{PODCAST} In-Ear Insights: Attitude and Aptitude in Hiring

In this week’s episode, Katie and Chris tackle the question of how to determine if someone has a good attitude and aptitude for marketing, business, or any professional even if they don’t have professional experience. The labor market is constrained for “hit the ground running” candidates, but the actual labor pool is much, much larger – and candidates like veterans, returning mothers, and other non-traditional folks could be even better than the current talent if given the right support. Tune in to find out how to determine whether someone’s a hidden gem.


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{PODCAST} In-Ear Insights: Attitude and Aptitude in Hiring

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn 0:17

In this week’s in your insights, let’s talk about deepening our access to the hiring pool expanding who is potentially could be working in analytics or data science or management consulting or any of the fields that we talked about, and our attitude and aptitude.

One of the things that came up in a discussion recently was trying to find non traditional candidates, folks who don’t have the whole hit the ground running kind of thing, because in today’s labor market, finding people who can hit the ground running is going to cost you substantial premium, because you have to basically lower people away from other jobs.

One of the things that I remember Katie, from our days working together at an agency was when we were looking at candidates to work on our team, we weren’t always looking for people who could hit the ground running, because frankly, the agency we worked for at the time couldn’t afford it.

So we were instead of looking for people who had a good attitude, and an aptitude for analytics, and understand that they wouldn’t have the skills or the experience, but those are teachable things, you know, helping somebody develop an aptitude for something they don’t like, that is not really a teachable thing.

So my question to you is, when we look at non traditional pools, people, for example, like veterans, part time moms, people with disabilities, etc, people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, how do you find out whether somebody has an aptitude say, for analytics, if they have no experience, they had no skills, but they, they might have that knack for, they might have, you know, deep inside them with, you know, some some training and some some coaching, they might have like a full database architect in there somewhere.

But right now, they just fresh out of the army or whatever.

How do you how do you suss that out?

Katie Robbert 2:11

I love this question, because I feel like, as humans, all of us humans, we’re so quick to make snap judgments about people based on the little bit of information we know about them.

And as a hiring manager, It’s especially difficult to not make those snap judgments.

But you have such a limited amount of time to get to know someone and whether or not they can do the job that you kind of have to.

And so the way in which I would recommend approaching, finding out if someone has the right attitude, and the right attitude, maybe for a job they’ve done is you have to get to know the person.

So forget about their work experience, quite honestly, because anybody can put together a resume that says, I worked at this company, and I did these five things, you know, and it’s always going to be the same jargon of you no assisted and, you know, create it, like whatever the thing is, like, whatever the buzzwords are on the resume, ditch the resume.

So just like put that aside and talk to the person, the things you want to dig into is, it’s a couple of things, you want to understand what they like to do for fun.

So that’s one part of it.

So their hobbies can be really telling in terms of the kind of attitude they might have.

And then their aptitude is getting a better sense of how they live their daily life.

Are they the person who’s in charge of the finances? So obviously, you know, you can’t ask like, well, how much of your finances and how often do you balance your checkbook, but like, just getting a general sense of what they do on a daily basis to manage themselves, their household, their families, you know, whatever it is, like, are they the planter of the friend group? Are they the ones who if everybody wants to get together, they are the person who organizes all of the people, they pick the restaurant, they send out the, you know, text chain of what time they’re getting together, they also linked to the menu at the restaurant, they have one friend who’s vegan, one friend who’s gluten free.

So they figured out all of those things ahead of time, and found options that work for everybody like, in that I’m describing a very particular set of skills without the person ever having been, you know, an office manager or a project manager, you know, but based on that information, the likelihood of them being able to perform that job function is pretty high.

Because that’s how they operate.

They have a natural tendency to be that person, you know, spoiler I’m that person.

You know, I’m the person who someone says, Okay, we want to do X, great.

I’m gonna do the research.

I’m gonna plan it out.

I’m gonna send out the reminders to everybody.

I’m going to make sure that I know who’s attending that everyone knows how to get there.

or where they could park how to get there on top like, all of those details, and that naturally lends itself to me being a strong project manager.

Does that make sense?

Christopher Penn 5:10

It does make sense.

It reminds me of a talk that we gave, I’m sure it’s on the Trust Insights website, somewhere of sort of the soft skills have a data scientist, because a lot of the time data science skills, again, you teach somebody how to push buttons.

