During my career, I have been lucky enough to meet some of the best and brightest job seekers around. Those people who have not just excelled in an interview but have gone on to do great things for my business.
No matter the industry they have come from or their seniority, these candidates all demonstrated a number of similar qualities, with a firm eye on the future being one of the most critical. Here are the five top traits I look for in a candidate:
1. A vision for the future: I’m looking for more than just a good grasp of what they want to achieve in their first 90 days. Of course that’s important to give a sense of the urgency they will bring to their task. But I want to hire employees who also have a clear view of the bigger picture, those that have a vision for the future of the business and the industry they are working in and can communicate this to their colleagues and teams. This last point is important: communication. Sadly I’ve met many people with great ideas but an inability to translate that into a “so-what” for the business. I need someone who can not just have ideas but also bring them to life in a meaningful way for the rest of us. I also hire talent who have a clear sense of direction when it comes to their career path; it is this motivation which drives teams forward to achieve great things. And I’m not just talking about senior hires, either. The sheer pace of change in today’s business environment requires all levels and disciplines to have thought hard about where their industry and career is heading.
2. Digital makers, not digital observers: The digital revolution has touched the lives of virtually every consumer and business around the globe, and digital skills are now essential at all levels in most job functions. I am not just looking for candidates who are observing these skills, telling me how important they will be for the future, but those that are actively up-skilling themselves and who have an appetite and aptitude to learn quickly. These are the people who will help your business make and lead new trends. So whether it is learning how to code, embracing new technology to engage and find talent or the ability to crunch big data, hiring skills for tomorrow is hugely important to me.
3. Shared values: A business’ values underpin the way they operate every day and I always look for hires who are driven and passionate about similar principles. At Hays, for example, we look for candidates who are driven to be experts, always inquisitive, hugely ambitious and passionate about people. If a candidate’s values differ from that of an organisation, you are unlikely to get the best out of them, and inevitably they will just leave. Exploring a candidate’s values, what makes them tick and get out of bed in the morning, is an essential first step, but I am always surprised at how unprepared talent can be to share this. Look for real examples of what they do that model the values, as opposed to just platitudes.
4. A complementary fit: I am looking for candidates who can not only bring something a bit different to the table, someone who will push and drive a team forward, but also someone who complements the skills and personalities of the existing team. I’m always mindful that those who are looking to push the boundaries with new ideas can often also be disruptive if placed within the wrong teams. You need new skills and expertise, but ultimately they also need to fit with the rest. Therefore, while it is not always possible, or practical, I like to get as many of the team I can to meet a candidate to assess how they might work alongside each other and ensure we get the fit right the first time. New ideas are challenging and that’s part of the recipe. However there’s a big difference between challenge and debate versus challenge and rejection.
5. EQ as well as IQ: A lot has been written around the importance of soft skills, or emotional intelligence (EQ) as some refer to it, and for very good reason. It is so important in gaining the respect of colleagues and ultimately leading, motivating, and pushing the boundaries with them. In fact, research from Rutgers University found leaders with higher EQ delivered greater profits — 136% higher in one study — and higher customer satisfaction levels. These skills are obviously harder to evaluate in an interview process, but I do look for hires who can demonstrate good people skills, honesty and are good listeners, often finding that these skills can come from the most unlikely of places.
We are all aware that there is a cost associated with a hire that doesn’t work out for your business, but most of us only think in the short term. It is important not to get too clouded by immediate needs, and instead think harder about the future, both of a new hire and your business, when employing someone. After all, as the leader of the business, it’s your responsibility to ensure it is positioned to survive and thrive in the long term, not just the next 12 months. This will not only help ensure you have the skill set to be successful in the coming years, but build teams who will be passionate about the journey they and your business are on. This is the type of team I am proud to be part of in my business, and I hope you are too.
Author: Alistair Cox
Alistair is the Chief Executive at Hays plc