12Sep

How to Spot Top Talent: 8 Traits to Look for When Hiring


Managers within successful organisations always want a certain type of employee: dynamic, consistently effective, endlessly useful, and enjoyable to work with. These people are often few and far between and can be hard to spot in advance, but when you have one working for you, you know it straight away. Here are 8 personality traits you should look to uncover during the interview process to ensure you find the right person for not only the role, but for your team and organisation too.

Trait 1:  Resourcefulness

The ability to source, unlock and mobilise resources (i.e. money, expertise, skills, support) in order to plan, pivot, evaluate, execute, or scale a project quickly.

How to uncover this?

Anything we could ever hope to know is at our fingertips, including best practices, trouble-shooting guides, top-10 lists, and the Twitter handles of people who are far more experienced than we are.

a)      Ask the candidate for specific examples of times that they found critical information or resources quickly which helped a project move forward faster.

b)      Tell the candidate you want to do an obscure project and need help. See how quickly they are able to pool resources for you.

Trait 2: Resilience

The ability to work well under uncertainty, and to continue after (substantial) setbacks.

Because of increased instability and uncertainty within organisations, shorter planning horizons are common practice. Teams are seeing ongoing streams of changing goals and deadlines. Some people have a strong tendency to mentally lock-up under those conditions. The results aren’t good: decreased performance, irritability, fear, and tensions with other team members. Resiliency is the ability to maintain smooth sailing through those situations.

How to uncover this?

Ask for evidence of grit. This could be times they narrowly averted disaster, took a huge risk and had it pay off, or came back from a stunning defeat to achieve victory in the end.

Trait 3: Confidence

A healthy esteem for one’s abilities and approach to life; an innate knowledge that “I can handle it.”

The line between confidence and arrogance is fine, as we all know. Nobody wants to work with people who think they are always right. But there is no substitute for someone who truly, with good reason, believes in his or her ability to handle any situation and figure it out.

How to uncover this?

See if the person is willing to say “I don’t know.”

a)      Ask a question (perhaps about your organisation) that either has a right and wrong answer or is highly unlikely that the candidate will know the answer. See if they admit not knowing, or if they dodge or try to guess. If they do any of those things, beware.

b)      Listen to how they speak. Confident people tend to speak more slowly, take pauses before answering, and don’t backpedal.

Trait 4: Coachability

The trait of not only being able to accept constructive criticism, but of actively seeking out consistent feedback and mentorship; the trait of intentionally cultivating a beginner’s mind; the essence of a learner.

Especially for those early in their careers, this is key! Nobody knows everything, and there are lots of people who’ve been there and done that, with failure and success. Having a genuine interest in wanting to learn and improve  – even when it’s hard – is incredibly useful.

How to uncover it?

Ask for examples of times when they pursued or engaged in mentorship opportunities, and how their mentors helped improve their professional abilities over time or when it mattered most.

Trait 5: Versatility

The ability to bring one’s full range of skills and strengths to bear in different and new situations, including both on teams and in individual settings.

Managers need to know that they can re-shuffle and re-allocate people as needed. Sometimes, that means logistical changes and deadlines shifts. Other times, it means entirely new workflow compared to the status quo. The more adaptable the person, the wider a range of settings he or she can be sent into.

How to uncover this?

Ask for evidence that they’ve excelled in wildly different work settings, and ask about their process for handling the transitions.

Trait 6: Industriousness

The ability to work hard; good old fashioned hard work.

Similar to confidence, there is nothing like a dose of serious hard work. Can they crank for 8 hours straight when push comes to shove? Can they pull an all-nighter if they have to? Do they complain when mind-numbing tasks are required, or do they just get on with it?

How to uncover it?

Ask them to explain what it means to get their head down and work hard, in their own words. You’ll know right away whether they like that word – their eyes will light up, they’ll smile, and they’ll fondly recount tales of intense times. Look for the spark!

Trait 7: Loyalty

The ability and willingness to develop a long-term relationship with a team, organisation, or cause.

As careers fragment further and further (current graduates will, on average, work for 14 different employers before they retire), the days of long-term work relationships seem to be fading fast. And truthfully, they probably are. But that doesn’t mean people like to work with others who’ll take off at the first sign of trouble or greener pastures.

How to uncover it:

a)      Ask the candidate for examples of times when they chose loyalty over opportunity.

b)      Ask the candidate what they are committed to in their life, and see if there is overlap in their answer and the mission of your company.

But be careful with this one. Just because someone left a job (or jobs) in short time periods doesn’t mean they don’t have loyalty–it just means those places weren’t able to command their loyalty.

Trait 8: Principle

A sense of what is right and what is wrong, and choosing to act in accordance with what is right.

This is another fine line situation. Being principled is relatively rare–but being judgmental is quite common. Principled doesn’t mean casting judgments left and right; it means being willing to speak up when something wrong is about to happen. Human beings have an instinctual urge to follow those who show a strong sense of ethical concern, and every manager can sleep better at night knowing they can trust their team with sensitive information, delicate situations, and brand equity. Hire people who live their values, and you’ll develop a fantastic company culture.

How to uncover it:

This one is tough. It’s impossible to ask about this directly in any useful way. Ask about times that the candidate has spoken up about something they’ve disagreed with, or witnessed injustice and intervened.

If you need assistance filling a role within your team and want to ensure the candidates you screen demonstrate the above 8 traits then contact us now.

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