But teaching somebody how to be a more patient individual is, is really, it’s very challenging.

It’s, it’s really out of the purview of the workplace, because that’s more like personal development, rather than professional development.

For reference, the seven skills of a good data scientist, you know, first person thing is, person has to be open minded, they have to not have preconceived notions about everything.

So in an interview process, Katie, how would you, how would you determine like, this person is an open minded person, as opposed to this person is an A, and A closed minded person who just wants to check things off the to do list and doesn’t really feel like exploring?

Katie Robbert 6:09

I feel like well, so two things one.

So while this is the seven qualities of good data scientists, I feel like these are seven qualities of just a really good employee and human in general.

And so I feel like this list, you know, can be agnostic of a role or an industry or particular, I keep saying a particular set of skills, and I have Liam Neeson, in my head.

If I could do accents, I would.

But trust me, you don’t want to do that.

I digress.


So the question about how do you know if somebody is open, this is where you can start to describe scenarios.

And so think about, you know, our elementary school, and then middle school like math classes, where they give you these really complicated math problems in the form of a story.

And so you can approach it that way, not necessarily having them do calculations depends on the job.

But give them scenarios where, you know, it’s not to trap them or trick them, but just to to sort of see, you know, how they feel about it can it doesn’t even have to be a workplace scenario, maybe you’re asking about something that happened recently, you know, in the news, or something that was trending on a social media platform, ask them their opinion about that, you know, just open ended, let them talk, let them sort of get their thoughts out, that will tell you a lot about how they think and how they approach it.

So you know, let’s just say for example, you know, oh, gosh, I can’t even think of an example of some I had, like, maybe it’s, oh, did you see the latest posts from Trust Insights? On, you know, data scientists? What did you think about it? And so the way in which they answer, you know, oh, you know, I thought it was really interesting.

It really got me thinking about the following three things.

Oh, what do you think about those three things? Well, you know, honestly, I don’t know yet.

I need to do some research, or I thought it was a terrible post, you know, it has nothing to do with data science.

And I think they’re completely wrong.

And so, you know, obviously, I’m giving super quick examples for the sake of, you know, the length of this podcast.

But the point being is, you can ask questions that are not related to the job that will help you understand the kind of person you’re interviewing and the way in which they think I mean, maybe you say, oh, you know, I was meeting up with my sister the other day, and she, you know, told me that she accidentally backed into someone’s car, and then she drove away, can you believe it? And then just sort of see the way in which the person responded, they’re like, Oh, my goodness, I hope she’s okay.

Or lady drivers.

I know.

You know, two very different responses, but it starts to tell you a bit about the person’s character.

Christopher Penn 9:01


This is where I, the a lot of the questions, though, sort of describe a time questions come in, right.

So describe a time when you’re presented information you didn’t agree with and how you reacted to it.

Katie Robbert 9:14

I will say there’s a problem with that.

Okay, because what you just said to me was, tell me how you acted correctly, even if you didn’t? Because you said describe a time where you were presented with information that wasn’t correct.

So me as the person being given that question.

I’m like, oh, so they want to know how honorable I am with data.

So let me go ahead and tell them what they want to hear.

It’s a good question.

But you just have to know that it’s a leading question.

Christopher Penn 9:46


How would you rephrase that to focus on the trait of openness?

Katie Robbert 9:50

Um, you know, it may be an opportunity to bring up, you know, an example of a data set, you know, so let’s say you’re hiring a data scientist.

If you can give them you know, stock standard example, you know, dummy data or anonymized data, and sort of walk through the stare be like, oh, so here’s an example of a dataset that we might be pulling for one of our clients.

You know, what questions would you have about this dataset? And you can see, like, if they’re saying, like, well, you know, how was it collected? Or, you know, what’s the context? What’s the question they’re trying to answer? This gives you an opportunity to say, well, you know, they were trying to demonstrate conversion rates.

And so we counseled them to say, this isn’t the best data to use for conversion rates.

And they said, but it makes our conversion rates look really good.

That’s an opportunity to then say, All right, so what would you how would you respond to that? So you’re still setting up the it’s the wrong data question, or it’s misrepresenting.

But you’re giving them a little bit more space to answer like, oh, well, if the client is saying that’s what they want, then that’s what they get, or, you know, an opportunity to say, well, I might take a step back and really try to dig in and find the correct data sets, those kinds of things.

