Has your search for the perfect candidate hit a roadblock? In one of the tightest labor markets in living memory , qualified candidates can seem few and far between. It’s tempting to settle for the next person who can fake their way down the usual list of questions asked at a job interview .
Resist that temptation. Your perfect match is still out there. If you’re being choosy, you’ll want to look for someone with these eight key attributes.
Unimpeachable Work Ethic
This one is non-negotiable, no matter how desperate you are.
Talent and intelligence mean nothing without drive. Wouldn’t you rather have someone who produces great work 100% of the time than someone who produces brilliant work 20% of the time?
Unreliable superstars aren’t superstars at all. Their flashes of brilliance merely remind their colleagues and bosses what could have been. The rest of the time, they increase tension and upend timetables.
For visibility into candidates’ work ethics, or lack thereof, check with prior employers. Many will be happy to walk down memory lane, for better or worse.
Faith in Something
There are many, many interview questions you should never ask for legal or ethical reasons. A fair number of those involve religion and faith traditions. To be clear, you should never, ever ask a job candidate a question that even remotely suggests you’re curious about their specific faith tradition. Candidates are sensitive to that line of questioning, and rightly so.
But there’s much to be said for preferring candidates who believe in something . This belief doesn’t have to be recognizably religious in nature. It doesn’t even have to involve faith, in the sense that most would describe it. Belief in secular traditions, or systems of political organization, or even in the simple, unknowable beauty of the natural world — all are better than aimlessness or cynicism.
In and of itself, self-confidence is not a character flaw. Those with faith in their own abilities tend not to hesitate before embarking on ambitious, consequential projects.
…That Never Turns the Corner to Arrogance
Ambitious, consequential projects are fine. Properly channeled, an employee’s desire to make a mark or leave a legacy can pay ongoing dividends for your organization.
Risky, foolhardy projects are another matter. When you fail to recognize that an employee’s self-confidence has verged into arrogance or myopia, you indirectly threaten the integrity of your entire organization. The damage depends on how much rope with which the rogue employee has to work. It’s best to recognize the warning signs before things get that far.
Willingness to Learn on the Job
In a tight labor market, unimpeachable CVs are hard to come by.Look for employees with “high-potential” CVs: an employment history, body of work, and reference cohort that suggests they’re more than capable of learning new skills and competencies on the job. They’re truly the best and brightest.
You can’t teach talent, they say. You can’t teach curiosity, either. You have it or you don’t. During the vetting process, ask questions and assign exercises that tease out candidates’ curiosity. Speak with past employers about their inquisitive habits, such as they are. And don’t assume that age is a proxy for incuriosity. Some of the most inquisitive minds around belong to those who’ve been around the block.
We’ve all experienced tunnel vision. Not the literal circumscription of our peripheral vision, of course, but the metaphysical feeling of boxing-in — of the inability, try as we might, to see the forest for the trees. You can’t prevent a new hire from experiencing tunnel vision on occasion, but you can aim to hire employees who intuitively grasp the big picture. And once they’re on the team, don’t be shy about giving them more responsibility. After all, it’s the big-picture people who typically float to the top while their peers toil in the tunnels.
Effective Communication Skills
Communication is essential in any workplace. At minimum, you want to hire people for whom you can honestly answer “yes” to each of these questions:
- Can they string a spoken paragraph together?
- Do they make eye contact and smile?
- Is their writing legible and coherent?
- Are they proactive and honest?
- Do they put colleagues and clients at ease?
You shouldn’t strive to build a Stepford office, of course. Just one that runs smoothly, pleasantly, and efficiently.
Does your most recent hire have all these attributes? Do you have another important attribute to suggest? Share in the comments section below.
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