “Look, I can absolutely bring you in someone that could market and bring you a whole bunch of different jobs. But then at some point you want to grow your company and you’re going to want to be able to use this person that knows your business in other areas of your business but if you’re bringing in this person that only knows marketing, where are you going to go from there? And how do you know they’re going to protect your best interest and be a good cultural fit? How do you know they’re going to talk with customers the way that you’d want them to talk with them?

The people who really focus on the skillset, if you’re not, I don’t know, heart surgeon or brain surgeon or a pilot, some of these things you need to have many, many years and years of training on and I would hope my pilot has many years of training on. Focusing on skillset just gets you one very small niche of what you need out of this person.

So when people come to me saying, “Yeah, whatever, we just need someone to fill a seat right now.” I’m like, “Whoa! You’re in for a lot of turnover.”

And here’s the big issue. People have done many, many studies on this and what it actually costs you to lose an employee. And I was a reading book recently that said it cost between 8 to 10 times what you paid that person in their first year if you lose that employee within the first year. Now, we’re not talking just salary, benefits, that kind of thing, the obvious ones. We’re talking lost productivity for yourself training them or someone else that had to pick up the slack. We’re talking a potential workplace morale issue that they could have caused. They could have driven away one of your valuable clients.

Brandon: Yeah.

Brad: There are all sorts of different things that can happen. So if you’re just hiring based on the skillset, you’re setting yourself up for a huge loss.

Brandon: Actually, just to plug another episode I did. I interviewed Roberta Matuson and we talked about her book, The Magnetic Leader. And she had on her website a worksheet that talked about the cost of turnover. And it literally had line-by-line what you’re going to be losing when you have to turn over somebody. And I thought that was – I’ve always heard the 8 times, 10 times thing, 2 times, 3, whatever it may be. She actually had a worksheet that can calculate the actual cost of turnover.

I totally agree with you though. If you hire just for skill, you’re bound to possibly lose somebody who fit. If you just got what you needed out of them, and now you’re on to something else, that’s risky. But that’s where people default to.

Brad: Right, because it’s easy. You can simply just ask them, “Can you do this for me?” They say yes, and OK, cool. Bring them in the door. But it’s not a good long term strategy and that’s the big thing that I preach to people. I’m like, “Look, you’ve got to be thinking about this many, many years into the future. And if you’re just hiring based on skillset, you’ve got someone that can do a job today, maybe for a year but they’re not going to be with you long term.”

Brandon: What’s the cultural fit going to give you? Like if you find somebody who is a really great cultural fit, you hire them over the fact that they may have all the skills that you need, what does that going to give you over the skill set?

Brad: When you hire someone in, I’m not saying that skill set doesn’t have any part.

Brandon: Sure. Yeah, you’re not saying that.

Brad: Right. They’ve got to have something that can get the job done. But when you hire in this cultural fit for your organization, you’re making sure that the vision that you had from the start, the way you want this vision to be perceived in the marketplace, the way you want people to work together, the way you want them to interact, the way you want them to interact with your customers, all of that will be maintained.

As soon as you start throwing in people like let’s use football to start it up, right? Let’s use football. So the best player in the industry, the best player in the game is getting passed over, time and time again, for all these different teams because they are a terrible cultural fit. They know that as soon as they bring them in the locker room, they’re just going to cause problems. They could be the best receiver in the entire league but if they cause problems in there, they know that it’s just not something they want on their team.

Cultural fit on a team

So when you bring in this cultural fit, it’s just a lot easier for everyone. They’re going to be easier to get along with. They’re going to have a better attitude. They’re going to affect everyone positively instead of potentially negatively. They’re going to be driven by the same things you want your team to be driven by.

And then later on down the road, let’s say this person graduates into a management position, a higher position of their own, you’ve brought in this culture of “these are the people that we hire.” Now, they’re going to start bringing more of those players into your team and you don’t have this fast-growing company problem of a cultural shift. It starts moving away from what you envisioned. But when you start hiring people based on this cultural fit, you know that going forward, this is going to be maintained. You’re going to have some sort of cultural longevity to the kind of people that you’re hiring.

