October 5, 2020
How to Hire the Right Candidate: 10 Qualities to Consider

A survey conducted by Leadership IQ found that 46% of new hires failed within 18 months and that 89% of the time, it was for attitude, not lack of technical skill. 

In a nutshell, soft skills are just as important as job-related skills and technical requirements when it comes to hiring the right candidate. Any wise business leader or human resources expert would advise you to hire based on personality and attitude, not just experience and qualifications. You can train employees on systems, processes, and technical skills, but things like being a good team player and self-motivation are much more difficult (and time-consuming) to teach.

When you need to fill an important role as soon as possible, it can be tempting to hire the first candidate who looks great on paper and checks all the experience and skills boxes. Before rushing to onboard new team members, however, you should have a clear idea of who will fit in with your company’s culture.

Still wondering how to hire the right candidate for the job? Check out our list of 10 qualities to consider below, with tips and questions for evaluating each one.

10 Qualities of Strong Candidates

These hiring tips will help you develop interview questions and make mental notes of how applicants perform in each of these areas. 

Keen to Collaborate

Ensure the candidate is comfortable working on a team and ready to pull their weight. 

On one hand, this means looking for someone who welcomes other ideas and handles feedback—both giving and receiving—well. Basically, their ego doesn’t get in the way. On the other hand, a good team player is also happy to contribute with their portion of a project. They don’t rely on their team to carry most of the load. 

Hire the right candidate by choosing a strong team player who values collaboration and diversity. This type of individual will have the interpersonal skills that make them an effective addition to the team.

Hiring Tip

Look and listen for words like collaborated, coordinated, advised, and contributed. 

Interview Questions

  • Can you share examples of working on a team and how you contributed? 
  • Can you tell me about times you have had to give and receive feedback and how you handled both?

Self-Motivated & Confident

Part of hiring the right candidate is finding someone who is ready to hit the ground running. They don’t need a lot of oversight or direction, outside of the standard training and orientation to get them up to speed on your business. A self-motivated employee is also productive and able to finish projects quickly and cleanly.

Confidence goes hand-in-hand with self-motivation. When a worker is self-assured in their abilities and experience, they will be driven to take initiative and go the extra mile. Someone who can work autonomously will be willing to take risks and try new things to benefit the company.

Hiring Tip

Keep an eye out for applicants who demonstrate confidence in their abilities and talents during the interview process.

Interview Questions

  • What is an example of a project you have led or an idea you’ve taken charge of with little help from others? 
  • Can you share a time you’ve taken a risk at work that has paid off? 
  • How do you manage your time and projects, particularly when you are under pressure and deadlines?

Highly Adaptable

Business moves fast and the economy is always changing. Employers can hire the right candidate by identifying those who are flexible and open to changes. Are they comfortable changing course when a project has to take a hard left turn? 

An adaptive individual is also willing and eager to take on new roles, challenges, and ways of thinking when necessary. This is the type of employee who will help your organization keep growing and moving forward, even in the face of uncertainty. 

Hiring Tip

Look and listen for indicators that a candidate has shown open-mindedness and a willingness to learn new skills regularly.

Interview Questions

  • What is an example of a time you have had to grow and/or switch gears on short notice?
  • What steps did you take to shift your thinking and still get the job done well?

Strong Communication Skills

You want to hire people who can comfortably communicate with colleagues, clients, and partners. This means they are effective at all forms of communication, so pay attention to their style via phone, email, and in person. 

Remember, the best communicators also have great listening skills. They ask good questions and follow directions well. A great communicator knows when to speak up, when to ask questions, and when to simply listen—a priceless skill.

Hiring Tips

  • Is the candidate clear and engaging in all forms of communication? Note their body language and how they interact with others. 
  • During the interview, introduce them to other employees not involved in the interview process to gain other perspectives of their communication style and personality.
  • Do they ask thoughtful questions to learn more about your business?

Creatively Resourceful

As today’s culture focuses on reducing waste and consumption, it is becoming increasingly important for companies to establish responsible practices. Identify candidates who know how to maximize the resources available to them. Are they dedicated to responsible practices and saving the company supplies, time, and money? How do they make the most of the resources and budget available to them?

Hiring Tip

Look for clues that the candidate believes in consuming less and is committed to social responsibility.

Interview Questions

  • Can you share an example of a time when you had to be resourceful in your previous job?
  • What are some ways you make an effort to do more for less?

Strong Work Ethic

An employee with a strong work ethic sets goals for him or herself and works hard to get the job done well. They are not worried about their time spent in the office and are willing to stay late or come in early to complete their work on time. These employees typically produce quality work and have high levels of productivity.

Hiring Tip

Listen for examples of times they have exceeded expectations for previous employers. Ask about the candidate’s work ethic during the reference check.

Interview Questions

  • How have you gone above and beyond for previous employers? Please share an example and specific steps you took to get the job done.
  • What are some motivation techniques you use to achieve your goals?

Lover of Learning

An employee who shows an innate curiosity and desire to keep learning can go far in a growing company. They actively search for ways to learn both in their field and in their other areas of interest. Look for people who have passions and seek out new information and experiences, both professionally and otherwise.

Hiring Tip

When a candidate discusses their interests, notice their excitement about the topic and if you can sense their passion.

Interview Questions

  • What are some of your passions and interests outside of work?
  • How do you pursue and learn more about those interests?


Will the candidate produce work that is clean and polished? Someone who is detail-oriented completes error-free work, good organization, and timeliness.

A detail-oriented employee is not necessarily a perfectionist, but someone who takes pride in producing high-quality, professional work. They review their work and fact-check themselves. Every employee represents your company in some way, so make sure they are doing so well.

Hiring Tips 

  • Resumés and cover letters with multiple errors are red flags. 
  • Consider pre-employment testing to assess this quality.
  • Do they reply in a timely manner and submit requested information accurately and on time? 

Embracing of Mistakes

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein

Strong employees recognize that mistakes happen and admit to them. Even more, they embrace them as a learning experience. This indicates an able learner who is humble and ready to glean important lessons from every situation, even the not-so-pretty mistakes.

Hiring Tip

Note if candidates seem reluctant to discuss their mistakes or can’t think of examples of their failures.

Interview Question

What are three examples of failures and what did you learn from them?

Critical Thinker

Critical thinking is another vital skill that many employers forget to consider, only to pay the price down the road. A candidate with good critical thinking and analytical skills should be able to:

  • Identify patterns and trends in information and data affecting your business
  • Look deeper and ask questions about information and processes
  • Investigate ways to improve processes and help your company’s mission

Interview Questions

  • What are some examples of times you’ve had to process and apply information, workflows, or organizational crises? 
  • How do you keep the big picture in mind and stay proactive about trends regarding your work/industry?

Hire the Right Candidate Based on Attitude

In the words of Richard Branson, “Hiring the right people takes time, the right questions, and a healthy dose of curiosity.” 

Hire the right candidate by taking your time with the process. Ask questions that make candidates dig deeper, and make sure you know exactly what kind of person you want to bring onboard. A poor hire costs much more than spending some extra time and effort to find the right fit for the job. 

Consider these qualities and hiring tips next time you are preparing to interview a candidate, and you’ll be on the right track. If you need more assistance tailoring your interview process and bringing on the right people for your company, contact BlueLion’s human resources experts at info@bluelionllc.com or 603-818-4131 today.

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.