Christopher Penn 11:13

I feel like that would be very challenging for somebody who, again, we’re talking people with no experience and no skills, that kind of question, be very flummoxing to them.

Katie Robbert 11:22

So you can take it into a different in a different case.

Okay, so let’s say, you know, you’re buying a car, and online, it says it’s $25,000.

But then you go to the dealership, and it’s $27,000.

You know, how do you handle that misrepresentation? Do you tell them? Are you someone who would say to the manager, the dealership, hey, there’s a different price point right here? Or are you someone who just be like, You know what, I just need the car.

Let me go ahead and pay the extra $2,000.

You know, again, super quick example.

But think about it in the context of real life.

Because, theoretically, the skills and the ways in which you approach your job, every day are the same ways that you approach your life.

And so think about non work questions.

You know, you can phrase them as, you know, something around their pets find out what their interests are, and then build the questions around those things, because they’ll tend to have more of a point of reference.


Christopher Penn 12:29

Most of the other traits on here are things that you can suss out through and behavioral things, asking somebody, for example, about a time when they faced a major setback, you know, how did they how do they move past to test someone’s resilience? Asking someone what books they read, or what, you know, what content they consume is a way to determine their level of curiosity, particularly, if it’s anything that could be work related, asking someone a time when they they need to be exceptionally patient, how they managed to do that, you know, tests patients, asking someone what they did, you know, to keep going on something pretty straightforward for persistence, asking somebody, what they do, what they love, outside of work, what their hobbies are tests for that passionate thing, the one that I think is difficult to assess, is that humility, that humbleness, because it’s one of those traits where, if you say it, it’s probably not true, right? I’m the most humble person I know.

Just comes across as well.

That’s clearly not true.

How do you how do you dig up that one?

Katie Robbert 13:35

Again, I feel like it’s sort of the, you know, playing out the scenarios of, you know, what would you do in this situation? And you don’t have to outright say like, I want to know how humble you are.

You know, so let’s say or, you know, actually, a really good way to figure this out is listen, you don’t have to necessarily ask a question about humility.

But as you’re asking about the Tell me about a time with your team, tell me about a time with, you know, your family, whatever, listen to how they describe it.

And so there’s a big difference between i, and we, sort of every story they tell is just me, me, me all about me.

It’s my company.

It’s my website.

It’s my course, it’s, you know, my accomplishment.

It’s my this.

There’s not a whole lot of humility.

Whereas if someone is like, oh, you know, well, I worked with a team and we worked really hard to build this thing.

You know, they stayed up late.

If someone is describing other people in a story outside of them, if they are not the sole focus of the story, like the star, then that’s a really good indicator that they definitely have that team mentality that they have that humility, and, you know, it’s like, oh, you know, I saw that the agency that you used to work for, you know, won a bunch of awards.

Yeah, you know, my team worked really hard.

We, you know, really tried to Like, or Yeah, you know, I worked my ass off.

And I was the only one who was like submitting for these awards.

Like, you didn’t ask if they were humble, but that kind of, uh, you know, listening to what they’re saying will tell you the answer to that question.

It’s the Justice way.

Christopher Penn 15:18


No, that’s I think that’s useful again, particularly for folks who don’t have skills who don’t have experience as listening to what their life experiences have been up to that point.

Once you’ve gotten through some of the behavioral stuff in terms of the sort of the, I guess, the soft skills? How do you determine if somebody has the potential to have the hard skills.

So, for example, the ability to do multiple regression analysis, and be able to write code, the ability to do these things, these are are very teachable skills.

But again, we’re talking about somebody who just came back from maternity leave or from raising their kid.

last 10 years, they’ve been out of the workforce.

They their skills are pretty far out of date.

But they’re obviously teachable, they’re they’re learning, they can learn quickly.

How do you determine like, yes, this person could pick up how to code in Python, without knowing the fact that there’s no basis on which to make that comparison.

Katie Robbert 16:18

If they have demonstrated an interest in learning it, then I think, you know, I see no problem with actually showing them examples.

And walking it through with them.

Like, okay, so this is what Python code looks like.

It’s a set of logic statements.

It’s a bunch of if then statements.

And so let’s say you’re hiring, you know, someone to learn how to code in Python, then maybe you ask them, you know, not Python questions, but logic questions, you know, if you need to get to, from point A to point B, what do you do? What is the most efficient way to get from point A to point B? You know, I’m sure if you did a web search of logic questions, you know, you could come up with a bunch of different questions.

