Attitude – the no 1 factor for job search success

Having the right attitude seems to be the single most important factor determining the success or otherwise of job seekers.

Richard Branson has been quoted as saying: “At Virgin, we hire for attitude. If they’ve got the right attitude, we can give them the skills. If they’ve got a wrong attitude, it doesn’t matter how skilful they are, they will be a liability”. I’m not sure that I have got his exact words but I am confident that this is what he meant.

And Richard Branson is not alone. I have long been telling my clients that every employer is looking for just three things in every applicant for every position. They are:

First, and least important, the Skills to do the job;

Second, and far more important, the Motivation to do the job well; and

Third, and equally far more important, the ability to fit well into their Team

…and employers I have spoken to on this topic have all agreed.

The motivation to do the job well and the ability to fit well into their team is surely a product of the attitude of the job seeker.

The problem is that so many well-meaning people helping job seekers focus just on résumés and interview preparation. The job seeker’s attitude will have a bigger impact on the likelihood of success than either résumé or interview – plus the fact that the right attitude will ‘colour’ both the résumé and interview performance.

So what is the right attitude and how do we help job seekers adopt and maintain it?

Research teams led by professors Mo Wang, University of Florida, and Daniel Turban, University of Missouri, show that job seekers who plan their job search and who are proactive are many times more likely to be successful than those who aren’t. (See and

I urge job seekers to consider themselves to be self-employed rather than unemployed. Firstly the concept of being self-employed is much more affirming than being unemployed and, secondly, it puts the job seeker firmly in control of the job search and ensures accepting responsibility for success or failure. As CEO of Myself Pty Ltd, a micro-business currently without ‘clients’, what do I want my Chief Sales Rep to be doing, Mon-Fri, 9-5? Getting out there, reaching out to prospective ‘clients’. That would be proactive.

I have found that using the strategies of a successful sales rep is one of the best ways to find a good job. It involves identifying the ‘services’ you want to provide, or the skills that you want to use, and then pinpointing businesses or organisations most in need of this skill set. The next step is researching the organisations thoroughly and deciding which you would most want to work for – market research! And, like successful small businesses, aiming to satisfy a niche market – I urge job seekers to focus on just two job leads at a time. This allows them to put a lot more effort into ensuring the quality of each application than would be the case if they were applying for several positions at the same time.

Just as market research is essential to small business, so is researching the two job leads to job search success. Employers want someone who is going to ‘hit the ground running’ and candidates who have researched the position sufficiently to be able to plan the first few weeks in the job are obviously going to be in poll position. They will be able to answer interview questions as if they were already in the job. Because these candidates know the position so well, they will be able to envisage themselves being successful in it and their confidence will be so much greater than that of candidates who have not researched as thoroughly.

Thorough research also will lead job seekers to finding positions that will give them job satisfaction. This results in high levels of motivation and a very positive attitude and, as a result, a much greater likelihood of job search success.

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