What Traits Make a "Great Hire" Great?

What Traits Make a “Great Hire” Great?

What traits make a great hire? It varies per recruiter, HR professional or hiring manager as well as per industry and profession. For some, it’s the right amount of experience backed by a personality that is a perfect match to the corporate culture, the missing link to make the team great. For others, it’s someone with that hard-to-find skill or background that will help them lead teams to success. Others simply are a solid match of experience, education and proven work ethic and personality that makes them a well-rounded candidate.

Not every hire is going to be the best hire, but all hiring professionals strive to hire the next great employee. What are traits of a great employee you look for? Elizabeth Laukka, a recruiter specializing in placing advertising, public relations and digital talent, discusses some of the key traits she looks for when reading resumes, interviewing and hiring:

Work ethic and longevity: Past history can often predict future performance. Many recruiters and HR professionals hold true to that. Laukka looks at a lot of these traits. How long have they been at their previous positions? Are they there for the long haul, or are they a job hopper moving around from job to job? She likes those who have a strong track record of staying in the same place – or perhaps going back to previous employers. For entry-level employees, did they have the same summer job over and over? For more experienced candidates, did they perhaps follow a manager to another company, or get rehired by a previous company? That shows they were respected and professional – and wanted back. They left on good terms. Were they consistently promoted throughout their career? Did they talk about working extra hours to complete a big project? Do they seem to want to be successful and go the extra mile, and maybe show loyalty to the existing or past company or colleagues? That’s important says Laukka.

But she also looks for other signs that could reflect more negatively.

“I watch for clues like the reason someone is looking for a new job is only because they work too much,” says Laukka. “Say they mention they work 42 hours a week, that gives me pause. Not that everyone has to want to work more than 40 but it’s more the mindset I am looking for.”

Follow through and commitment: This is something Laukka notices prior to the interview process.

She thinks this: “When I contact someone via voice mail or email, do they respond in a timely way and have a sense of urgency and appreciation for being contacted? Everyone is busy. At least send an email saying ‘I currently have urgent deadlines so will not be able to coordinate anything until next week. Thanks for your patience.’”

“This is much better than not responding at all and then me, as the recruiter, wondering what happened or your level of commitment to being considered for a role,” says Laukka.

The above qualities Laukka believes, can be taught, but are more of a personality trait the good ones just seem to have.

“I see these as being the crux of a terrific candidate — as being part of a candidates’ make up or not or the keys to a great hire,” says Laukka.

When it comes to entry-level employees Laukka has found that varsity athletes, top performers in any extracurricular, or those with strong GPA’s reflects the hard work and commitment that make a great hire. In HR the saying is past success is the best predictor of future success, says Laukka. Look to the past to get a glimpse of the future.


That is not always the case though – and that’s what can make it tough.

Passion to find the right fit – someone searching for their perfect job: “Some people hit their stride later in life, especially when it comes to finding their passion and a job they love,” says Laukka. “Passion can be the key to being an outstanding hire.”

For some roles, Laukka looks for someone who took the initiative to self-teach certain skills. Maybe they didn’t have an advanced degree or any degree, but in the creative field for example, there are training opportunities online and through classes they can take over time on their own, such as through Lynda.com or other online tutorials or classes. This shows passion, dedication and a burning desire to succeed, says Laukka. Someone who may have a job, but also does some work on the side, she says, can be a positive. They are not afraid to go out on their own and try to make it – in addition to working a full-time job. This is also popular in the creative, marketing, digital, PR and IT fields where Laukka hires. She’s had success finding talent with these backgrounds.

Do they fit the culture: This is a big one and becoming more and more important. The best hires have to be a fit with the company culture. Do they have the personality to mesh with co-workers? Can they fit in? Or will they just not be a match? Not just for the department, but with other departments, vendors, suppliers – anyone they have to interact with. Can that news sales rep you want to hire handle your toughest client? Think outside the inner circle of the company, especially in a client-facing role.

“Some companies are process-oriented, methodical and have many layers – some candidates flourish in that setting,” says Laukka. “Other cultures are dynamic, entrepreneurial and thrive on change, and again some candidates work best in that setting.”

In the interviewing process Laukka listens for cues from both hiring managers and candidates to read between the lines. Words like “dynamic” often mean “lots of change and not a lot of process” so she looks for candidates that are very independent, able to be resourceful and do not need much direction. A “hands on manager” can mean hands on or it can mean “micromanager” – in that case she looks for a candidate who is okay with lots of direction and oversight from a manager.

Laukka likes to ask the question, “Tell me about the best place you’ve worked and why” and “Tell me about the hardest place you’ve worked and why” – great insights as to where a candidate does their best work, she says.

Skills: They do matter. And it’s both the hard and soft skills recruiters and HR professionals should look for. But not just do they have the skills, it’s more so, can thy show they applied those skills and abilities and have succeeded? They show examples of those successes. Whether it’s certain technological skills, interpersonal skills, education, industry expertise, service knowledge, the ability to get in front of your best customers and know the business, the advanced degree few have but you covet – every job seeker has to find that unique trait that makes a great hire.

What are the traits of your great hires? Discuss below.

Related Topics: , ,

Written by

Matt Krumrie is a career columnist and professional resume writer who has been providing helpful information and resources for job seekers and employers for 15+ years. Learn more about Krumrie via resumesbymatt.com, connect with him on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/mattkrumrie/) and follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie.

More Articles by Matt Krumrie