Your interest in the answer to this question demonstrates that you understand the importance of hiring not just anybody that walks into your office.  The employees you hire are the people you entrust to fulfill the claims and promises you make to your clients and customers in your marketing statements.  If you consistently fail to recognize and hire job applicants with the right stuff, then your reputation in the marketplace will suffer. 

So, what do you look for in these employees whom you depend on to make your business a success?  After determining that they meet the needed experience, skill and aptitude requirements to do the job, the smartest companies pay strong attention to the personality traits of the applicants.  It is these traits that identify those who are most likely to have future success.   

Here are some traits to look for in future employees

  • Dependable:  Employees you can count on to show up on time, be prepared, and get the job done.
  • Passionate:  They are by nature engaged and productive.   
  • Amiable:  A positive influence within the organization, bringing people together. 
  • Honest:  Can be trusted with what matters most to the organization.   
  • Team player:  The best ideas are usually the result of people working together.
  • Confident:  Confident people are natural leaders which every company needs.
  • Humble:  They would rather let their actions do the talking than their words.
  • Ambitious:  Naturally seek and fill leadership positions within organizations. 
  • Integrity:  Sometimes it takes just one person to speak up to prevent the whole company from doing the wrong thing.
  • Communication skills:  Good communicators get business done efficiently and with fewer mistakes. 
  • Initiative:  Employees with initiative don’t have to be told what to do next. 
  • Organized:  Organized employees finish projects on time and within budget. 
  • Flexible:  Flexible employees understand that events don’t always happen as planned and are able to adjust.   
  • Enthusiastic:  Enthusiasm keeps the positive energy flowing which keeps teams engaged and productive.  

These personality traits will not be revealed in their resume, so questions need to be asked in the interview to draw out the traits you think most important. Let’s say you want someone with initiative.  You could ask the following:  Would you describe yourself as a person who takes initiative? What does taking initiative look like to you?  Can you name a time when you took the initiative? Were you comfortable taking initiative? 

More to the point, by asking Behavioral and Situational questions you can identify important personality traits and competencies that are required to be effective in any given position.  With Behavioral questions you ask the candidate to provide specific examples of when he or she has demonstrated certain behaviors or skills as a means of predicting future behavior and performance.  With Situational questions you ask the candidate to provide specific examples of how the candidate would respond given the situation described.

Here are some examples of Behavioral and Situational Questions

  • What was one of the toughest problems you ever solved? What process did you go through to solve it?
  • Give me an example of a time you were able to take the lead in changing a policy for your department and for the organization?
  • Have you ever faced a significant ethical problem at work? How did you handle it?
  • Describe a time when you made a mistake at work. How did you deal with this situation, and what was the outcome? 
  • A new policy is to be implemented organization wide. You do not agree with this new policy. How do you discuss this policy with your staff?

I’ve conducted countless interviews in my 20 plus years in Human Resources and I got better at it along the way.  When you consider the high cost of turnover, typically 6 to 9 months of an open position’s salary, it is not enough to hire a warm body to fill the position.  Ask the right questions and listen attentively to their answers to identify candidates with the right stuff.