Brandon: I love the sports analogy example. Not only am I a huge NFL fan, I love sports in general. I want to stick to this for a second because I want to push back and just play devil’s advocate for a second.

So, I don’t know if you’re a follower of the NBA. But you’ve got five players on the floor at any given time and it’s a star-driven league. So my point to you would be, if you’re one of these superstars – you call all the shots because you’re going to get the job done better than anyone else. You’re going to throw everybody on your back and get the job done. And you may be a total a-hole, you may just be a terrible cultural fit but no matter what, day in day out, you’re going to get the job done and do the best job better than anybody else can.

So my point to you would be, and just to start a dialogue here, in the world of the NBA and other businesses like that, you could have star players that totally carry other people. Would you still rather hire a cultural fit and find people like that versus having just one star player?

Brad: So this comes down to, I think, management style and how you handle that person. So, yes, I think that if you have someone on your team – I mean this is probably going to cause a lot of waves positively or negatively here, but let’s just get it out there…

So Steve Jobs, some people said great to work with, some people said absolute pain in the butt, right? So, if we’re talking about the Steve Jobs’ mentality, yes, he did very well with the right people around him. But he created that culture that would work well with him. He created the hungry people. He created the people who were driven more by the change that they can make rather than the fuzzy feeling they get when they go home at the end of the day.

So it’s about who you surround these people with, how you manage them, what you make sure you tell them about what is and is not acceptable. You get to, in the end, call the shots.

So, let’s think about culture as a whole. If you’re a coffee shop hiring people that have to be really good in person, make sure they’re nice to all of your customers, that’s a completely different kind of cultural fit that you’re looking for than if you are say, a security company or a company that loans out bodyguards or something like that. I mean you’re just looking for a different type of cultural fit. But it all comes down to how you manage them, who you surround them with, and what guidelines you put in place ahead of time about what is and is not acceptable.

Brandon: I think that’s a beautiful point and I don’t think a lot of people articulate it that way. It’s about leadership management, they set the culture, what it is. And then the way they hire for a culture may be different than the way Company ABC hires for a culture. Maybe their employees want the warm and fuzzy feeling of going home and feeling like they are doing an excellent job, but they’re maybe not rock stars the way that Steve Jobs’ employees are – he would ride them hard and excellence was mandatory. He’d be rude about it, but he knew he was going to get every ounce of excellence out of them at the end of the day.

And I think your point is great. It’s just different and it’s one culture over another but they still need to hire for what their culture is. Is that what you’re saying?

Brad: Absolutely, yeah. It’s always going to be different. You can’t just say that, “Here’s the one thing you need to make sure your culture has.” Because it’s all different. You have different environments. You have different people that work there. You have – different parts of the country are going to hire different people. It’s all different. But the main point that we always keep coming back to in this conversation is it’s got to be on your mind. It’s got to be a part of the fit.

Brandon: Yep. You came up with something… And I’m not an HR person – a lot of listeners know that I’m a marketing guy, so I try to ask “dumb down” questions to make it so that all listeners can learn something new. And I want to learn something new, too. Did you come up with “attributional interviewing”? Is that something new? Is that a new concept?

Brad: Yeah, this is all my own doing.

Brandon: OK.

Brad: I mean I can get into where this really came from, how I came up with it, and we can go into the individual steps of this thing, but yes.

Brandon: So I ran across this. You have an ebook about attributional interviewing. And basically, it’s a different take on situational interviewing questions. And you have the goal of 6 key attributes, which we’re going to get into and I’d love to ask you some specific questions about some of those attributes, but these are the questions and attributes that every successful employee needs to fit within the culture. So we’re going to dive in to this whole culture piece and how do you hire for culture.

But I would love to know, what is attributional interviewing and how did you come to that conclusion?