And that will give you the aptitude of whether or not somebody can put together, you know, the if this, then that kind of statements that coding requires, because coding is just basically a bunch of actions until you get to an outcome, you know, find this library, do this command, change this color, you know, you know, calculate this thing.

So you can ask them, lots of big questions to see if they have the aptitude.

Christopher Penn 17:34


And then, in terms of setting expectations, how do you set expectations realistically, for that person? Knowing that, you know, for example, writing Python code is a career unto itself, right? It is a full profession, being a database architect is a profession.

Now, these professions are not things that you, despite the advertisements we all see online and not something could take a six week Crash Course and, and become an expert in six weeks, right? It’s like a six week crash course in dentistry, I’d prefer not to go to that, versus someone who went to went to actual dental school.

How do you set expectations for the person? And then how do you set expectations for your team and your company that this new person that you you’re probably going to hire is not going to hit the ground running, and it’s going to take time to get up to speed.

Katie Robbert 18:26

So you have to reverse it.

First, you have to set expectations with your company and your team.

And then you can set those same expectations with the person.

So you need to have those, you know, really honest conversations with, you know, upper management, middle management, whoever is going to be impacted by this hire, and say, Are we okay, with not having this skill on day one on day five on day 30.

But knowing that little by little, we will start to have it.

And so then it’s your job to do your due diligence to say, Okay, on day 30, my expectation is that this person can write a simple Python code that does a, you know, this kind of a calculation.

And so you start to set those milestones internally.

And then as you’re communicating to the new hire, you say, this is our expectation, we know that you have never coded in Python before, but we think it’s realistic that by day 30, you should be able to perform x function.

So that’s the success measure that we’re going to, you know, grade you on, for example, however, between Day Zero and day 30.

We need to be constantly communicating to see oh, you know, there’s a hiccup here or it’s not as straightforward but you as the new employee need to tell us where you’re getting blocked.

And so, there’s a couple of different expectations that you’re setting.

You’re telling the person we expect you to learn this thing.

But secondly, you have to be constantly transparent with how it’s going.

If you feel like that timeline is not realistic, you need to help us understand why.

And you need to help us understand what you will be able to do by day 30.

So that I can then go back to my team and say, Okay, it’s day 30, here’s what we can actually do.

And then, you know, prior to bringing on this person, you need to have a little bit of a backup plan.

And you say, if on day 30, this person can’t do this thing.

How do we then manage? Are the without it? Or how do we have pull somebody from a different team who can do it? And so having those backup plans for the person who’s hitting those milestones, and then being explicitly clear about what those milestones are?

Christopher Penn 20:41

So what would that look like? Pretend you are both the manager and the candidate? And you’re saying, hey, Katie’s new.

She’s, she seems awesome.

She needs to start coding in our because that’s what we you know, that’s what Trust Insights runs all of its data science platform on what is your professional development plan for Katie, the new hire, to learn are knowing yourself, knowing what you can do, personally.

Katie Robbert 21:07


So I would say, you know, let’s say for example, I hired me to code an AR for the agency, but I’ve never done it before.

So as the hiring manager, as the manager of the team, I need to have an understanding not fully of how our works, but just sort of what’s realistic, you know, within certain timeframes to learn, and then I start to break that down for the new hire, you know, week by week, day by day to say, if I expect you to be here on day 30, here’s where you need to be at week three, here’s where you need to be at week two.

So you start to work backward for that timeline, just like you would for any other project plan.

It’s really what it is, it’s a project plan.

And so on day one, the first thing we need you to do is, you know, set up your machine, make sure you have are installed, make sure that you know how to log into it, and you know how to log into the various different pieces.

So that’s day one, day two, okay, here’s a bunch of documentation, I want you to read day three, here’s the, you know, simple exercise that I want you to go through, you know, so and so forth.

So you start to build it out that way.

And that gives both you the hiring manager literally like a checklist, Are they checking the boxes? And if not, why not? And then as a new employee, you’re like, Okay, I understand exactly what it is I need to do.

I can work against this.

And if for some reason, I’m finding this to be super easy, I can work ahead.

Or if I’m finding it to be super difficult, I have to raise my hand and say, I don’t understand this.

