7 Qualities Of A Good Employee and Candidate (According to Research)
Emily Smykal January 5, 2016
How can we define the qualities of a good employee? What do employers look for when separating the average worker from the best and brightest? While every business will have its own unique needs, there are some top employee characteristics that everyone seems to value.
Understanding these employee traits, and recognizing them in candidates, can help improve your recruitment process. Do your senior leaders value employees who are confident and self-motivated? You could assign applicants a task and see who takes the most initiative to go above and beyond the assignment.
To better understand the common qualities of a good employee that the average employer is looking for, CareerBuilder conducted a study with Harris Poll last year. They surveyed over 2,000 hiring managers and HR professionals on the subject of soft skills–those less tangible characteristics related more to personality than ability.
Some of the results may seem obvious (how many job descriptions don’t call for a candidate who is organized?), but perhaps the biggest outcome was the importance of soft skills overall. More than three quarters of respondents–77%–said soft skills are just as important as hard skills. An additional 16% described soft skills as more important than hard skills when evaluating candidates. In this post we’ll examine some of the specific qualities of a good employee hiring managers are after.
1. Strong work ethic: Setting and achieving goals
Tied for first place, a strong work ethic was clearly one of the most popular qualities hiring managers look for in a candidate. According to CareerBuilder, 73% of respondents want to see applicants demonstrate their ability to work hard. Candidates who set high goals for themselves, or respond well to stretch goals from supervisors, indicate a willingness to do more than clock in and clock out every day.
2. Dependable: Consistently following through
Also chosen by 73% of respondents, dependability can make all the difference between a candidate who usually follows through, and one who always does. Candidates who show a commitment to completing tasks on time, as assigned, during the application process will likely continue this behavior as employees.
3. Positive attitude: Creating a good environment
At a close third among respondents to the CareerBuilder survey (72%), a positive attitude has myriad benefits for individual employees and their colleagues. Positivity leads to a more productive workday, and creates a better environment for fellow employees. Great employees consistently stand out for their upbeat attitudes and earn positive reputations for themselves. One trait to look for in a candidate is their ability to acknowledge mistakes and still move forward in a positive way. This suggests they’ll be equally resilient in the workplace.
4. Self-motivated: Working effectively with little direction
Two-thirds of respondents, 66%, listed self-motivation as a key soft skill among candidates. When it comes to finding good employees, hiring managers often look for candidates who can take initiative and get work done with little to no encouragement. Sheer enthusiasm and interest in the work is often enough to drive these employees. And this self-motivation goes hand in hand with confidence–chosen by 46% as a top soft skill among candidates.
5. Team-oriented: Making the most out of collaboration
Think about the great employees you already have. Do they work well with others? Are they comfortable collaborating with a team? According to CareerBuilder, 60% of hiring managers look for team-oriented candidates during the application process. Many companies succeed based on the work of teams and entire departments, not just individuals. So as you review applications and conduct interviews, look for candidates with a history of collaboration, as well as giving and receiving constructive group feedback.
6. Effective communicator: Understanding the benefits of clarity
Another top soft skill chosen by hiring managers was communication–56% look for effective messaging from candidates. Ideal employees will understand the importance of good communication, and just how badly things can go wrong when a message is unclear or missed altogether. When looking for this quality among applicants, ask questions about their preferred methods of communication, or for examples of good communication they’ve experienced. If their responses (verbal and nonverbal) align with your expectations, they may well become a great employee.
7. Flexible: Adapting in a meaningful way
Rounding out our list is flexibility, or adaptability, chosen by 51% of respondents. A good employee will not resist change blindly, but instead embrace it and adapt to it as it proves necessary for the business. Are the candidates you interview comfortable with unknown elements of a job? Are they willing to pick up new skills and adjust to shifting goals? If your applicants can demonstrate flexibility, you can be confident they’ll adapt easily to their new work environment.
You might not entirely agree with the importance of each soft skill, but you probably have an idea of what makes a good employee for your organization. One thing to keep in mind is that not every applicant will possess every one of these research-backed qualities of a good employee–but some can be developed over time. Some candidates may not have much experience working in teams. Others may not have had to communicate with other departments, senior leaders, or external partners.
As we shift from a jobs market that favors employers to one that favors employees, don’t let issues of quality or quantity get you down. If you are confident in the skills and attributes you need in a candidate, and have developed methods to located them, you will already be one step ahead in the hunt for quality employees.