Brad: So in my day job prior to doing this whole HR coaching thing that I’m doing now, I was an external recruiter, which means I helped Fortune 500 companies all across the country find their next talent. And I did that from C-level people all the way down to straight out of college.

And something that I found with working with all of these companies is they all interviewed more or less the same kind of way. And yet, they always looked for the skill set fit and they always came back to the people who they could say, “All right. Well, this person can do this job for me now but the company’s never really getting it right.” We’re looking at, “OK, yeah, this person might be able to do this job. We might be able to train them up and do this kind of thing.”

But when they looked for some certain attributes, those were people that came in and fit well with their organization for many, many years. They made sure that they were the people who would be a cultural fit. They would be the hard chargers, the ones that would want to learn everything. And it came back to 6 different attributes that I just kept seeing time and time again. And I wanted to treat this kind of like the hiring Robin Hood. I wanted to take all of the strategies from the Fortune 500 companies and apply it to more of a small business setting and show people what they should really be looking for.

Brandon: What are those 6 attributes then?

Brad: So, they’re all A’s. So there’s attitude. Is the person upbeat? Are they positive? Whatever attitude you need for your organization. That’s one of the big ones.

There’s aptitude. So if they come in and they may not have the skill set that you want them to have, what’s their aptitude? What’s their ability to learn new things quickly?

And then you’ve got accomplishments which are, when we think about their skill set, not exactly what skill set do they have, but what have they done with their skill set in the past? What have they already shown they can accomplish with that?

And then adaptability. Can they change their work to suit some new environments? Say something changes in your industry. Say, obviously they’re coming from wherever they have worked into somewhere that you’re going to employ them. That’s different. How have they been adaptable in the past?

And then appreciation. I like to use appreciation as an indication of whether they can show a genuine appreciation for their jobs and their career. Now, we all get those people in an interview situation where you ask them, what’s one of the most difficult managers that you’ve had to work with, and they just start trashing their former employer. That’s not someone that you’re go to want on your team. So that’s why I threw appreciation in their as well.

And then amiable, the easiest one. Are they easy to get along with? Do you think the team will like working with them? Do you see yourself working alongside this person for a long time?

Brandon: The one thing that sticks out to me that’s glaringly obvious, is that you have to basically ask all these questions in the interview and really tease out whether or not they have these attributes in the interview, or in checking references and really talking with people who have worked with this candidate. With the exception of accomplishments, because that kind of shows up on a resume, at least on a very surface level. You know what I mean?

Am I correct in assuming that a lot of the work with these 6 attributes needs to be done in the interview process and just how you ask questions?

Brad: Correct. So the big reason that I wanted to come up with a different style of interviewing is because the big thing out there in the marketplace, and I’m sure every single one of your listeners is going to know what I’m talking about when I say this, is behavioral interviewing. It has been the go-to for many, many years and it’s basically just situational interviewing. You ask them, “Tell me about a time when x.” And they just give a story.

And associated with this whole behavioral interviewing thing has been the star format. And for some reason, somewhere along the line, the star interview format where you listen for situation, the task, what actions they had, the results of this whole thing, got tied to the interviewer. And that is completely wrong. The whole star format came up to make it easier for the people answering the questions to structure their answer.

So I am not joking when I say this, I had a Fortune 30 company who was interviewing one of my candidates at one point and the candidate said, “They had a checklist in front of them. They had the star format written down and they were just checking it off as I went along.”

Interviewing questions

Brandon: Oh no.

Brad: Right. This Fortune 30 company was sitting their interviewing specifically for if they could follow the rules of the star format. And I went, “Oh no! Something is wrong here.” They are interviewing for the completely wrong thing. They are not listening to the answer.

So the big thing about attributional interviewing that’s different, and people will see this when they go check out the guide at if you want to see this thing, is that as you go through it, it’s not just the questions that you ask. Those might be 11 words. But you should be listening for 4, 5, 6 different things to come out of that question and what their answer is going to be. You need to be listening for these types of things.

So attributional interviewing might not be a way to ask questions but more of a “what you should be listening for.”

