Seven Traits to Look for in Your Next Hire

Lisa Kirby-GibbsTips

In quite recent days gone by, there existed a list of common – some almost required – questions a hiring manager was expected to pose to any candidate seeking employment with their company. These questions are, in fact, still being asked by a significant number of them simply because they feel obligated to do so. It’s a routine that needs breaking.

Perhaps the most common of these questions has been whether or not the candidate had ever done this specific job before, with the obvious expectation of receiving a positive response. However, before you ask this question of anyone, ask yourself this: Why am I placing so much importance on a person having already done this job? Isn’t a breadth of experience in diverse areas of significantly more value? Isn’t it more important to hire someone who’s qualified but has a history of progress and advancement within an organization?

Yes, experience and know-how are both important, but neither presents the whole story. Is this position one that absolutely requires previous experience or is it one that an otherwise qualified candidate could excel at without an excessively long learning curve? Let’s face it, most intelligent people can learn to perform virtually any white-collar job. Like any good sports team drafting players for its roster, you should look for the best athlete available, not necessarily just one that fits a specific position. A great employee will be great wherever they are placed simply because they are capable of doing more than those that wish instead to stay only in their comfort zone.

Think about your present needs, but with an eye toward the future. Can this candidate help our company grow? And, will they grow along with us or will they be left behind?

Speaking of the future, remember that ubiquitous “five-year plan” question? What does the person expect to be doing, or, as more commonly phrased, “Where do you see yourself in five years time?”


Most people can’t honestly tell you what they see themselves doing or where they expect to be in half that time frame. Don’t set someone up to tell you just what you want to hear. If a candidate has an actual plan, they won’t hesitate to share it with you. It’s all well and good to have goals and aspirations, but to call that a “plan” is all too often an excessively aggressive description. Besides, how many times do you want to hear that a candidate sees themselves taking over your job in five years? The only question that matters in this regard is how they see themselves right now and what specific talents do they have to contribute to the company’s overall success.

So, with all this in mind, here are some traits you should look for in every candidate who wants to come work for your company.

  • Look for curiosity. A great hire will be one who wants to learn, not just about the job they have today but also about the next job they want tomorrow.
  • Look for bravery, someone who tries different things – just because they want to – and isn’t afraid to take risks, or even to fail. This will lead you to those that can confidently take the big leap forward without fear. Not reckless, just confident.
  • Look for someone who can communicate well; someone who can present their thoughts clearly and who has opinions they aren’t afraid to voice.
  • Look for someone who has taken the time to investigate your company and can tell you what they think about it. If they made the effort to look closely at the company as well as the position and can speak to the strengths and weaknesses they see, that bodes well for their future in your organization.
  • Look for someone with a sense of humor. It’s a vital, but commonly overlooked trait. No one wants to work with someone who can’t occasionally break loose and have a good time. A sour disposition makes for a sour workplace. Remember that you are likely not to be the only one impacted by this new hire. Everyone around you has to work with them too.
  • Look for someone who is reliable and ethical. You want good, honest people working with you. You also want those who won’t be shoving their responsibilities onto others.
  • Perhaps most importantly, look for someone who isn’t afraid of you. Consider yourself fortunate to find someone who isn’t afraid to speak truth to power. Yes, there is a difference between a lack of fear and a penchant for insubordination and disrespect, but you’re looking for someone who can tell the truth, put forward ideas and suggestions – even the occasional bad ones – and generally make a contribution to the overall effort of the entire organization by talking openly and comfortably with those at all levels of the organizational chart.

Find someone with a combination of all of these traits and you have a genuine keeper!

Can’t find a place for them in your organization? Send them to us because we certainly will!