An employee's success at a job can’t be predicted by his or her resume and experience. That piece of paper doesn’t tell you the full story. Sometimes, an individual's soft skills or personal habits are a better indication of their aptitude and potential to succeed. If you can identify these common traits that successful employees share, you can find high-quality employees who will help your company thrive. Here are eight habits to be on the lookout for during your next round of hires.
1. They are Respectful
Between co-workers, supervisors, customers and/or clients, there are many different personalities in a professional organization, so it’s unlikely that you will like everyone you encounter. Despite this, the most successful employees treat everyone with respect, regardless of personal feelings. They treat their peers and employees they manage with the same level of respect, which makes everyone feel valued and appreciated.
This mutual respect in the workplace creates a positive work environment. “When people work with one another with peace and harmony, they don’t have the time to focus on other shallow and petty ideas,” according to experts at Wisestep. “People will be more interested in finishing their assignments and boosting the levels of productivity at work.” Successful employees understand that respect is a two-way street. If they respect others, they will receive respect in return.
Question to ask: How did you handle a disagreement with another employee in the past?
2. They Take Initiative
Individuals who truly make a difference on a team or in an organization are the ones that go above and beyond the call of duty. They don’t just do what’s asked of them, they look for opportunities to take the lead or solve problems. Managers love these types of employees because they can work independently and don’t need to be micromanaged.
Question to ask: What is one instance where you took initiative, either at work or at home? What did you do and why?
3. They are Professional
Professionalism isn’t determined by an individual’s experience. Instead you see it in their intangible personality traits; the way employees carry themselves in the workplace.
Are they punctual or do they frequently show up late? Are they dressed appropriately and look put together or do they look like they just rolled out of bed? Do they take pride in their work and produce a product they’re proud of? Do they raise their hand and contribute insight during meetings or do they speak out of turn and interrupt other employees?
“Demonstrating professionalism is important at all levels in a company,” according to Kelsey Granowski, a Career Services Advisor from Rasmussen College. “Professionalism can benefit the company’s reputation, morale and success. It is not only the individuals in leadership roles that need to show professionalism.”
Question to ask: Give me an example of how you bring professionalism to your work.
4. Successful Employees Are Selfless and Authentic
It’s easy for job candidates to “talk themselves up” in an interview, but can the candidate talk about their successes within teams or the greater organization? Of course, everybody wants to achieve some level of personal success, but successful employees know how to be selfless. They understand when to put the company first and why it’s important.
This is especially important for managers and executives that will be representing your organization at client dinners, when networking, during sales calls and more. Making sure these types of employees can frame success within the greater organization is especially crucial as these interactions can inform how non-employees perceive your company.
"Authenticity is important for establishing reciprocal relationships with others in the executive arena. Long-term, rewarding professional partnerships don’t begin with a selfish attitude," says Ted Rollins, global entrepreneur, Co-Chairman and Founding Principal of Valeo Groupe. When your employees show selflessness, they’re able to establish better relationships that ultimately improve your company and its reputation.
Question to ask: Share an example of when you were selfless at work. Why did you do that and why do you consider it selfless?
5. They Have a Desire to Improve
Whether they’re managers, mid-level employees or entry-level workers, successful people constantly strive to improve. They’re not satisfied with the status quo and look for opportunities to get more from themselves and their team. These individuals appreciate constructive criticism and feedback because it gives them a chance to learn and improve.
If you can find employees with this desire and cultivate it within the workplace, you can be confident they will work hard to improve themselves and push the company forward.
Question to ask: Do you have any side projects or skills you’re trying to improve right now? If so, tell me about one of them.
6. They Take Responsibility
Successful employees are honest and take responsibility for their actions. This means that if something goes wrong—they miss a deadline or produce subpar results—they own up to their mistakes rather than looking to blame others.
Suha Abughosh, a bank Regional Manager has another way of looking at this, suggesting that responsibility is the same as accountability: “For example, instead of following up with other teammates to ensure the project is completed timely, the unaccountable worker forgets about the project the minute it leaves her desk,” she says.
How do you pick this person out of the crowd? Abughosh explains, “If the project's deadline is missed, she'll be sure to let everyone know that she did her part.” Pinpointing this during hiring is critical to avoiding resentful feelings among co-workers later.
Question to ask: Tell me about a time when you messed something up, at work or home, and owned up to it.
7. Successful Employees Stay Positive
Long hours, multiple projects and demanding deadlines can cause stress in an office. While it’s natural for workers to feel stressed, successful employees are able to stay positive.
“People who are negative bring down morale and demotivate,” writes Kevin Daum from Inc. “Employees create value when they help create a positive environment that others can't wait to join.”
Question to ask: How do you stay positive when work or a project is stressful? What are your tactics?
8. They Know When to Say No and Ask for Help
Successful people understand their limitations. While they’re eager to take on projects, challenge themselves and take initiative, they’re also realistic about what they can do. This means they’re not afraid to say “no” if they have too much on their plate, because they always want to do their best work.
Question to ask: Have you ever said no to a project because you had too much on your plate? Tell me about that experience.
When interviewing potential employees, try focusing on identifying employees that exhibit the traits and habits listed above. Employees that exhibit some or all the qualities as described above are more likely to positively impact your company.
For more advice on how to effectively use your interview process to identify top performing employees, check out Why Recruiters Should Consider Structured Interviews.
About the Author
Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a professional blogger and freelance writer. She spent the last two years working tirelessly for a small startup, where she learned a lot about running business and being resourceful. She now owns her own business and has been featured on Forbes. She’s also written for StartupNation, Manta, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 for more small business tips and ideas.