Whether recruiting a start-up or a multinational, getting hiring right can make an enormous difference to the success of your business. Even with the most effective hiring process, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to find a candidate that has everything that you are looking for, but there are some universally positive characteristics to look for when hiring.

These must-have traits and attributes can often indicate whether the job seeker will have the right mindset and skills to fit in with your organisation and reach their full potential.

Here are 36 important characteristics when hiring your next candidate:


The coronavirus pandemic illustrated perfectly just how important it is for employees to be adaptable and adjust quickly to a new situation. Working from home became a requirement and new work processes and procedures were put in place. This is an extreme example, but in any job changes occur and it’s important that employees have the ability to cope with whatever they have to face.


New employees give organisations new energy. Candidates that want to progress and have a vision of where they want to go and what they want to do. They are likely to make a fast start but the trick is to harness this ambition and make sure it is channeled effectively and managed accordingly; if career options are limited then you’ll find this positive characteristic can turn into a negative trait.


In any recruitment process you want the candidates to be able to present an honest picture of their true nature. The real value in assessing cultural fit (or cultural add) is that when an employee starts they feel comfortable being themselves at work. Employees who interview authentically give you the opportunity to assess culture fit more accurately. If they start with you and act in accordance with their true values then they will be naturally more engaged and motivated.


Good ideas can come from anywhere in an organisation. The most effective organisations are those that encourage open and honest dialogue. Finding a candidate who is prepared to speak their mind and offer their own opinions, with radical candour, shows that they won’t be afraid to speak up.


The best employees are those that care about their colleagues as people, taking an interest in their lives outside work and seeing them as fully rounded human beings. Taking time to get to know colleagues and be there when they really need help is a very important trait in any employee.


Businesses want candidates who know what they want and aren’t afraid to work hard to get it. This should not be confused with arrogance or boastfulness. You don’t have to be loud or brash to know your own mind. Confidence is about knowing what should be done and putting those thoughts into action.


Employees that have the courage to believe in themselves, their abilities and their judgement is exactly what every organisation should be looking for. Identifying future employees that are bold and are brave enough to take a chance can make all the difference.


With technology taking over many repetitive jobs, creativity is a characteristic that is gaining in importance. Creativity doesn’t have to mean artistic, it is relevant to any job in a variety of different ways. That’s what makes it so hard to measure objectively. Bringing fresh ideas, finding a new perspective or thinking about a problem differently all represent creativity and are highly prized qualities in any organisation.


An employee that is curious will ask questions and challenge the current thinking in your organisation. In an interview look for candidates that ask intelligent and insightful questions. This demonstrates that they have an interest in your organisation and are keen to find out more. It shows they want to be part of your business, which is an essential characteristic when looking for a new hire.


The most successful organisations are those that back their judgement and follow a clear course of action. Candidates that give a definite answer and can back it up with solid reasoning show they have the capability to act decisively when required.


This is arguably one of the most important characteristics that you’ll be looking for in an ideal candidate. Finding someone who can motivate themselves and others around them, always seeking to grow and improve, can make a huge difference to your organisation, taking your level of success from good to great. Finding out what drives someone to reach their full potential can also be important to do before hiring them. 


One of the key skills required for any job is the ability to understand the rationale and motivations of others. Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is vital, especially for those in a management position. In the future, soft skills are going to become increasingly important, especially as repetitive tasks become replaced by automation.


If an employee is enthusiastic about their role and the company, they are much more likely to be productive and motivated. This enthusiasm should be evident from your first meeting. Enthusiast employees are keen to learn, want to progress and do their best. Without this quality, they will struggle to reach their full potential.


Unlike adaptability which indicates being comfortable with permanent change, flexibility is the acceptance of many rapid short-term changes. It’s important that new hires are willing to try new things and take on other responsibilities if the circumstances demand it. Someone that is rigid in their thinking and sticks religiously to what they know is unlikely to react well to change. 


With the proliferation of tools, apps and communication channels that are used as part of a day’s work, it is increasingly easy to get sidetracked. The ability to shut out these distractions and keep focused on the task in hand is vital to maintain a high level of productivity.


No matter what role you are seeking to fill, the chances are that you’ll be looking for someone that is easy to get along with and is approachable. Friendly doesn’t have to mean the life and the soul of the party, it just means someone that is open, happy to work with others and takes an interest in the people that they are working with.


