Five Traits of Great Employees

From an employer’s perspective, there has never been more choice of prospective employees than there is in today’s job market. This allows employers to be picky with who they hire. While this may seem like a disadvantage to job-seekers, it can be a benefit to those who have desirable traits. The elite Fortune 100 companies didn’t get where they are today by handing out jobs to everyone who applies. Each of these companies has a hiring process that looks for the traits of the ideal employee, with these 5 following traits at the top of the shopping list.

1. Ambitious

Any company worth their salt is focused on sustained growth. This means creating a culture of ambitious employees working towards a common goal. No hiring manager wants to hire a prospect who is just looking for a paycheck. This is why “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” is one of the most asked questions in employment interviews. If an interviewee is thrown and has no clear plan, it usually shows a lack of ambition. On the other hand, a solid 5 year career plan will impress any hiring manager.

Visualize yourself advancing through the ranks when you apply for a company. Set a goal, like upper management within 5 years, and set smaller goals you need to hit to reach that point.

2. Honest

Dishonest employees cost every company money no matter the industry. It can range from small theft of merchandise to embezzling millions from the company and fixing the books to cover it up. The importance of honesty is proven by the extensive “what would you do in this situation?” type of questions in their applications. These questions are designed to test your moral integrity. Answering wrong on even one of these questions sends up a red flag that moves your application to the trash.

The good news is most people have enough integrity to not steal from their employer. If you need to work on your honesty, then the reality is you have a long way to go before you’re ready for employment.

3. Independent

Today’s corporate climate is fast-paced and only getting faster. Employees who can work by themselves with little direction are becoming increasingly valuable. The CEO of a large company doesn’t have the time to hold the hands of each employee. They want employees who can listen to directions once and don’t come back until the task is completed.

Being an independent worker comes down to good listening skills and confidence in your abilities. Good listening skills are crucial to working independently since it eliminates the need to constantly interrupt your boss with questions. Instead, ask for any clarifications while the boss is assigning your task. Paraphrase the directions and repeat them back to make sure you got them correct. This shows your boss that you pay attention and won’t go unnoticed when a promotion opens up.

Confidence in your abilities is also key. You need to feel comfortable making some judgment calls without having to bother your boss. If you can do this, then you show you can succeed in management.

4. Intelligent

Every employer wants employees with high intelligence. High intelligence is not limited to just “book smarts.” Common sense, people skills, and job-specific technical skills are all forms of intelligence. Intelligent employees are more skilled and less likely to have a problem with other employees. The good thing about intelligence is that is the trait that is most easily improved. All it takes is focus and dedication.

Those who reach the top 10% in their fields share one thing in common: they never stop learning. Even some people with ambitious goals get stagnant once they hit their goal. They feel like they can stop learning about their craft and go on cruise control. Those who strive to reach a level of mastery however, constantly research new industry trends and strategies to improve their efficiency. This trait is directly tied to ambition. The level of intelligence you reach within your field is dependent on how driven you are to be elite.

5. Personable

If you look at any job posting, you will see every company seeks prospects with “excellent verbal and written communication skills,” or ” people skills.” If your job has not already been replaced by technology, then your job involves some degree of interacting with other people. Industries that are service-orientated rely heavily on the excellent interpersonal skills to sell products and generate revenue.

People do business with a person they like, so a staff of personable people makes a company a lot more money than a staff of anti-social people. Being personable is also an important trait for maintaining office harmony. One bad seed in an office culture can reek havoc on the job satisfaction of other employees.

Developing good communication skills is as simple as raising your awareness on how we communicate. Go to your local bookstore and find one of the dozens of books written on the subject and make a conscious effort to learn the science behind communication. This will make you aware of your bad communication habits and let you deal with the bad communication habits of others more effectively.

To recap, the 5 main traits of a great employee are:

  • Ambitious
  • Honest
  • Independent
  • Intelligent
  • Personable

The reality is these 5 traits, while important, are only a handful of the dozens of traits corporations seek in their ideal employees. With that being said, they are the traits that are most easily improved and the most likely to be a deciding factor on whether or not you get your dream job.

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