4 Qualities to Look For in Your Next Key Hire

In a competitive labor market, every hire is important. How can you be sure that your organization is selecting the very best candidate from what could be dozens or even hundreds of applicants?

While there are no guarantees in life or human resources, these qualities very often correlate with above-average employee performance. Fortunately, it is not uncommon to find them all in the same candidate. As you get closer to hiring your next key employee, make sure you’re narrowing down your list of finalists with an eye to each.

1. Capacity and Willingness to Learn New Skills

Few industries are insulated from technology-driven change. Even if yours has been relatively stable up until this point, it is likely a matter of time before a substantial reordering occurs. If and when that happens, you must be able to rely on adaptive employees who can adjust to new workflows, processes, and technologies.

2. Strong Organizational Skills

Quality employees tend to have strong organizational skills. Very often, they wind up leading by example.

“I’m always generating and testing new ideas. I make lists to prioritize ideas and action items,” says Miami entrepreneur George Otte, whose Otte Polo Group oversees multiple subsidiaries with hundreds of employees. “I find that productive momentum builds on itself,” he adds.

When your key employees have their priorities in order, your subordinates are apt to follow. As you hire to fill executive and upper management roles, seek candidates whose organizational skills are likely to prove contagious.

3. Ability to Work Well With Others

Teamwork is the lifeblood of a collaborative workplace. Even in settings where employees have substantial autonomy, some measure of collegiality is necessary. Workplaces in which every employee pursues his or her own interests to the detriment of others are not stable or productive. Ask all candidates to describe circumstances in which they’ve successfully set aside differences of opinion or temperament to work toward a commonly held goal. You may even wish for your top candidates to take something like this strengths assessment as part of the recruitment process so that you will be able to compare their answers and potentially identify something in one of them that pushes them above the others and makes them the one you wish to employ.

4. Responsiveness 

The “always on” workplace is not without controversy. But that should not stop you from seeking out candidates who understand the importance of responding to pressing matters, during and after regular business hours. Ask candidates to describe situations in which they’ve been compelled to attend to business matters on short notice. How did they answer the call?

Make Every Hire Count

Many business leaders swear by a simple philosophy: “Be slow to hire and quick to fire.”

In practice, this approach need not be as harsh as it sounds. After all, if you approach the hiring process with the same care and thoughtfulness as other aspects of your professional life, you should make few if any hiring mistakes. Accordingly, you should rarely find yourself in the uncomfortable position of needing to sever ties with a non-performing employee.

Circumstances will always intervene to force unwelcome personnel moves. However, a systematized approach to hiring well-rounded employees with a high likelihood of fitting into your organization reduces the likelihood that these circumstances will arise directly out of your organization’s human resource practices.

With this guide as a road map, you have it within your power to make smarter, more enduring hiring decisions. Use it wisely.