Brandon: Yeah, I think that’s right. Let’s start with attitude. I think we kind of get why attitude is important. You obviously want somebody with a positive attitude, somebody who isn’t super negative, all those things. What’s that interview question you like to ask to kind of tease out the attitude component?

Brad: Well, again, what attitude you need for your company is going to be different. But one of the ones that I really like is, “Tell me about a time you had to go above and beyond to get an assignment completed.” Now, that might just be what? 11-12 words. But what I’m hoping someone gives me from that is obviously, I hope they have an answer. But I want to hear what situation did they actually encounter?

So, what about this made them feel like they had to go above and beyond? Were they maybe picking up the slack for the rest of the team? How did they react when they realized they had to do this extra work? Is this something that just kind of fell into and complained about the whole time or was this a “Yeah, I get a chance to succeed here”? What was the actual outcome and how did their attitude about this affect the process or maybe even the results?

So I’m getting a lot more out of them other just, “Tell me about the story.”

Brandon: If they don’t respond with what you’re hoping, which is to find out if they have the attitude attribute or not, what follow-up questions would you ask to really hone in on that piece?

Brad: So my favorite follow-up questions are always ones that just allow them to take the story where they feel like it should go next, instead of me kind of probing them along and edging them into the next answer.

I always love this follow-up question of just, “Tell me more about that.”

Brandon: Yeah.

Brad: And they can dig into what they feel is important and that’s really what I’m trying to listen for in an interview, what they think is important, what they think is going to be the most relevant to this job.

Brandon: The next attribute that you talked about was aptitude. This one I struggle with because it seems like the only way that you’d be able to test whether or not somebody has this natural ability would be to actually see them in action and see them do it. How do you interview for that?

Brad: So, it’s all about what they’ve done in the past, situations they’ve already come up against. And this doesn’t necessarily have to be a work situation. Let’s say you’re interviewing someone straight out of college. This doesn’t have to be a work situation but maybe they went into a class they knew absolutely nothing about. How did they start learning this stuff? How did they approach learning something new? How did they react when they found out that they were going to have this test come up next Thursday? Or whatever it was.

There’s always a way to understand what their learning process is, and that’s really what aptitude is about. If they ran into a situation they didn’t know anything about before, did they panic, kind of sit back and wait for someone to tell them what to do and teach them, or did they take the initiative to go out and Google whatever they needed to at the time. Or go to a library to find all the information they needed. How much handholding do they need to come up to speed? So it’s their own ability to actually do the learning and come up to speed.

Brandon: Do you find that candidates when you’re asking questions like that, are they going just give away that information? Like yeah, I struggled with this and then I had to go Google and then I went to the library to find the answer. Do you just find that people will actually walk you through all that?

Brad: Yeah, if you ask them the right kind of questions. So my favorite thing to get as someone’s aptitude is, “Tell me about a time you had to learn something brand new in order to accomplish the task?” So it’s something they didn’t know about ahead of time, something they needed to know to actually finish this project. And I want to hear their process. I want to hear what they did, how they reacted, what didn’t they know, what did they have to know? Are they starting from scratch or are they learning what’s in place ahead of time and building off of that? How did they approach this whole thing? What resources did they use? How long did it take them?

Those are the things that I want to hear from this person.

Brandon: Why do I feel like the answer you’re going to get with the first step is, “So, I went to Google…”? Is that typically the first step in the process?

Brad: I’ve heard it a lot. But that also gives you something, right? If they are going in there and they’re looking for just every Joe Schmo with a website, they may not be good at trusting the right sources. They may not be good at understanding where this information is coming from. As a psychology major, you always have to trust the source to make sure that you’re verifying the source and all of that.

So, there are a lot of different things that you can learn from them about this. But really, what you’re looking for is how long did it take them? How did they approach the process? And what was the outcome of this?

