Work Ethic and Attitude Mean More Than Your Alma Mater or Job History

Nancy Anderson
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What are the most valuable assets workers bring to employers? That answer varies from company to company, but one CEO at a Michigan financial firm promulgates work ethic and attitude over education, previous employment and hard skills found in the job history section of a resume.

Mat Ishbia's, CEO of United Shore, uses a unique method to determine which candidates have good a work ethic and attitude ahead of an interview. United Shore plays a mortgage-style escape room game with a group of potential hires, and the results of the game determine which individuals have a great work ethic and the right attitude. Prospects who escape from the room move to the interview phase.

An escape room-type game occurs when participants use hidden, esoteric clues to solve a puzzle. The final clue leads them to a key that unlocks a door to get out of a room. Sometimes there is a timer, but teamwork is a must when it comes to this brain-teasing interview method. In United Shore's case, participants have 45 minutes to solve puzzles and get out of the room. If no one gets out in the allotted time, a facilitator sits down and debriefs the group after they complete the exercise.

How does United Shore determine who has a good work ethic? One of the eight candidates in the room is a mole who works as a recruiter for the firm. United Shore prizes teamwork, drive and ambition as key attributes among its 1,800 employees. The recruiter is there to determine the best worker on the team and the person who fits best within the company's culture. An employee's degree from Harvard University doesn't matter in the locked room. All that matters is how well each person works within a team while attempting to get out of that locked space and advance to an interview.

Other soft skills potential hires might need, in addition to a strong work ethic, include a positive attitude, integrity and confidence. Plus, knowing someone's place on a team also helps because not everyone can lead, and everyone should not follow. Ishbia recognizes that some people take the lead right away, while others are better collaborators. Some just want to win at all costs. It's the collaborators and leaders that United Shore looks for with this style of vetting.

Other companies took notice of United Shore's methods. In late 2016, Training Magazine recognized this game as a top training method in the United States. Ishbia's firm has been around since 1986, so this unique way of weeding out candidates didn't happen overnight. The idea came to company executives after a fun team building exercise at a Detroit-area escape room. The room started in July 2016 as a way to highlight someone's attitude when it comes to shared goals, defined roles, team-focused relationships and problem solving.

The next time you think about your work ethic, perhaps you should imagine what it is like to get out of an escape room. Your next employer might view the skills you learn in that situation as more valuable than your job history or a college degree.

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at


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