A recent study of 312 companies showed that 46% of new recruits were fired or quit within 18 months.
Only 11% of these were due to technical skills and most of them were due to interpersonal problems.
Interestingly 82% of managers involved said that they had noticed red flags throughout the process and simply chose to ignore them.
Problem is; you can always teach new recruits the skills to do a job (within reason). But you can’t change them as a person.
So what can you do?
When assessing job candidates, there is no guaranteed list of attributes to determine whether personally, they would be great for the job – different industries require different strengths.
But there are some core traits that we believe are appealing to pretty much every role and company.
These are qualities that you simply cannot teach but that could have a massive impact on your culture, productivity and profits.
Let’s take a look at them…
Candidates with real inner confidence can be particularly valuable to a business.
That’s because a confident person with solid self-esteem will generally fit in more easily with your team and they are more likely to be able to deal with customers and clients efficiently too.
Candidates who are racked with insecurity can be more hesitant. They may second-guess themselves and this can lead you to have to micro-manage them.
That costs time, money and it simply isn’t productive.
Recruiter Pro Tip
Try not to confuse quietness with lack of confidence.
Often those who shout loudest are the ones lacking the self-esteem.
Instead, listen to what candidates actually have to say. Do they seem confident and self-assured in their opinions? Do they know what they’re talking about? And are they likely to stick by their assertions?
How do you test for confidence in a job interview?
Let’s be honest, pretty much everyone is nervous in an interview… so assessing confidence is difficult.
It’s mainly about stitching together the visual and audible clues (body language etc.) which you’ll probably do this naturally.
However, you can ask a couple of questions, too:
A. Tell me about a crisis at work and how you dealt with it?
Of course, you’ll need to interpret the answer, but a good response will include details about how the candidate worked with a team or the customer to resolve an issue, in an assertive way.
B. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
It’s an interview cliché, but a confident candidate will talk about career progression, advancement and a clear future within your company.
An insecure candidate simply won’t be able to fake their way through the answer. (They may say something along the lines of “wherever you want me to be” or “I don’t know”).
2. Emotional Intelligence
This is a relatively new term that deals with age-old values.
In short, emotional intelligence is the ability to control your emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships with empathy and class.
It’s not just about keeping your own emotions in check. It’s understanding how to motivate and inspire the people around you, how to negotiate to get the job done and even how to pacify an angry customer.
Emotionally intelligent people are the level-headed, calm and smart people that always seem to be in tune with those around them. Those are the people you want on your payroll.
How do you test for emotional intelligence in a job interview?
These questions can help you decide if a candidate has a solid level of emotional intelligence.
A. Have you made any lasting friendships at work?
Relationships that go above and beyond work are a good sign.
B. What are three factors you attribute your success to?
This is almost a trick question, as a selfish person will simply list their qualities. A person with a high level of emotional intelligence will talk about teamwork and other people’s contributions.
This one goes without saying.
An ambitious team that go above and beyond at every step will drive each other and therefore the company forward.
That is invaluable.
How do you test for ambition in a job interview?
Ask the candidate about additional training and research they have done to improve their skills. This can be anything from subscribing to a blog, reading a book, taking an online course or even doing a Masters.
Self-improvement backed up by actual action is a far more powerful gauge of a candidate’s ambition than a few well-chosen words.
But you can also try these questions:
A. Have you ever felt truly content with your working life?
A truly ambitious person will always want to improve their lot in life and will probably not be truly content. Of course, you have to balance ambition with the other attributes you’re looking for and this question can reveal a candidate who is too driven for some roles.
B. Would you be happier in a job with less pay and responsibility, or a large salary and lots of responsibility?
It’s a straightforward question, but the answer can reveal a candidate who is looking to settle down into a comfort zone.* It can also show you who is determined to succeed.
Recruiter Pro Tip
*It’s not necessarily a bad thing if you find someone who is ready to settle down.
The world needs two kinds of people (imagine if everyone was mega-ambitious, it would be chaos) and those who are ready to settle down are the ones that will keep your business ticking over.
I guess it depends on the role you are recruiting for and where your business is right now.
