You can’t tell everything about someone from a CV. That’s the whole point of inviting applicants to interview for a job! But what qualities are the best ones to be on the lookout for? According to one set of statistics, 89% of failed hires are because of issues over their attitude or personality. While many personality traits often appear as buzzwords on a CV without any substance behind them, these are three of the most important qualities we look for in our candidates when we meet them. And you should be looking for them too!
1. Desire to learn
The way we do business has changed rapidly in recent years. And there are no signs to suggest we’ll be slowing down any time soon. New technology has had a huge impact (when was the last time you sent a fax?) in the past, and continues to do so. Being an early adopter of new ideas has set many businesses apart from their competitors. If your business isn’t going to be left behind, you want to recruit new employees who aren’t just willing, but want to learn new skills and adapt to changes.
Equally, no-one wants to work with someone who thinks they know it all already. It’s not only important to learn in a more formal sense, pick up new skills or go on a training course, but learning from colleagues’ experiences as well.
So how do you spot a genuine desire to learn, from someone who just talks the talk? Asking directly might not get you a very honest picture. Instead, try to dig out the evidence to back it up. “What is the biggest thing you’ve learnt in your previous role?” might be a good place to start. Look for evidence of learning on your CV too, and try and get the story behind them. Having attended a conference or worked towards a qualification is always a plus, but it’s much better if that was something that the candidate pushed for themselves, rather than being sent by a manager (possibly against their will!).
2. Creativity and problem solving
Creativity doesn’t just mean making pretty flyers or writing a witty blog post. Creativity is about having new ideas, or being able to come up with a solution when you’re faced with a problem or challenge.
If you just want to hire someone who will sit at their desk, clock in at 9, out at 5 and not ask any questions, then this won’t be important to you. But if you want to recruit staff who can help to grow your business and bring new ideas, you need to look for these skills at all levels.
Ask what new processes or routines someone put in place and the mark they might have left of a business. Alternatively, ask about a difficult problem that they had to solve – it might be anything from a customer needing help with a complex issue, something that’s gone wrong that needed a candidate to think on their feet.
Self-awareness means being aware of how you come across to others, and understanding the way you think, your strengths and weaknesses and things you can and can’t do.
Lacking this trait impacts on your ability to interact effectively with your colleagues and work as a team. You might be inadvertently rubbing co-workers up the wrong way, taking on too many things than you can handle, and equally, feeling like criticisms or comments on your work aren’t justified.
The infamous “What’s your biggest weakness?” question might seem like a cliché now that everyone will be prepared for, but it’s a good one to look for self-awareness in a candidate. The humblebrag answer, saying a weakness that’s really a strength, doesn’t come off well as you don’t really learn much from it, just that the candidate is perhaps a little smug, or doesn’t fully grasp what their strengths and weaknesses are. You want to be listening for a real weakness, but also how the candidate is addressing it – not only that they see it as a problem, but that they’re inclined to act on it too.
The danger of asking this question is that you’re giving candidates a huge opportunity to shoot themselves in the foot, and they may spend the rest of the interview worried that it’s holding them back. You could always paraphrase the question, and ask what someone else would say (or has said in the past) and ask what they felt about it.
Not all candidates will necessarily tick every box, both when it comes to skills, and personality and attitude. But as well as thinking about what technical skills should be prioritised or trained, think about the personality traits that will ensure most success too. These are the three that we think are great all-round traits for any position. Do you look for any different attributes? Let us know on social media.