Brandon: So we talked about accomplishments a little bit ago and how the resume sort of has accomplishments listed. What’s a really good way or questions to ask to really get them to expand on their accomplishments? So if they’ve listed accomplishments on their resume for every job that they’ve had, what are some ways that you can get them to really figure out whether they’ve really accomplished anything in their career that’s worth this position that you’re hiring them for?

Brad: The thing that I’m most concerned with is what did they think is most important in their background? What did they feel like they did that was their best highlight? So the questions I just flat out ask them is, what is your biggest career highlight so far? And I’d want to hear not only what it was, but why did they feel like it’s important? Was it a big impact on the company? Was it a big accomplishment for them and they felt like they leveled up in their career? Was it a big accomplishment because it impacted a number of lives, a number of their customers? What value did they see from this accomplishment? Did it make the company better? Did it just make them look better and that was what was important to them?

So you get a lot out of them – not just what they actually accomplished but why it’s important to them to have these accomplishments. And you get a bit more of their drive.

Brandon: Yeah. And I could see how in the moment, that would be really hard for somebody to come up with. Even you just mentioning that, I’m like, “I have to really dig deep to figure out what accomplishment is most important to me.” But I think your point is really just going through the thought process and seeing what’s important to them and if they actually have accomplished anything in general. And I think you’ll be able to tease that out quite a bit.

Brad: Yeah, absolutely. I like to make the joke of, “Unlike the stock market, past performance is a pretty good indicator of each performance. “

Brandon: So true.

Brad: Yeah, you really need to just pay attention. Again, this is not about asking the right questions. It’s about making sure you listen for the right attributes from this person.

Brandon: So what about adapting? So that’s one of your attributes, adaptability. I feel like people could talk their way through this by saying, “Oh yeah, I could deal with change.” And then the time comes where some big change happens and how did they really react to it.

What are some questions you’re going to ask to really figure out if they can adapt to things that are thrown at them.

Brad: OK. So adaptability and aptitude, I get the questions sometimes that those seem very similar. But aptitude is more of the ability to come up to speed when something changes.

Brandon: Yes.

Brad: Adaptability is more or less the behavior they exhibit when something changes.

Brandon: It makes sense. So like what kind of reaction are they going to have to whatever is happening?

Brad: Exactly. So when I’m looking for that from someone, I want to see – tell me about a time in your last job where something surprised you or maybe when something happened that was out of the ordinary. So I want to see what was it about these circumstances that surprised them or caught them off guard? Was it something that they didn’t know was a part of their job? What was it?

Was it a departure from the normal routine? Something that maybe permanently changed about the environment? How long did it really take them to handle this? What did they do about it?

So those people that shut down maybe when something changes or those people that see this as a challenge and are, “Yeah, I’m ready for this. Let’s do this.” So, you’re getting a bit more out of them than just, “Tell me when something surprised you.” And they’re going to say, “Well, this cool thing happened.” OK. So it’s all on the interviewer. It’s all about asking those follow-ups, really probing, really getting down into why this was such a big departure for them.

Brandon: I love the fact you had appreciation on your list of the 6 attributes. Because I personally think it can have a positive influence on the team when you show appreciation, not only for your job but for other people. And I think it can really have a great impact on the team and just everybody’s attitudes towards each other.

What are some great ways to find out if they’re generally an appreciative person?

Brad: This is going to give you some insight into how they viewed their career so far and where they feel like you fit into their career. Because obviously, you’re looking for someone that’s going to be a fantastic fit and take your company to the next decade or whatever. But they’re also looking for a good fit for themselves. So they need to appreciate how this job fits into their future and why this is good fit for them.

So, there’s this spectrum of appreciation. There are maybe those people who talk ill about their former employers and don’t really respect what everyone has done for them until this point. And then you get the opposite end of the spectrum of people when you define it as a kiss-up, right?

Brandon: Yeah.

Brad: So you’re looking for obviously someone that comes in a little bit in the middle of that. You can get to this by asking them those questions like I mentioned earlier – tell me about a time that you had a difficult boss or a difficult direct report. Or the favorite one that everyone likes to ask – why are you interested in this opportunity?