This sounds like a ridiculous cliché. Not every employee can be passionate about their work.
But truly special employees have a passion for life and find a way to love whatever job they do (this passion will spur them and their colleagues on).
How do you test for passion in a job interview?
This is largely down to gut instinct and you’ll probably know if you’re dealing with a passionate person.
But you can also ask the following questions:
A. What were the most satisfying moments with your last company?
It’s an open-ended question for a reason. You’re giving them the opportunity to talk about something that matters to them. A great answer will also reveal great team-work, initiative and ambition.
B. What drove you mad about your last role? If you could change one thing, what would it be?
Passionate people tend to notice the small things that stop them doing their job. If they tell you about a procedural kink, or even a systematic failure, that they had to work around, this is a good sign.
It means they’re the kind of employee that could flag up problems and improve your processes!
Both positivity and negativity are contagious, and they can have a huge impact on the workplace.
Positive people work well in a team and should deal with setbacks and crises more effectively. They’re also more willing to shoulder responsibility and carry the team forward through tough times.
Negative people, on the other hand tend to drag the team morale down and can have a noticeable effect on productivity. There are some jobs where the cynical approach is important, but they are few and far between.
How do you test for positivity in a job interview?
Again, positivity is a vibe you can usually pick up on, but you could also ask your candidate a specific (tough) question and see how they respond…
A. Can you tell me when you got tough feedback at work?
This is a negative experience and you’re asking the candidate to relive it. A positive candidate will honestly tell you about receiving criticism and how it helped them going forward.
B. Have you ever felt underappreciated and that your skills weren’t being used effectively?
You’ll find that positive people deal with these kinds of issues the correct way, whereas negative people will use it as an opportunity to complain. So you’re looking for someone that tackled the issue early.
Remember when attention to detail was actually mentioned in every job post?
Of course, it was meaningless, as everyone will claim to pay close attention to detail. So, how can you tell if they’re telling the truth?
How do you test for attention to detail in a job interview?
A skills test of some kind might be the best solution, particularly if you put them against the clock.
Also, pay attention to the questions they ask you about the company.
If they have clearly done their research, it’s a good sign.
If they have no questions, or just ask you generic things, they probably didn’t take the time to look you up and they didn’t pay attention to the details.
7. Critical Thinking
We would love every day to work like clockwork for every employee, but life isn’t like that.
Sometimes things go sideways and having a quick thinking and adaptable employee can make the difference between a minor drama and a full-on nightmare situation.
Employees who can think for themselves and have the confidence to run with their ideas can be a huge asset.
It doesn’t matter if they work in customer service or if they’re on an engineering team, critical thinking is a quality you should actively look for in a new hire.
Proactive people with critical thinking skills can come up with solutions and new ways of working that can help to streamline your business, save money and provide a better service to your customers.
How do you test for critical thinking in a job interview?
A (tailored) skills test is a great way to assess critical thinking skills.
Alternatively, you can use the ubiquitous California Critical Thinking Skills test. It isn’t perfect, but it is something you can start using right now.
Or you could ask interview brainteasers.
A dishonest employee could create drama, chaos and mistrust wherever they go.
They can be poisonous as they shirk responsibility and create tension with manipulation and game-playing.
A dishonest employee can also look to climb the ladder in a Machiavellian way, by throwing colleagues under the bus at every opportunity.
That is never good for the company as a whole.
Honesty, transparency and humility are all intertwined and they’re all truly positive traits for a new recruit.
It means that the employee will admit to mistakes, learn from them and also develop a trusting relationship with their colleagues (and clients).
How do you test for honesty in a job interview?
You’ll have to use all of your detective skills on this one.
I recommend reading up on How to Tell if Your Interviewee is Lying to You and then you can pay close attention to those awkward moments in the interview…
So these are certainly the eight most valuable traits that we come across…
2. Emotional Intelligence.
6. Detail oriented.
7. Critical thinking.
Obviously, depending on your industry, company culture and the job role, these may differ slightly.
But in most cases, I’d hazard a bet that these are all great qualities.