This doesn’t mean you are looking for a stand-up comic telling a constant stream of on-liners, just someone who has a sense of humour. The ability to laugh at a situation is a great way to reduce tension at work and build team bonds. When things get stressful having someone around that can lighten the mood is a very handy asset to have.


No one wants to work with a colleague who hogs the limelight and takes credit for other people’s ideas. Being generous means giving others the credit they deserve and acknowledging good work or ideas from colleagues. It also means being generous with their time which is an important skill for managers.


The best teams have open and honest discussions, with everyone sharing their views. This comes from having psychological safety but by also having people who admit mistakes and stick to their principles. It’s important to have people who take ownership as we learn far more from our mistakes than our successes.


Companies are only as good as the people we have working in them. To be human at work means bringing our emotions, feelings and flaws with us. No one is perfect and having the capacity to understand this, and empathise accordingly is an important characteristic for any employee to have.


Every organisation should be looking for new hires with a “can do” attitude. These are the people who can see the silver lining when others only see the clouds. They can bring up the mood of a team and department and encourage others to deliver.


With employees working more autonomously, without being constantly in the presence of their line manager, they must be organised and able to manage their workload effectively. Knowing what they need to do and by when, means that their colleagues are able to work efficiently.


Showing passion for your job, or the company you work for can keep you motivated when things get hard. Passionate employees aren’t just valuable internally, they have the power to be ambassadors externally – championing your brand and what you stand for. 


Not everything can be achieved overnight. Some things take time and dedication to complete. Timing can be everything and waiting until the right moment can be the difference between success and failure. Coaching is growing in importance as part of most people’s roles. This requires patience, allowing employees the time to acquire new skills for themselves and to fully understand their role.


Having employees who look at the bright side and see the positives out of any situation can help turn a disaster into a success. A glass half full attitude can inspire others and galvanise a team to ensure everyone is pulling in the right direction.


The majority of businesses have values they want employees to adhere to. Finding employees of high integrity and who appreciate shared values is important in order to create and maintain a healthy culture.

Problem solver

How people cope when things go wrong tells you a lot about their character and their attitude. No matter how well you plan, there is always the unexpected mishap laying just around the corner. Having employees who take these in their stride and are able to think their way through them are invaluable.


This is an especially important characteristic when hiring into small businesses with little margin for error and finite resources. Doing exactly what you are meant to do, on time and in budget is an essential building block, providing the foundations upon which a business can grow and thrive.


As employees are likely to work remotely more and more, the support of their colleagues is going to become increasingly important. Being there to lend a hand, act as a sounding board or boost morale will help to keep teams working effectively together, no matter where they are based.


As the structure of organisations become less top down, the relationship between employees and managers is changing. Employees are expected to take ownership of their own development. Those that have intrinsic motivation are the ones that are most likely to be successful.

Team player

Great businesses are built on successful, high-performing teams. When looking for a new employee, it’s important that you consider how well they will fit into the team they will be joining. Do they work in the same way? Do they have the same attitudes? Getting the balance right can enhance the team hugely, getting the selection wrong can destroy it.


Businesses thrive on employees who are prepared to go the extra mile and keep trying when others may have given up, particularly in sales roles. After an interview, play close attention to which candidates follow up and ask for feedback. This is a useful indicator of how much they want the job and their commitment to getting it.


Trust is an essential component of good teamwork. When trust is broken, it’s almost impossible to repair. With managers and employees spending less time physically in the same location, employees need to be trusted to deliver results remotely. 


With many businesses in a state of transition, there are endless opportunities to think creatively and set a new vision. Hiring employees with the ability to see the big picture and create fresh opportunities, particularly in leadership roles, can make all the difference.

Willingness to learn

It is highly unlikely in your recruitment process you’ll find the finished article, someone who has everything that you want and need. The important thing is that you identify a candidate who is keen to learn and develop in order to perform to their full potential.

Willingness to listen

Active listening is an underrated skill. Being able to take in information, process and understand it at the first time of asking saves invaluable time. It is an essential part of being a good communicator and is often the side of communication that is overlooked. Being part of a successful team involves listening to what others have to say and acknowledging their good ideas.


Obviously finding all these good characteristics in one individual when hiring is nigh on impossible, but this list should give you a strong indication of what you need to look out for. 

Choose which characteristics and skills are most important for the role you are hiring for, the team the candidate will be joining and the overall business. Consider how you might be able to judge these in your hiring process by incorporating interview questions and real-life tasks to accurately assess the required characteristics in your new hire.