So, it just gives you a larger understanding around did they truly research your organization? Is this something that they’ve sought out intentionally because they know this fits in, they’re very appreciative of the opportunity that they’re going to have going forward? Did they show some genuine excitement for a chance to grow and stretch their abilities?

You can treat it also as being humble. So did they show the humbleness in their background of, “Yeah, I’ve done all these great things but I want to now take this and apply it to you guys. And as you see, this is how I can move forward with your organization to help you guys.” So, it’s just this appreciation and the way you put it earlier of having an effect on not only themselves and the business, but on the teammates around them. That’s the exact thing that you should be looking for in someone when we think about appreciation.

Brandon: We all want to be around people who we like, who are friendly, basically just somebody you want to hang out with. And I think that’s why being amiable is probably on your list.

What kind of questions are you asking? Or is it less about the questions and more about body language and how they enter the lobby before the interview? Is it everything that they’re not saying that would make them amiable or are you asking questions? What are you doing to kind of tease this one out?

Brad: So, amiable – the easiest way that I always put it to people when they’re having a hard time understanding this one is, I say, “Would you have a beer with them?”

Brandon: Yeah.

Brad: Would you invite them to your house for dinner? Would you want to go skiing with them on the company retreat or whatever you go do? Is this someone you’d really want to hang around?

So this is more of a cultural fit than all the rest have been, right? Do you see them getting along with everyone? Ask them what are their favorite activities outside of work? Or what gets you excited? And just leave it at that. Just let them take it because maybe at some point, you’re going to hear that you’ve got something in common with this person that you had no idea. Maybe they are the best kickball player in the world and you guys just happen to have a kickball team that’s struggling. And all of a sudden, “Hey, this is going to be awesome. We’re going to have so much fun here.”

It gets you a little bit energized about your workday with that person. They are going to be more excited. These are the types of things that get people with small teams out of bed, because they’re excited to come to work with these people. Not only are they doing great things in their business, having a great impact on their local economy or maybe the economy at large, but they like working beside these people. And that’s really what gets people energized about coming to work.

So, I had to include this one. It has got to be a part of something that you look at.

Brandon: When you talk with about the 6 attributes, are you recommending that they craft specific questions around each of these areas or how do you recommend people prepare for interviews around these 6 areas?

Brad: So, whether you prepare for an attributional interview, whether you prepare for any other type of interview style, the key here is having some sort of structured interview process.

There was a study recently – it wasn’t even recently – it was a meta-analysis of all sorts of different types of what the best predictor of job performance will be? Going about it as an interview from kind of shooting from the hip – “I Googled a couple of questions,” or, “Oh, these seem like good ones to ask.” Or, “Oh, I kind of like these ones and I’m just kind of taking it as comes on the fly during an interview.” That style of interviewing, unstructured interviewing, is worse off than chance. So if you trust your interview process and you don’t put some sort of structure to it, you’d be better just guessing, “Eh, they look like they’ll do the job.”

And that’s the way most people approach it. So when you approach your interview process, you need to have some sort of structure to it. So the way that I go through it in my process is, most of the clients start out talking about – we define all their core values for them, we figure out what’s truly important to them, what their culture actually looks like, what attributes they value out of people that are there.

So what does attitude look like if they’re a company? What do the accomplishments really mean at their company? What significance does that have in the organization? And you try and tease out what’s most important to you. And then you craft your questions around what’s important to you so that you make sure you get those things out of these candidates that you’re bringing in. And then once you have that structure in place, you continue to use it. Because these aren’t things that are skill set-based. These are just purely – will they fit in with our company and our team and our organization?

So you ask these of everyone that walks through the door. Let’s say somewhere down the road, every interview process has faults. At some point someone is going to get through the system that just wasn’t a good fit.

So now, you have the structure in place that you can go back and say, “OK, What question did we ask that didn’t gives us the right answer? What question can we kind of change up? And then over the years, you’ll have this structured interview process that’s going to be fantastic at weeding out all the potential problems for your organization.

