Top 6 Attributes to Look for in Job Candidates

Top 6 Attributes to Look for in Job Candidates

The working world has never been as competitive as it is today. Just thirty years ago, young people could expect to graduate from high school and walk into work the next day, where they might spend 30 years at the same company. Today’s workers will need at least an undergraduate degree for most jobs, and they will have to pivot many times throughout their careers as our rapidly changing world continues to change the way we work.

Accordingly, companies are no longer looking to fill seats with anyone who can read and write. We are in the age of company culture, and with some skills working more like commodities, companies are increasingly evaluating soft skills and personal qualities when it comes to making hiring decisions. As a recruiter, it’s your job to ensure that you’re vetting candidates for these qualities before placing them in a role where they could make a big impact.

Here are the six attributes that employers are looking for, and some questions you can ask to help identify quality candidates.


Being liked by others at work is an important determinant of success. When a prospective new hire walks into an interview, employers understand that they might have this person around for a long time. If the candidate is disrespectful, disagreeable, or unapproachable, their technical skills will probably never make up for the needless friction and stress that they bring to the work environment.

Conversely, a likeable employee who is generally agreeable and can effectively socialize and become part of the “work family” is seen as an asset. If the candidate gets along with everyone, it’s easy to find them a place where they can use their skills to help out.

Question: Have you ever had problems getting along with a co-worker? How did you address or resolve the issue?


A candidate who is likable but uncooperative is still unlikely to make an effective co-worker. Teamwork is more than just a skill, it’s a value system and a way of thinking about one’s role in a company or a project. To say that someone is good at teamwork is to say that the candidate understands how to play a role in a group and strive towards a common cause. Employees with poor team-working skills may try to solve large problems on their own and become frustrated when their efforts are ineffective.

Question: Can you describe a time where you were in charge of a team for a specific task? How did you organize resources to achieve the desired outcome?


When people think of integrity, they often think of “truthfulness” – but honesty on its own misses the full story of what it means to have integrity. Integrity means staying true to yourself in your expressions and actions, and it could be one of the most valuable attributes on this list. People with integrity hold themselves accountable for their words and actions, communicate their feelings and thoughts honestly, and admit their mistakes.

Candidates with integrity will never speak badly about past employers, as they are duty-driven and take their responsibilities and promises seriously. These are people that everyone wants on their team.

Question: Can you describe a mistake you made at your previous job and the steps you took to correct or resolve it?

Drive for Results

I love the phrase “drive for results”. When a candidate exemplifies this quality, it means they will continue to push to get the maximum benefit for themselves and the company, in every moment of the day. While an average salesperson aims to hit their target, a superstar tries to exceed expectations and get the most out of every opportunity.

If you can find a candidate whose barometer for success is calibrated towards doing the maximum – not the bare minimum asked – that person is ready to be a star performer.

Question: Describe a time where you had to meet a critical deadline, or when your measured performance was very important for the success of the team. How did you achieve the end result?

Inner Strength/Perseverance

How do you make the best of a bad situation? How does your outlook change when prospects are bleak? The answers to these questions will define your inner strength and perseverance, a quality that determines how you react when faced with adversity. Many candidates are excellent potential team-mates when things are going well, but all businesses face difficult times and employers want somebody that they can rely on when the going gets rough.

Candidates that have demonstrated inner strength have shown that they can survive mentally and physically in the face of adversity, and have even used that ability to guide others. A candidate like this will eventually be ready to take on challenging leadership roles in big organizations.

Question: Can you describe a time where you faced a challenge that was too big to overcome? How did you react? What actions did you take?


Technology is quickly changing the way that we work, and constant education and re-education is required to stay on top of the latest methods and keep businesses competitive. A growth-focused candidate understands that they are not living a static existence where everything changes around them. They understand that they are also capable of change, and that this powerful fact enables them to adapt and succeed in new environments.

Employers know that change is a constant in business, and they want to hire someone that will adapt to new changes instead of resisting them. The ideal candidate views change as an opportunity for further growth and development, and they actually embrace change instead of shying away from it.

Question: Can you describe a time when you had to adapt to an organizational or business change in your previous role? What was the change? What was the end result?


Demonstrating great personal attributes is essential for success in any organization. Ensure that your candidates have the qualities described and you can place them into the right role with confidence.

Sara Pollock

As the Head of Marketing at ClearCompany, Sara has spent hundreds of hours interviewing, hiring, onboarding and assessing employees and candidates. She is passionate about sharing the best practices she has learned from both successes and failures in talent acquisition and management.

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