How to Use Core Values to Hire A-Players

Mark Murphy is the author of “Hiring for Attitude.”

Here’s what he says in an interview with Forbes about hiring and core values:

“When our research tracked 20,000 new hires, 46% of them failed within 18 months.  But even more surprising than the failure rate, was that when new hires failed, 89% of the time it was for attitudinal reasons and only 11% of the time for a lack of skill.  The attitudinal deficits that doomed these failed hires included a lack of coachability, low levels of emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament.”

You can read the full interview here:

The message for today is this:

The hard stuff is easy!

That means that the hard stuff (competence issues) isn’t complicated.  Most people can learn a skill if they have the right attitude.

The hard stuff is comparatively easy.

Hard stuff may involve coaching and training.  However, hard stuff can be overcome.

Anyone can:

  • Take a computer course
  • Qualify for a new skill
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Read a book
  • Attend a class
  • Find a mentor

Once the person has taken a class, they are now qualified to drive the forklift or be the safety officer or use Excel.  Easy.

The soft stuff is hard! 

Soft stuff includes:

  • Teamwork
  • Trust building
  • Conflict resolution
  • Coaching
  • Overcoming hurt feelings
  • Dealing with under performers

These are the issues we all dread.  We’re not worried about teaching someone how to drive a forklift. But we do stay awake at night wondering how we’re going to approach our best forklift driver and confront him about his toxic attitude to his co-workers and customers.

What will we do if he leaves?  His position is hard to fill at the moment, plus he’s a really good driver.  In addition, he has a history of reacting badly to feedback.

We all hate this stuff.  It’s called drama, and it’s what make our lives as leaders suck.  We long for it to be gone.

Source people who already share your values

This is where hiring for core values comes in.  If you hire someone right out of the gate who doesn’t think like that, you never have to deal with the downstream problems resulting from their immaturity.

This is why you should make it your job to be on the lookout for outstanding people wherever you go.

When you’re in line at your favorite coffee shop, keep an eye out for who is great at customer service.  If they share your values, they should be working for you!

When you’re dealing with suppliers, take note of who is responsive and ‘on it.’  Reach out to them if you sense that they share your values.

Even customers can be potential employees for you.  If you love them and they love your way of doing business, get to know them better and make them an offer.

When you hire people who share your values, many of your people problems melt away.

You can teach a person a skill, but it’s very difficult to teach values to anyone.  Their values are set when they’re young.

Screen for core values during the interview

If you aren’t able to find people that you already know to fill the role, make sure you screen for values during the interview process.

I recommend that you are clear on the values you are looking for.  If you haven’t set the core values of your organization, you can find out how to do that here:

Once you’re clear on what your values are, look for a match.  Here are some things to look out for during the interview:

  • How has the candidate treated co-workers in the past?
  • Find out what their ‘low points’ were in their past role. These point to their values
  • Find out what makes them angry at work. When your values are violated, it makes you mad
  • Ask what they’re looking for in a workplace. Usually a person is looking for a values match.  Do their values match yours?
  • Have others involved in the interview process so they can assess the candidate for values too.

Remember when bringing on a new team member that, if they don’t work out, 9 out of 10 times it will be over a values issue, not a skill issue.

Hire for values, train for skill.

In summary:

Many of your people issues will simply disappear if you focus on hiring people based on values, not only on skillset.  Screen for values when hiring, and you’ll be far head of the game.


  1. The hard stuff is easy
  2. The soft stuff is hard
  3. Source people who already share your values
  4. Screen for core values during the interview

Thanks for reading this article on ‘How to use core values to hire A-players’  Below are additional resources from Professional Leadership Institute, the global provider of online human resources and leadership tools:

Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

Find more about “The Power of People Skills” here:

Recommended Resources:

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