You want to hire someone who will work well in an individual context, but also as a member of a broader team. You want to find someone who knows what they're doing, but whose salary is within the company's budget. You want to take the time to get to know someone, but you may be facing pressure to fill your vacant position quickly.
With all these considerations, making a hire is a multifaceted balancing act, and it can be hard to whittle down which factors are most important for your decision. In my experience, I've found that the following seven qualities are absolute must-haves--if your candidate doesn't have them, you can rule him/her out as a possibility. If your candidate does have them, any other benefits he/she brings to the table are icing on the cake:
1. Communicative. Your interview is the perfect time to determine how effective your candidate is at communicating. While some jobs, like being an account executive or a writer, demand communication skills as a primary responsibility, all jobs require effective communication to some degree. Your candidate will be reporting to a supervisor or instructing subordinates, writing reports and emails, and participating in meetings. Use your interview to gauge how articulate your candidate is and how easy it is to understand him/her. If you find that your candidate cannot accurately express his/her thoughts and ideas throughout the interview, it's best to move on to other options.
2. Disciplined. Discipline is what drives people to achieve their goals. It makes people more productive, keeping them moving even while unmotivated, and makes them more focused, eliminating distractions to focus on what's important. You can generally tell how disciplined your candidates are based on how they arrive and interact in the context of the interview. Are they sharply dressed or sloppy? Were they five minutes early, or late to the interview? What type of hobbies and interests do they have--do they live a disciplined lifestyle even outside of work?
3. Passionate. Employees who are passionate about what they do are far more likely to be productive and successful during the course of their stay, and they're going to be happier doing it. That means they'll stick with you for the long haul as long as you enable their passions, and they'll be more likely to find creative alternative solutions to problems when they arise, rather than ignoring them or finding temporary workarounds. "Finding passionate employees can be difficult, but its important that whoever you hire is excited about what they do. Passionate employees often take on more responsibilities and roles outside of their normal job description which is crucial too early start ups" says Jay Hostetter, CTO of Infographics. Space. You can identify passionate candidates based on how they act when they talk about their previous positions and what they like to do. Do their eyes seem to light up when they talk about it or do they sit back with an effortless monotone voice?
4. Ambitious. There's a sharp difference between average candidates, who are merely looking to fill a role and receive a paycheck, and ambitious candidates, who are self-driven to accomplish something greater. Sometimes that means wanting to work their way up the corporate ladder. Sometimes that means wanting to push the industry forward with newer, better ideas. How that ambition manifests itself is not nearly as important as the simple fact that the ambition is there. Ambition leads to self-motivation, and without that, eventually your candidate will find him/herself frustrated or tired of work.
5. Positive. A little positivity goes a long way, even in a large firm. Attitudes are contagious, meaning the overall positivity or negativity of the individual candidates you introduce will bear an impact on the health and mental attitude of the entire group. By gradually introducing more and more positive, optimistic candidates, you'll shape the atmosphere of your company for the better. Optimistic workers work harder, happier, and together more productively. Look for positivity in how your candidate responds to questions about his/her past--does he/she bring up lots of challenges, problems, and complaints, or more successes, insights, and opportunities?
6. Culturally Fit. This quality is entirely subjective, because each office's company culture is unique. What may be a cultural fit for the giant financial firm downtown may not be a cultural fit for the mom-and-pop caf in the hip neighborhood. This is a question of personality and of team dynamics, as you'll want a person who feels at home in the culture you've established, and someone who can work easily with your other employees. Peter Kim says, "Finding a candidate who has a personality and passion that's in line with your company is important, especially in the beginning. Having someone who gets along with the team while being able to satisfy the company's objective keeps the energy positive and momentum going." Make sure you ask some personality-focused questions during the interview to uncover these qualities.
7. Honest. Honesty is hard to come by, but it's critical if you want a candidate to become a successful employee. Honest evaluations allow subordinates to improve their performance. Honest feedback allows processes to improve and productivity to increase. Honest conversations prevent some problems and allow others to be resolved faster. There's no way to directly ask your candidate if he/she is an honest person--as the answer is always yes--but if you find out that your candidate has deliberately lied on his/her resume or in the interview, you should probably find a different candidate.
Be sure to prioritize these seven qualities when making a new hire. No matter how hard you try, you'll never find a "perfect" candidate, but if you fill your team with people who exhibit these qualities, it's hard to go too wrong.