What’s the Most Important Trait to Look For in an Employee?

Hiring is one of the most crucial decisions every entrepreneur makes. Staffing choices are some of the toughest in any business, but because every person counts in an entrepreneurial venture, the people you choose are even more vital. As the business expands, the list of things you must delegate grows, which means putting more trust in more people. With so much on the line, how do you choose the perfect people for those roles?

Hiring is far more art than science. You could easily ask five great business people about the best way to hire talent and get five different answers. Even hiring mammoth Google, who once tried to identify the smartest candidates with bizarre interview brainteasers, later admitted that their unusual questions weren’t reliable predictors of who would ultimately become a good employee.

How do you sort out the smartest from the friendliest, the most skilled from those with the most potential, and the team players from those who are just out for themselves? How do you make big decisions about who to trust within a miniscule interview period?

The answer is simple: Always go with your gut.

What do your instincts say?

Some studies, such as this analysis from the Harvard Business Review, say algorithms are more successful than humans when it comes to choosing the right job candidates. However, I argue that it’s better to hire the person you have a good “gut feeling” about. According to a University of Cambridge study, sensitive instincts can be a key driver in business success, and I agree. American culture emphasizes visible facts over instinct, but gut feelings are one of your best hiring tools. It’s the subconscious intelligence that points out traits in people that are harder to quantify on paper, such as creativity.

Get the team involved

As an entrepreneur, you may be the supreme ruler of your business, but the person you hire likely won’t work with you exclusively. Even though the hiring manager makes the decision about who to bring on board, it’s wise to involve the team the candidate will actually work with in the interview and evaluation process. You might get lucky working on your own every time, but it’s better to involve people you trust in the choice of who joins the work family. For this process to work, you also have to make sure employees have a comfortable space to provide candid feedback. Give them a place to share concerns and upsides, and listen carefully.

Diversify your interview questions

When someone is asked to describe their personality in an interview, they’re often trying to tell you what they think you want to hear. Instead, tune your questions to get answers that will show who someone really is. As they speak, do you get a sense that they are competitive, driven, soft spoken, or intuitive? To get a better sense of the person, make your questions more creative and approachable. For example, what would their best friend tell you about them if they were here? What was their last Facebook post about? What do they do to blow off steam when they’re stressed, and what do they do for fun? Tim Padgett, President and CEO of The Pepper Group, asks who a candidate would ask to an intimate dinner party.

Hire specific personalities for specific job categories

Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson famously believes that in hiring, personality is more important than skillset because “you can’t train a personality.” I hire different personalities for different roles. For example, managers need to be fair, accountable, encouraging, and realistic. A good manager will be positive and want to coach employees and bring out the best in them. They also need awareness and empathy. “Front people” are the born extroverts who are energized by time with people and don’t mind being assertive; they’re the ones you want greeting people on the phone, attending trade shows, and selling. Visionaries are the sensitive, creative problem solvers who assess the present accurately and see past the moment into the future. For extra support in discerning personality type, many companies rely on the Big Five or Myers-Briggs.

Take the interview outside the office

This rule applies to every role, but especially to jobs that include sales and public-facing responsibilities. Take your top candidates out to lunch, ideally with the group they will work with closely, and let everyone get a sense of them in an informal setting. How are their table manners? Are they comfortable making conversation with a group they don’t know well? How do they treat the waiter and other people who aren’t directly related to the interview? A casual lunch is an optimal environment to just relax with a candidate and let those inner instincts go to work.

Kyle Zagrodzky is president of OsteoStrong, the health and wellness system with a focus on stronger bones, improved strength, and better balance in less than 10 minutes a week using scientifically proven and patented osteogenic loading technology. OsteoStrong introduced a new era in modern wellness and anti-aging in 2011 and has since helped thousands of clients between ages 8 and 98 improve strength, balance, endurance, and bone density. In 2014, the brand signed commitments with nine regional developers to launch 500 new locations across America. Today, the OsteoStrong brand is staying true to its growth towards a brand with global reach with the addition of more franchise sales and new regional developers.


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