hiring for attitude





Scaling a business is never a straightforward task. There are always a multitude of operational issues to address. However, of the numerous challenges facing growing SMEs, the hiring (or firing) of staff is one of the toughest. It has the potential to make or break a business.


Ben Foster is Managing Director at The SEO Works. Since joining the company in 2016,  he has helped oversee a period of rapid organic growth – with great success.


The SEO Works were recently ranked as the #1 SEO company in the UK by Clutch, the leading B2B ratings and reviews platform. This achievement was made possible thanks to a carefully considered recruitment process that emphasises attitude above all else.


We spoke to Ben for advice on hiring those candidates that share your passion, vision, and energy for success.


What are the 5 most important personal qualities/values you look out for when hiring?


We look at adaptability, examples of how they approach problem-solving, and using their own initiative. We also pay close attention to how communicative they are. If they have been in any people-facing roles before, this is usually a good measure of whether they can “handle” people. A demonstrated willingness to learn is important. The best candidates tend to continually develop their own knowledge out of passion. We seek integrity – if people have followed through on their promises, or have had the courage to be honest when things go wrong. Obviously skills to do the job come in to it too. These qualities all closely align with our own core internal values, which are really important to define.


How can organisations hire for value alignment while avoiding unconscious bias and the tendency to hire people who have the same race, age, or gender of the people doing the hiring?


This is a difficult one. As with any people-based process there is always an element of conscious or unconscious bias. Things like scoring matrices, clearly structured interviews, and getting a range of different people involved in the decision making process all help a great deal. A great read on this topic is How Google Works. The book gives an insight into many different internal processes at Google, but there is a large section of the book dedicated to how they hire, and the lengthy process involved. Obviously we can’t all recruit in the same manner but there is a lot of inspiration in there about how you can start to hire for value alignment.


Some people suggest that employee performance can be improved but employee value alignment can’t be changed. Do you agree with that?


To a certain extent, yes. In some cases it depends how long a certain value has been held. In some instances we’ve had junior members of staff join who needed coaching and encouragement to align with the behaviours and values of the organisation, and that was possible.  In other cases, it isn’t. It all depends on the adaptability of the person in question and the strength of the value belief in question.


How can you retain your company culture as the business grows?

In some cases, a culture needs to evolve as a company grows. Look at Uber, an example of where the old way of doing things was unacceptable as more people came on board. You need to continually evaluate this. But there are things you can do to retain it – celebrate things that align with the culture, or celebrate and draw attention examples of it in action. Ensure values are embedded into staff reviews and performance measurement. And make sure leaders around the business exhibit the values in their day to day work. Recognise staff that exhibit one or more of the values on a regular basis – talk about the values in internal communication and why they are important.


If you could sum up in two sentences or less your advice on building a people-based culture, what would it be?


Define your core values, and make sure you include assessment of these in your recruitment process.




Need help finding candidates that share your energy for success? Get in touch: anna.flynn@venturi-group.com 0203 137 7005 / 07946 191 397