I need another three days on this one piece.

Christopher Penn 22:45

That sounds like though almost ideal circumstances.

Suppose that you know, Katie, you’re you’re you’re the new employee.

And you get you get a partner with Chris, who’s the developer who has the penchant for not documenting anything? How, huh.

Katie Robbert 23:04

I mean, you didn’t tell me I had to work under non ideal situations.

Christopher Penn 23:10

But this is fairly common.

And so in that situation, as the new employee with no skills in this area, you have to have the aptitude, you have no skills.

You’ve always been set up to fail, in a way by being pardoned with a substantially subpar mentor, guide.

How, how do we help solve the situation knowing we can’t stop everything we can’t make? Chris, the incompetent developer document all of his code, right? Because that would take months.

In that situation, how do you still pull success from the jaws of defeat?

Katie Robbert 23:47

So first of all, I don’t look at that as defeat, I don’t look at that as being set up for failure because you have an opportunity to set everybody up for success.

And so let’s say Chris has been doing what he’s been doing for 20 years, he’s set in his ways, he’s likely not going to change.

But he’s an outstanding developer.

So you are okay.

With those bad habits.

It’s an opportunity for this new hire to say, Okay, so we’re gonna pair you with Chris who really knows his stuff.

But documentation and admins notice thing, here’s a really great opportunity for you to see what goes into it by having you do some of that documentation.

And so internally, the first thing you need to do is prioritize, what are the pieces of coding are that are the most important the first things that someone needs to know? And then give them the opportunity to document it because as far as learning goes, you know, I’m, you know, quoting some statistic somewhere, some scientific study somewhere, I’m sure it exists, but you tend to retain more information as you’re writing information down and learning it versus someone just sit you know, saying it at you.

So it’s that repetition.

and sort of going into your brain of, you know, step one, do this.

Step two, do this.

So you’re kind of accomplishing two things at once you’re getting that documentation done, and you’re teaching the new hire what they need to know about the job, because they’re getting that firsthand experience.

Now, that approach is going to take longer, however, it is going to be more thorough.

So you know, Chris is looking for a junior analyst to get, you know, you hit the ground running day one, you then have to have that conversation with Chris to say, that’s not going to happen.

And here’s why.

And here’s how you have contributed to that.

So moving forward, if you would like to hire someone new to hit the ground running, here’s what you as an employee need to do to set them up for success.

Christopher Penn 25:46

That is, that is brilliant, that is essentially teaching somebody to cook by having them write the cookbook.

And that is that is it.

There’s what no other takeaway from this entire conversation, that is the most straightforward path towards a resolving undocumented issues, and be getting somebody up to speed by helping them understand how something is made.

I would say that that right there is is the big takeaway from this entire conversation, if you’ve got somebody who you think you could grow into a role, have them start writing the cookbook.

Katie Robbert 26:22

And I would also say see, it forces the mentor to slow down a little bit.

And teach, really teach and really sort of examine their own process and say, oh, you know what, I haven’t been doing this the right way for, you know, six months, there’s probably a better way to do it.

So, you know, again, sort of an ideal situation where the person that they’re partnering with, can slow down, you may just find someone who’s just like a perpetual Grumpy Pants, and doesn’t want to slow down and doesn’t want to teach and say, I don’t have time to teach any of this.

And that’s fine, then the conversation you have with perpetual Grumpy Pants is then I can never bring help into your team, then you will forever need to be doing this by yourself.

Here is the compromise of what you need to do perpetual Grumpy Pants in order to get another analyst to help you do this thing.

It has to be a given a take, like the person who’s stuck in their ways will just be stuck.

Unless they themselves learn to be a little bit more adaptable.

Christopher Penn 27:28

I am changing my user name to perpetual Grumpy Pants.

Katie Robbert 27:31

I you know, I may have had you in mind when I thought about

Christopher Penn 27:36

if you have some suggestions for how you get people up to speed, who have no skills, but clearly are a good cultural fit, where he have the aptitude and the attitude, or role.

Let us know how you’ve helped them succeed.

pop on over to our free slack group go to trust insights.ai/analytics for marketers, where you and over 2500 other marketers are asking and answering each other’s questions every single day, wherever it is you watch or listen to the show.

If there’s a platform you’d rather have it on, go to trust insights.ai/t AI podcast and you can find that the show and all this other places.

Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll talk to you soon

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