5 Key Traits to Look for in a Potential Employee

January 2019

A huge part of any successful business is the people who work together to push things forward. When hiring staff, you want to be sure any potential employee is not only suited to the role, but a good cultural fit within the company too. Interviews offer just a small glimpse into what someone’s all about, but there are key traits to look out for that will indicate how they approach work, and what they’ll be like within a team structure. Here’s five to look out for…

1.       Positivity / High Energy

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but a person’s attitude towards their work can have huge knock-on effects on the wider team. Negativity is contagious – if someone consistently sees the glass as half empty, the rest of your workforce may inadvertently follow suit. High energy doesn’t have to equate to all-singing, all-dancing; it’s more about coming in with a positive, ‘can-do’ attitude, motivating others and leading by example when it comes to producing the best work possible. Note how they refer to previous roles, projects and colleagues – are they complementary, or do they tend to focus on the negative aspects?

2.       Proactive

Most workplaces are fast-paced, with lots of different projects going on at once. It’s great when an employee gets jobs done in a timely and precise manner, even better when they use downtime to come up with new ideas or suggestions.  Ask them during the interview to share examples of self-motivation in previous jobs.

3.       Good Communicator

This one’s crucial. You might have an absolute subject expert come in to interview, but if they lack good communication skills they may struggle to work collaboratively. You’ll get a sense of those skills before you even start asking questions – note how they interact with you (allowing for some interview nerves of course!) Ask for examples of how they’ve worked towards a shared goal with other disciplines or teams in the past, and how they overcame any challenges that arose. A good communicator will be diplomatic when conflict rears its head: rather than force their opinion on others, they’ll encourage open conversation, and where possible, seek to find a happy middle ground.  

4.       Takes Accountability

Juggling lots of jobs while trying to meet deadlines can be tough, and we all make mistakes. The important thing is how we react once we realise a mistake has been made! You want an employee to be mature enough to put their hands up and claim responsibility, but also to immediately take steps to rectify the issue. Ask them to share a time when they made a mistake, and note the language they use: do they shift blame onto a colleague, or take ownership? Were they able to think quickly, offering solutions to offset any damage done?

5.       Has Problem-Solving Skills

Any job worth having throws up challenges – otherwise we wouldn’t progress in our chosen careers. The ideal employee faces these challenges head-on, seeing them as opportunities rather than blockers. You want to know they’ll get creative when it comes to problem-solving, opting to think outside the box rather than always going for the safe, tried-and-tested solution. Can they show an example of when they came up with a new way to solve an issue? How did they convince their team that this was the way to go, and in what ways did it benefit the company? Fresh ways of thinking inspire others to get creative, so even if a certain solution doesn’t work, it might encourage the team to approach the next project in an innovative new way. Your responsibility as an employer is to provide a safe space where staff feel comfortable sharing ideas.

Author: Allied Irish Banks, p.l.c. (AIB)

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