Finding Quality Hires: 15 Traits to Look for When Weighing Candidates

09/15/2017 09:21 am ET Updated Sep 15, 2017

Every candidate has something unique to bring to the table, but when building an enterprise, certain traits serve a company better than others. The interview process allows organizations to see beyond credentials and past positions and observe personality traits and characteristics that separate the simply qualified candidates from the candidates who will help your organization thrive. Here are 15 entrepreneurs on their new hires’ non-negotiables.

1. Experience And Drive

I look for experience and drive. I look for someone who knows the ins and outs of the business but without the “been there, done that” attitude. A candidate who is seasoned but still driven will help your business succeed.

2. Good Communication Skills

When hiring a new employee there are many things to look for, but one that helps is being a good communicator. Having an all-remote team, we believe that communication is oxygen. This could be the difference between a new employee asking questions if they don’t understand something and doing things incorrectly because they don’t like to communicate.

3. Positivity and Supportiveness

A positive attitude is one of the most important qualities for our new hires. We strive to build a company that is a great place to work, with a “no jerks” policy. We foster an open, honest and supportive culture, where employees frequently work together on projects. Therefore, ensuring that people are positive and supportive of each other is key to maintaining this culture.

4. Talent and Learning Abilities

When looking for a new hire, we focus on raw talent over some specific experience. In a software development world, new frameworks and languages are popping up every day. Thus, a talented engineer and fast learner will outperform an expert in a specific field over the long term. There are always exceptions, though, such as when a project requires a high-caliber architect who knows some framework ins and outs.

5. Self-Awareness

In interviews, I highly value candid conversations. If job candidates can confidently disclose details about a situation in which they have made a mistake and diagnosed what went wrong, I feel much more comfortable hiring them, because this demonstrates their capacity to reflect on, and learn from, situations gone awry.

6. Follow-Through

It's easy to be taken by someone who says all the right things and looks great on paper and in an interview. But what I've found to be most important is someone who has those traits, but more importantly, is a person of their word and does what they say they will do.

7. Drive to Learn and Improve

I want someone to come in who believes in themselves and their capabilities, but has the desire to learn about the areas of my business they may not be as versed in. Being around people who want to work hard, want to learn and want to be a part of the team is infectious and motivating to everyone.

8. Adaptability

When entering a new position or work environment, it can take time adjusting to new procedures and learning new tools. However, it is crucial that your business doesn’t decelerate in any way. Hiring someone with the ability to adapt swiftly will allow your business to keep moving forward seamlessly.

9. Passion for Your Company's Vision

Some may think you can hire top talent by offering more money, but more money doesn't mean you will find someone who is driven by your company's vision and mission. The most important quality to look for in a new hire is their passion for your company's vision.

10. Interest in a Broad Range of Topics and Tasks

You can benefit so much from hiring someone who has an interest in working on and exploring a broad range of topics and tasks. Not only are these people some of the most adaptable, they'll often accomplish things you didn't know needed doing. Someone who isn't just willing, but is interested, in having a wide breadth of knowledge will see unexpected connections and help you innovate.

11. Competitiveness, Coachability and Curiosity

We look for the three C's: individuals who are competitive, coachable and curious. Curiosity stands out because these people have a genuine desire to learn, explore and solve problems. They ask why, often multiple times, in order to determine the root cause. People who are curious will stay engaged in your organization and strive to understand the world around them — only to make it better.

12. Honesty

Honesty is the single most important quality. However, in order to qualify honesty, you have to read between the lines and see what they exclude in the tough questions. If there are gaps in their employment history — or anything that reads as incomplete — a candid answer, or preferring not to say something, and their body language are powerful indicators of how comfortable they are with their story.

13. Humility and Confidence

Team members should always be improving — even managers and executives. When we hire, we specifically find the person who is confident, yet humble, and who is willing to learn and grow. Pride can be dangerous in a professional environment, and so we value humility most of all — sometimes over competency and experience.

14. Strong Work Ethic

I don't see a lot of people who really want to roll up their sleeves and work. Beyond the entitlement that has emerged, it's exciting to find someone who really wants to put the time in and deliver high productivity. We have so much to accomplish within our company that we need to onboard those who understand the value of working hard.

15. Willingness to Accept Feedback in a Healthy Way

I make it a point to give light critical feedback in an interview. You don't want a pushover that accepts all criticism, but neither do you want the defensive "my way or the highway" type. A good hire will thoughtfully evaluate the feedback and have the flexibility to change as needed. A great hire will ask questions to understand the feedback, so they can course-correct on their own in the future.

These answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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