Brandon: Do you ever run across hiring managers that, when you talk about these 6 attributes and building structure around them, they say “No, I’ve got a good gut and feeling around interviewing and I don’t need it structured because I have a good gut.” Do ever run across that? And then what do you say to them?

Brad: That gut feeling is a bit of the attributes. That is – are they amiable? Do they fit in with you? Do you just kind of feel like they’re going to be a good person and get the kind of job done?

So yeah, there is something to be said for a gut feeling. Sometimes, you just know. I met and got engaged with my wife within 7 months. You just know sometimes.

So you’ve got to make sure that you respect that and that you pay attention to it. But you’re doing yourself a disservice if that’s all you use.

Brandon: Good stuff. Anything else you want to cover on this? Where can people find – this is an ebook, and I think you probably have more content and more expansion on the attributional interviewing.

So where can people learn more about that? I want you to talk about your podcast too and where people could find that because it’s good stuff.

Brad: Yeah, sure. Well, I appreciate that. Thank you. So, if you want to learn more about this attributional interviewing style and even some sample questions that you could be asking, you can go to It’s just a free guide I put together for everyone. It will give you the basics of what these attributes are, a little bit more detail into what you’re truly looking for, and then some example questions that you can get.

And then if you want to listen to a little bit more of how small businesses, how successful small businesses, are approaching hiring, and the way that they interview for culture and are influencing their culture at their organization, I do have a podcast. It’s called Small Business Hiring. And you could just find out more about that at

What I do is I go out to companies that have been voted “Best Place to Work” year after year. I go to the companies that are voted “Best Place to Work” on Glass Door. I’ve interviewed the number 2 and number 3 companies on Glass Door, the number one rated CEO, the Inc. 5000 fastest growing companies. So I’ve interviewed all of these places. And you hear in the interviews what people are looking for out of the candidates they bring in. And time and time again, all of these attributes are coming out.

So people may not know it yet but this is how everyone has been interviewing. There just has never been a structure around it. So that’s what I’m hoping to bring to the table and show people “You’re not alone. It’s difficult to hire people.” Here’s how the companies that have been voted “Best Place to Work” approach it. I want to get all of that information out there for people.

Brandon: Yeah. I highly recommend your podcast. It’s probably one of the fastest growing business podcasts out there. It’s great content. And you just started this thing. So I’m pleased to hear all the success you’re having with it. You’ve been interviewing some great people. So yeah, go check that out. Brad has some great guests.

Brad: Thank you. That truly is an honor coming from you because this was one of the podcasts that pushed me over the edge to want to do it because you guys have just been doing it so well for so many years. So thank you.

Brandon: I appreciate it. Podcasting is fun. It’s a lot of work as you just have figured out. And hey, you’re doing video now too on the – just when you do the Q & As, it looks like. And that’s a lot of work too.

Brad: Yeah. Well, if you guys want to actually get into that, I answer people’s questions every Thursday, 1:00 PM Eastern Time. You can go to I’m out on YouTube just taking questions as they come in. So if you want to come participate in that, we always have a lot of fun on Thursdays.

And yeah, like Brandon says, they go up on the podcast.

Brandon: Fantastic. Well, Brad, thanks for being part of the podcast. We’ll put links to the guide, to your podcast so our listeners can learn more about you and what you’re doing.

Brad: Well, thank you so much. Yeah, I really, really appreciate you having me on. I’m here to help everybody. Don’t hesitate to reach out really. I’m an open book.

Brandon Laws

As Director of Marketing, Brandon Laws leads all marketing efforts for Xenium, providing oversight on all marketing campaigns, digital marketing strategy, events, sponsorships and public relations. Brandon brings a positive energy to every aspect of his role at Xenium—from internal initiatives around culture and wellness to industry thought leadership through the Xenium podcast and other social efforts. Active within the HR community, he currently volunteers on the board of the Portland Human Resource Management Association as the Director of Marketing & PR.

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