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20 Qualities of a Good Employee (and How to Uncover Them)

Hiring the right employees has a major impact on the effectiveness of your overall organization, and these 20 characteristics of a good employee can help you in finding great fits. This is important because, with the best people on board, you can expect to see higher productivity and a strong company culture.

With that in mind, taking the time to understand a candidate’s qualities can help you select the best employee for the job. Learn why it’s important to hire good employees, review qualities that point to that potential in candidates you interview and find out how to uncover those qualities before making a hiring decision.

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Why is it important to hire good employees?

Putting the right people in the right positions can make all the difference in the day-to-day operations of your business and its long-term success. Consider these reasons for taking the time to hire good employees:

  • Saves time: For managerial staff in particular, putting an employee with good qualities in the right role saves valuable time on oversight and counseling.
  • Promotes positive morale: Employees with good qualities help keep the workplace positive and promote an overall feeling of high workplace morale.
  • Increases productivity: Employees with the right qualities for the position are typically more productive than employees who don’t have compatible qualities.
  • Reduces turnover: When you select employees with good qualities that match the company’s goals, values and mission, they may be less likely to leave their jobs.
  • Keeps customers happy: Employees with good qualities who enjoy and excel at their jobs usually have positive, effective interactions with customers.

20 qualities of a good employee

Certain traits are attractive in job candidates, no matter the position. When you’re considering potential hires, look at these 20 characteristics of a good employee and gauge which qualities are most important for candidates applying to your organization.

1. Ambitious

Ambitious employees want to do well in their positions and continue to develop their careers. They’re often willing to take on challenging assignments and learn new things, setting high goals for themselves and working hard to achieve them.

2. Autonomous

Autonomy is an excellent quality for employees in positions that naturally require little oversight. Knowing you can trust your team to do their assigned work without constantly checking in saves you time and improves efficiency.

3. Collaborative

Many jobs require employees to work together, so the capacity for collaboration and an appreciation of teamwork helps substantially when hiring employees for team positions. Look for candidates who enjoy spending time with others and respect others’ thoughts and ideas.

4. Committed

Commitment to performing their jobs well and the success of your business in general is an attractive trait in a potential hire. As another upside to those with this quality, people committed to their jobs seek out professional development opportunities to further improve their skill sets.

5. Communicative

Few positions exist that let employees work absolutely on their own. Most jobs require some communication with other stakeholders, both internal and external. This means employees who can clearly explain themselves and listen to others are an asset to your company.

6. Confident

Confident employees are usually more open to taking risks at work because they believe in their abilities. Additionally, confident employees often need less coaching and positive reinforcement than insecure employees, which saves your management team time and energy.

7. Creative

What works for your company today may not work tomorrow. Hiring creative, innovative employees can help you keep your organization moving forward and ever-improving. Creative thinkers question the status quo and look for ways to improve long-standing practices and procedures.

8. Detail-oriented

Most jobs require some attention to detail, so you want to hire employees who notice the small elements of a project and ensure they’re accurate. Often, detail-oriented employees catch mistakes in their work before they become major issues, which can save your company money — and embarrassment.

9. Enthusiastic

Employees who show enthusiasm for the work they do often delight in learning new things and applying novel tactics and ideas to their work. Additionally, enthusiastic employees often enjoy their work more than others since they’re excited to perform their job, which may reduce turnover due to overall job satisfaction.

10. Hard-working

Hard-working employees meet their goals, putting in the time and effort to ensure they’re contributing as much as they can to the company and not putting undue pressure on their colleagues. Often, hard workers take extra time if they need it to complete a project well rather than submitting something unpolished or unfinished.

11. Honest

Honesty is a vital quality in your employees. You want to hire people who are truthful with you and your other employees but are also truthful with customers and other stakeholders. Often, honest people are also transparent and accountable, two other strong qualities for an employee to demonstrate.

12. Humble

You want the people on your team to feel pride in their work but not to the extent that they become arrogant. Humble employees work hard because it’s the right thing to do, not for the sake of external motivators.

Related: Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation in Your Employees

13. Inquisitive

An employee who always strives to learn more and increase their knowledge almost always proves an asset to your company. Inquisitive people typically use the information they gather and skills they hone to improve work performance, which is advantageous to your business.

14. Leader

When you’re selecting employees you want to keep with the company long-term, leadership is an excellent quality to include in your screening process. Demonstrating an ability to delegate tasks and provide guidance to others, even early on in a person’s career, shows they’re likely to make strong leaders for your business.

15. Marketable

Not every position is front-facing, but many are. For those employees who must interact with the public, it’s important they’re marketable in that they represent the company well. Ideally, these individuals should maintain a professional demeanor at all times.

16. Organized

An organized employee saves themselves, their department and the company time by knowing exactly where all their materials are and submitting documents and projects on time. For positions with multiple and varied tasks, having organized employees in charge is especially important.

17. Passionate

Look for an employee who’s passionate about the work they do. Those who care deeply about doing a good job and meeting the goals they set for themselves and your company sets for them are likely to be highly productive and happy at work.

18. Positive

A positive outlook helps keep employees happy at work and contributes to an overall company culture of positivity. Look for employees who enjoy the work they do and maintain an optimistic perspective, even in the face of challenges or setbacks.

19. Proactive

Proactive employees look for ways they can improve processes and identify potential issues before they’re asked. These employees can save your company money and time by pointing out ways to improve workflow or solving problems before they arise.

20. Reliable

Reliable employees complete assignments on time, show up to work when scheduled and follow instructions when given. These employees do their jobs right and are accountable when things go wrong.When you hire someone with a track record of reliability, you avoid the need for constant supervision and micromanagement.

Advice when recruiting to uncover a potential employee’s qualities

Identify excellent potential employees with outstanding qualities by using these tips during the recruiting and hiring process.

1. Review their resumes

The first place to look for the qualities of a good employee is in candidates’ resumes and other application documents, including their cover letters. First, look for keywords that describe the traits you’re seeking, such as “leader,” “reliable” or “creative.” Next, give resume bullet points a look to see if candidates demonstrate transferrable skills through past work or education.

2. Speak with references

Call the candidate’s references, and while inquiring about the information on application materials, also ask them to describe the candidate’s best qualities. If there’s a specific quality you want the candidate to exhibit, ask about it directly. Consider calling more than one reference to get multiple perspectives on the candidate’s best qualities and characteristics.

3. Administer qualification tests

For positions where specific skill sets are necessary immediately upon hiring, think about administering qualification tests. Choose technical and analytical skills tests designed specifically to elicit the test taker’s true, honest responses in given scenarios. Likewise, personality tests have value when you need certain qualities to balance out teams. For instance, you may need someone organized and reliable to balance more creative types, helping everyone stay on task when time is of the essence.

4. Meet with candidates face-to-face

Many qualities, such as confidence, humility, positivity and enthusiasm, should be evident during a face-to-face interview. While phone interviews may be great for preliminary screening interviews, meeting with someone face-to-face in-person or video call gives you opportunities to incorporate factors such as body language into reactions to questions, giving you a better read on the potential hire’s personality.

Knowing what personality traits and qualities you want in your employees helps you build the best possible team for your company. When going through the recruiting and hiring process, use this list of 20 characteristics of a good employee to inform your decisions and ensure you hire someone who’s a great fit for the position.

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