5 Qualities of Great Candidates

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Resumes are a great place to start when looking for new hires, but you won’t find the great candidate strictly from a piece of paper. As a hiring manager or recruiter, it’s your responsibility to use a resume as a checklist, making sure only great candidates make it to the interview rounds. During those interviews, it’s imperative to look beyond a candidate’s objective and technical skills and find out what makes them a great (or not so great) employee.

There are certain qualities a person possesses that may be harder to identify during the interview process, like whether they see tasks through to the end or if they are able to think strategically. When you find these qualities in a candidate, though, you are setting your company and the prospective employee up for success. The following are the top five qualities to look for in great candidates during the interview process, most of which will only be answered when you ask specific questions about past situations and how the candidate handled them.

Integrity

Integrity in the workplace is about knowing the difference between right and wrong, and acting accordingly. An employee with integrity is one who shows good judgment in tough situations, is known to other employees as honest and trustworthy, and respects the privacy and needs of coworkers. Leadership is a quality of someone who shows integrity; this does not mean that an employee must be in a leadership position in the company, but instead acts like a leader even if they are an intern.

While this is a hard quality to measure in an interview, it is worth asking a question similar to this: “What is a situation at your last job (or college if it’s entry-level) where you were struggling with something work-related, and how did you resolve it?” If a candidate doesn’t have an example from experience, you can provide a scenario about a situation that could happen in your company and then ask how they would handle the situation.

Accountability

At the end of the day, you want to hire someone you can trust to do what they say they’ll do without having to check over their shoulder every five minutes. The best employees will be able to work autonomously and still achieve everything they are supposed to, and then some. People who are accountable are motivated and responsible; they understand that they are not just accountable when things go right, but also when things go wrong. Even if they only have a small piece of a task, employees who are accountable will make sure things are completed on time and executed 100% correctly.

You can ask questions about an interviewee’s experience in being responsible and accountable, but an easier way to test to see if they are accountable is to create simple tasks during the application process that require follow-through. Great Candidates who are thorough during the process, like following up with references or sending work samples, will be accountable once they are hired. And the more people you hire who are accountable, the better your company will fare. Thus, not only is hiring responsible employees important, building an accountable organization from top to bottom is also critical to your success.

Creativity

It doesn’t matter what level or what job you’re hiring for, creativity spurs innovation, and innovation helps your business. Creative people are rooted in strategy; they understand that it’s not about an individual task but the purpose and ideas behind the task. They are also great problem-solvers because challenges spur creative ways to work around them.

It may seem like creativity is a hard quality to measure during an interview process, but Inc. contributors identify various tips for hiring creative people. While some are focused more on actual “creative jobs,” other tips include giving homework to see how they manage a project, throwing out random ideas to see how the candidate responds on the fly and asking the candidate what they are reading. Another way to spot creativity is to have someone describe their favorite project at their last job; this should tell you a lot about what excites them and how their best work is the most creative work.

Adaptability

There is nothing worse than hearing “but that’s how it’s always been done” in the workplace. Not everyone is a change agent, but as technology has evolved, so should processes. The best employees are those who recognize when things can and should be changed, and then provide a plan to implement those changes. Great employees are also open to positive change, even if it’s uncomfortable because it’s new. They also welcome ideas from others with the understanding that everyone is working toward a common goal.

Measuring adaptability is very difficult during an interview process. Your best bet is to start a conversation about a big change that happened in the candidate’s life. Instead of making a question and answer format, have an open conversation to make the candidate comfortable. Listen for their tone when they discuss the change; was it negative and frustrated? Or did the great candidates seem excited when discussing a big change? Were they resisting change in the example or embracing it? These small indicators are helpful in determining if this person will be able to accept the necessary changes that occur in your company.

Collaborative

In the past, there has a larger focus on getting your individual work done and taking credit for individual contributions. Collaboration was not as important then. Today, however, collaboration, ideas and feedback are core parts of most successful businesses. Sharing ideas during brainstorming sessions, working side-by-side to complete projects and recognizing all involved participants is part of a growing collaborative workplace trend. The best employees provide thoughtful ideas and feedback to coworkers, even if they are not responsible for that specific project or task. They realize that making the company better is more important than only focusing on their own work for which they can take credit. They also understand helping others when they are under water is part of doing the right thing and will ultimately make them and the company better.

During the interview process, ask the candidate to discuss a large project they worked on that had multiple people and pieces. Have them describe how it worked, what role they played and what they would have done differently. You should also ask them to describe a time where they weren’t asked to help and didn’t receive any recognition, but still did it anyway. The answers to these questions will help determine if the candidate is prepared to work alongside coworkers, even those with similar job titles vying for attention from leadership.

If you need more help…

Identifying great candidates can be challenging. The Hire Talent measures all of the above qualities with objective ability and behavioral assessment tests. Since these are often the foundation of a great employee it is critical to verify your great candidates actually have these qualities. You may call us for free selection process and interviewing advice anytime our goal is to help you hire better talent no matter what.

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