If you’re interested in learning more about using research and data to improve your recruiting performance, follow the button below or click here for a deeper analysis of the future of analytics in recruiting:
If you asked 100 managers what the qualities of a good employee are, and put all the responses in a list, not only would you get a list of 1000 qualities, but you would also notice that many of them are contradictory. The reason for that is simple; different managers, organizations, and functions require different qualities of a good employee.
But what if we tried to create a list of qualities that are essential to all employees, regardless of contextual variances? This is my purpose for this article! So let’s get to it, shall we?
Qualities of a good employee every manager wants:
#1 Be Accountable
It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, or who you work with, every manager wants their employees to be accountable. They want them to be responsible for their tasks, and to be accountable for all that they do and don’t achieve.
#2 Have Good Interpersonal Skills
Effective interpersonal skills are crucial for any employee. Period. If you want to be effective and efficient, you need to have good listening and communication skills to be able to develop relationships that can promote your objectives. Good interpersonal skills allow you to get what you want, whenever you want, wherever you need it from.
I think we can all agree that, as a manager, when you give your employee a task to do, you want it to get done and get done well. There’s a reason you delegate tasks to your employees; you want the job to be completed without having to worry about it. What you don’t want is having that employee ask you a million questions! This is why being resourceful is one of the most important qualities of a good employee.
#4 Openness to sharing ideas and experiences
Two brains are better than one – it’s as simple as that! A great quality of an employee is their willingness to open up and share their ideas and experiences. After all, it’s our past experiences that have taught us all we know, and if your employees are willing to share that knowledge then you can be sure everyone is benefitting.
Yes, I admit, this is one of the more obvious qualities of a good employee, but it’s important and worth mentioning nonetheless. But, instead of having me tell you why motivation is a good quality, I’m going to talk a little about how to promote and maintain it.
In reality, every person is, or can be, motivated. The difference is that different people are motivated by different things. Some are motivated by money, competition, and status, while others are motivated by teamwork, pleasant work environments, and security.
There’s nothing wrong with either motivations, but they are different nonetheless. So whether you’re hiring, promoting, or building a new team, make sure you assess your employees’ motivation and be sure you can offer them the circumstances they need.
Self-awareness is one of those qualities that you would rarely ever think of, but once mentioned to you, you realize that they are absolutely crucial! It is a great quality for an employee to have because it means that not only do they understand who they are and where their strengths lie, but they also understand their limitations. They know what they can and can’t do, and make a conscious effort to place themselves in situations which they know are most beneficial to achieving the goal.
Those who are self-aware also tend to have a certain level of emotional intelligence which guides their thinking and behavior. Self-awareness and emotional intelligence are amazing qualities, but also rare ones. Don’t worry, though, because you can develop them in your employees (but only if you really know how they’re built!).
Managers want things to get done. Plain and simple. (And yes, that is all i’m saying about this!)
One of the most valued qualities of a good employee; integrity. Managers have a lot on their plates, all the time, and if they had employees who are honest and trustworthy, then that’s just one less thing to worry about.
And it’s not just about being busy, there are serious, serious consequences that can arise from having dishonest employees. If you have employees with integrity, then you’re going to be able to sleep peacefully at night, knowing that there will be no funny-business going around!
What about the other qualities of a good employee?
I know what you’re thinking. What about innovation? Being organized? Being proactive? What about the hundreds of other qualities every good employee should have?!
Well, whether we like it or not, we won’t all agree on a complete and comprehensive list. That is because, as I mentioned before, different organizations, functions, and managers require different things from their employees. You might think that innovation is an integral aspect of a good employee, but you don’t want your accountant trying out new stuff with your balance sheets, would you?
What about organization? Sure, it’s a great quality to have, but is it essential for every organization? Believe it or not, being too organized can be just as bad as not being organized at all. If you’re working at a startup that requires everyone to wear 5 different hats, multitask, and change priorities without notice; then being organized is not a quality you will be basing your hiring decision on!
But, surely, being proactive should be on the list, right? It is easy to see why some companies value proactivity more than others, but there are some managers that are just too skeptical and like to be in control at all times. There are also some managers that like to hear their employees’ ideas, but also want to consult with the rest of the team before a members just runs offs and tries new things.
What I’m trying to say is that it all depends. You might understand the differences between functions and organizations, but knowing employees and managerial styles is a whole different ballgame. Get this information, however, and the possibilities are endless! Evaluate your employees, evaluate your managers, and determine which qualities are the best for YOU!
What do you think of the list? Are there any other qualities of a good employee you think are important? Share them in the comments below!