Six Unique Traits Biz Owners Look for in Potential New Hires

By Marissa Levin, an EO DC member and CEO of Information Experts

As a business owner always looking for exceptional talent, and as a mentor to emerging entrepreneurs seeking guidance on how to hire great people, I’ve learned that there are six definitive traits that great potential new hires share. These apply to candidates in all positions, in every sector, at any level – from intern to senior management.

Employers: It’s important to remember that every hire is a strategic decision. Every person you bring into your organization will reflect your brand, values and culture. Employees are the backbone of a business owner’s vision. Even if you’re scrambling to fill a job, resist the urge to make a knee-jerk decision. You’ll be trading short-term gain for long-term pain.

Job-seekers: Don’t let desperation cloud your judgment. You don’t want to be in the same situation 3 months or 6 months down the road – pounding the pavement with another notch on your short-term employment belt. If you’re in the market for a new position, if you’re charged with scouting for new talent in your organization, or if you’re a business owner trying to make those essential first hires, consider these characteristics or behaviors:

  1. Knows the importance of error-free correspondence. In an era of 140-character messaging, acronym phrases and emoticons, we’re sadly losing appreciation for the art of grammatically correct correspondence. Good communications skills are essential to every position today. Organizations must rely on paper trails more than ever to ensure expectations are aligned and articulated both inside the organization and with customers. Every employee communicates with the customer today. When I receive a personal email from a prospect that wants to work at Information Experts, I read every word in the email and the resume. I scan it for errors. Our team also reviews the resumes for errors. If the person can’t invest the time to write correctly and proof their first touchpoint with me, I can’t trust them with my company and my clients. “A” players check and double-check their work.
  2. Does the legwork before showing up to the interview. The candidates that grab our attention are those that want to work for Information Experts – not just those that want to work. What do they know about our firm? Our management? Our culture, customers, employees, and services? Why do they think we are a match? Any candidate can do a lot of legwork about any company these days if it’s important to them. How much preparation they invest in getting in the door is an indicator of the service they will provide to our customers. If a candidate starts to ask us these questions in the interview, they’ve moved from candidate to ex-candidate.
  3. Invests in professional development and continuous learning. Every industry these days is moving at an accelerated pace. Anyone that wants to stay relevant has to invest the time in professional development. These efforts don’t have to be cost-prohibitive. There are so many free resources available now, from SlideShare presentations on LinkedIn to free iTunes podcasts and e-books, to educational, affordable networking events. At Information Experts, we pay attention to the skill sets that candidates continue to develop through their own initiatives. While employee development and education is an important benefit, it’s equally important for the employee to invest the time in their own development. This shows a passion for their profession, a love of learning and the understanding that they have to keep learning to keep earning.
  4. Is connected. We visit the LinkedIn profiles of potential new hires to see how connected they are. Again this links back to staying current and relevant. All organizations are complex networks of individuals that cascade throughout a larger ecosystem. Employee connections and communities are a vital part of every organization today.
  5. Has had job stability. While the days of lifetime careers at a single organization are a thing of the past, there is still something to be said for stability. Candidates that have jumped from place to place to place with short durations are red flags for a few reasons: 1: Jumping ship at the first signs of trouble indicates a lack of commitment when things get difficult. Tenacity is an important personality trait for small business employees. Business growth brings along a lot of unpredictability, and business owners need employees that have the “grit” to withstand change. 2: Jumping ship because of a mismatch indicates that the candidate didn’t do their homework to determine compatibility. 3: We get that sometimes employees just aren’t good hires. Employers and candidates can do everything right, and still it doesn’t work out. And of course, layoffs happen. However, candidates that have had multiple terminations due to job performance are very high-risk.
  6. Has a life outside of work. Business owners want well-rounded, happy employees. I once hired an executive from a large consulting firm who showed up on his first day at the office with a fold-out cot. He was anticipating lots of nights where he would be sleeping at the office. I knew then that we were not aligned culturally, because we don’t pull all-nighters. Employees that have outlets in their lives for stress relief, for being part of different communities, and for personal development are the happiest employees. While business owners want passionate employee commitment and dedication, we don’t want robots, burned out employees, or people with no outside lives.

Whether you are seeking employees or seeking a position, these six traits and behaviors will go a long way in helping you both ensure a great match from the very beginning. Wishing you all the best in your search!

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