Published June 24, 2002

Qualities, Traits & Characteristics of Good Employees

When looking for a job, it's easy to believe that employers hold all the trump cards. But those on the hiring end also face a challenge: finding good people. There are lots of clinkers out there.

Often, those doing the hiring focus on skills. But while skill is one of the important criteria, it shouldn't be the only one. Let me offer four other characteristics of good employees and how to determine whether a candidate passes muster.

Intelligence. This trait just as easily can be called common sense or the ability to "get it." A resume can demonstrate grasp of specific skills, but it doesn't necessarily prove the candidate understood what he was doing or is capable of understanding the work of your job. Fortunately, intelligence can be explored in the interview process.

First, note how the candidate responds in non-job specific conversation. They shouldn't be comedians, but if you've put them at ease, intelligent candidates often display a dash of humor and the ability to engage in conversation. Ask candidates how they shaped their most recent jobs. The changes could be relatively minor - such as rearranging their workspace - or something so significant as redefining their job. Since intelligent people don't just do what's assigned to them, their answers (or absence of answers) should be telling. Ask how they keep current in their field. Have them explain what their current employer does. If a candidate doesn't have the curiosity and intelligence to know the answers, or if they seem slow-witted, you don't want them.

Energy. No one wants a lazy employee, but there are plenty of them who need a job. To determine whether a candidate really can produce, get specific. How many sales calls do you make in an average week? How many stories do you write? What's your typical day like? How long does it take to do that report? How did you improve that process? Have the candidate show you evidence of his or her output and explain how long it took to do. Also ask them to describe, specifically, their ideal work pace and output.

Consideration. Sure, everyone's favorite word is "I," but can the candidate step outside himself and see how his work affects others above and below him? What did the candidate's previous supervisor require of her? Why? What did the candidate expect of former subordinates? Can you talk to a supervisor or a subordinate at a prior job to learn how the candidate treated them? The aim is to find people who assume responsibility for themselves and can work with others to get the job done.

Pleasantness. Even if a candidate is technically proficient, a lack of people skills will take its toll on the workplace. Ask what work situations make the candidate angry on a regular basis. Ask who the candidate has ongoing problems with and why. Ask if there are any former colleagues the candidate would prefer you didn't talk to. If a candidate can answer these questions, look elsewhere.

(C) Copyright 2002 Evan Cooper. Syndicated by Paradigm News, Inc.