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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Lerner

Hiring: Internal Locus of Control

If I could only hire for one trait...

Since 2015, I've interviewed over 100 entrepreneurs and hires, and I've got it down to one trait: Internal locus of control.


What is a Locus of Control?

In psychology, this term describes people who have a sense of agency, meaning they believe they have full control over events and outcomes in their lives. Studies show that it predicts success among astronauts, athletes, artists, lawyers, oncologists, politicians, and, of course, entrepreneurs.


How do you interview for it?

Psychologists have tests that measure someone’s locus of control, but short of a full psychometric workup… the key is to focus on their attribution of events.


In an interview or pitch meeting, candidates will tell you stories from their lives. After each story, dig into why they think those situations played out the way they did.


If they have an “internal locus of control” they will own their outcomes, both good and bad ones. With an external locus of control, they will pass off the credit or blame to other people or say it’s down to luck.


Some people are uncomfortable taking credit for their successes, and will acknowledge others (e.g. “It was really a team effort"). In those cases, try asking about a bad outcome. Do they blame others, or own their mistakes?


Simple next step

What’s your next critical “people” decision? Use this test to help you:

  • Decide which candidate to hire

  • Decide which founder to back

  • Decide which job to accept

  • Decide which second date to go on 😏

Remember to always ask “Why do you think that happened the way it did?"

I hope this helps!

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