HR & Management

Critical employee attributes you won’t find on a resume

10 min read

01 February 2019

There are qualities leaders should look for in new hires that go beyond bullet points on their resumes, says Jason Kulpa.

Few things are more satisfying than uncovering a resume that aligns perfectly with your open position: the candidate has the right education and the right functional knowledge attained in the right industry.

These qualities are certainly helpful and can be a powerful predictor of success. But a high education pedigree isn’t everything, nor is in-depth knowledge of a hard skill.

The most critical employee attributes are almost never listed within the bullet-points of a resume. Rather, they are personality traits that, unlike functional knowledge, can’t be taught.

While it might seem that the passion or eagerness of a potential hire is less useful than how well they code, intangible human assets feed a company’s culture, and a cohesive culture is essential for a thriving business.

A strong culture isn’t a nice-to-have. It’s a must. It helps articulate a company’s values and set expectations for employees; it shapes brand identity and differentiates an organization within the marketplace, and helps attract and retain better talent. Statistics show that culture has a direct bearing on employee turnover, which directly impacts productivity and success.

A Columbia University study states that the likelihood of job turnover at an organisation with a rich corporate culture is 13.9%, compared to a 48.4% likelihood of turnover within a poor culture.

Likewise, employee happiness and profit are linked. A recent study finds that happy workers are 12% more productive than the average worker, and unhappy workers are 10% less productive. Companies with happy employees outperform the competition by 20%earn 1.2% to 1.7% more than peer firms, and are 2.1% above industry benchmarks.

They’re also more likely to solve difficult problems faster. While employee satisfaction can supercharge corporate success, there’s no faster way to erode it than disengagement.

New hires that share your business values and contribute positively to your existing teams and overall culture help your organisation perform at its peak.

Nothing makes work more enjoyable than the ability to spend time among talented people with positive personality traits. One negative or destructive employee can have toxic repercussions that touch just about every aspect of your business.

Make it a priority to recruit employees that others will respect and enjoy working alongside.

Much has been written lately about the dangers of recruiting for cultural fit. Indeed, in many cases, this has proved a tribal way of thinking that perpetuates biases and hampers diversity. But hiring someone who thinks like you, looks like you, and lives like you is different from hiring someone that shares your organisation’s values.

The following seven traits are positive attributes that can be found in people of all backgrounds, colours and orientations. Together, they form a mindset that benefits all businesses.

1) Integrity

Warren Buffett said integrity is the most important trait to hire for. Businesses and the people working within them need to operate with transparency and integrity; this is what enables trust to form within the workplace, and what ultimately fuels collaboration and productivity.

Employees with integrity are more accountable, more likely to self-manage and can be relied upon to complete tasks honestly and to the best of their ability. They’ll take responsibility when things go wrong and learn from mistakes.

Accountable employees can be trusted to hold the best interests of other employees equal to their own, keeping the workplace in balance.

2) Enthusiasm

Enthusiastic employees are grateful for the opportunity to work with you and, assuming your corporate culture doesn’t squelch that excitement, they’re likely to display a higher work ethic throughout their career.

An enthusiastic employee typically has a lot of passion and career drive. As long as they are continually challenged with new opportunities for professional growth, they will prove loyal, long-term employees with positive attitudes. Plus, enthusiasm is contagious, meaning their interest will elevate the verve of their colleagues.

3) Optimism

Change is an unavoidable reality for any industry, and marketplace shifts ultimately manifest in organizational changes. Employees can view these changes as opportunities, or they can meet them with skepticism and negativity. Upbeat and optimistic employees keep productivity on track in times of change, inspire others, and are more likely to find creative solutions to problems.

Rather than getting hung up on how things used to be, they’re adaptable and can easily pivot to what needs to happen going forward.

With the proliferation of technology changing things faster than ever before, a flexible workforce is paramount. Plus, it’s a critical asset for customer-facing positions. If your employees can’t see the value of what you’re trying to do, neither will your customers.

4) Persistence

A workday is cluttered with roadblocks. You need employees who do not simply accept the impossibility of tasks, but instead, find solutions.

Persistence is a major predictor of success. And, as you likely know, success is rarely easily won. It’s almost always an uphill battle that lasts longer than we’d like and requires an infinite source of grit and determination.

Your own persistence is what has gotten your business to where it is today and it’s what’s required of you going forward. Don’t accept less from your teammates.

5) Curiosity

curious person will strive for discovery, and in a workplace environment that translates into figuring out how to do their job better. They’ll also be motivated to find ways to make your company more successful, whether that entails streamlining a back-office process or developing new product functionality.

Inquisitive employees have a greater capacity to learn new skills, which is essential for ever-changing business conditions. 

It’s also important for you to surround yourself with people who are willing to question your thinking rather than simply take orders. Just as it’s impossible for you to execute all the work yourself, you can’t do all the thinking, either. Embracing critical thinking will keep your operation nimble.

6) Bravery 

Great employees make their voices heard and take risks for the greater good.

The best employees have made mistakes in their past and learned from them. Look for people willing to charter new territory, and to keep going if their ideas don’t pan out. Experimentation feeds progress. Recruiting more risk-takers will help you make bigger strides over time.

7) Kindness

It seems basic, possibly even pedestrian, but hiring kind employees is better for everyone. Amiable employees manage stress more effectively and encourage team members rather than lashing out with blame and accusations when things get difficult.

They are saviours of morale. Emotionally intelligent employees understand and manage their own emotions, as well as understand and influence the behaviours of others. Kindness begets a happier staff.

Hiring is paramount, but it’s only part of the puzzle. Companies should also ensure that new hires enter a positive environment where their needs have been anticipated and addressed. That means establishing solid onboarding processes, career development initiatives, and channels for employee feedback and support.

Hiring the best people is infinitely less helpful if a chaotic and unpleasant workplace environment soon causes them to disengage

When it is time to hire, however, remember that a flawless resume isn’t the full story. Every new employee requires training, and if you invest in robust skills training, you can avoid the more onerous task of changing worldviews.

In an ideal world, employers will find applicants with the experience and mindset to succeed. But when we’re forced to choose, hiring for personality is the gift that perpetually gives.

Jason Kulpa is the founder of UE.co