8 Skills to Look for in New Hires

Anyone who’s gone through the hiring process knows–often the number of candidates, skills, objectives and experience can be quite a bit to wade through!

When it’s time to hire a new employee, finding the right candidate can be a challenge, especially when you’re judging them based on a brief history and canned comments on a resume or cover letter. Even those who make it past the initial screening process can be easy to misjudge.

Job application of a new hire

We’ve all been there–the candidate who interviewed great, had a stellar cover letter and a flawless resume, only to deliver a lackluster job performance. After a few months, you cringe, wondering what happened and where you went wrong. On paper, they seemed like such a great choice.

There are a few skills you can look for in candidates that might not initially appear on their resume, but can really help you make the right decision. As a small business owner, you often are running a tight ship with just a few employees, and a hiring mistake could set you back months in time and revenue.

Make the right choice up front by keeping your eye out for these 8 skills to look for in new hires.

1. Considerate of Your Needs

Ask not what your potential employer can do for you… A good potential employee should ask questions about the offerings and expectations of the job, of course, but they should focus on what they can bring to the table.

If you’ve ever interviewed someone and felt like you’ve done all the talking, or selling, take a step back. The potential employee should want the job, and should tell you what they can do for the company (and not the other way around).

Ask about times they looked out for the needs of their coworkers, or a time they did something for someone else. It sounds like a strange question, but an employee who’s considerate and giving, will treat their employer (and customers) with the same kindness. Anyone who knows customer service knows the customer is always right. You want your entire team to put customers first.

2. Creative

Even if you aren’t in a creative field, in today’s job market a little creativity can go a long way. Look at resumes that are eye-catching, cover letters that stand out, or candidates who find a way to stick out from the crowd.

In small businesses, creative approaches to problem solving are vital. You want employees who display creative ideas and can think outside the box. Even if the job doesn’t require traditional creative activities.

Ask interviewees about a time they approached a problem creatively to get a different result, even if it wasn’t work-related. How quickly do they think on their feet and what sort of forward thinking do they display in their answer?

3. Engaging and Personable

Some great candidates aren’t naturally good at interviewing. They might be nervous or apprehensive. They might want the job so badly they’re afraid to do or say the wrong thing, so they hold back.

Even a nervous person should be warm and engaging. They should talk with you openly, offer eye-contact, a smile and a firm handshake. They should listen to your questions carefully, and never interrupt or talk over you (even if they’re very excited to give an answer).

Imagine if they were talking with a customer or a client. What behavior would you, and the client hope for and expect? In an interview, the candidate should show those same great listening and personality skills, even if they’re a little shy.

Work with CRM system

4. Experience with Data

Perhaps you have internal or proprietary software the candidate is unfamiliar with or needs to be trained on. Many companies do, and you might miss out on a great candidate if you only search for someone who’s familiar with your billing program, accounting software, or project management.

However, in today’s workplace, computer skills are practically mandatory across the board, and potential employees should be able to discuss a time they’ve dealt with data, whether it was managing a CRM for customer contacts, or compiling orders and reports. Ask them about their comfort level, and how they would approach a project.

No matter what their role in the company, they should be able to manage a contacts and emails, handle a calendar, and offer basic computer literacy. Experience and comfort with database systems ensures they’re tech savvy enough to adapt and learn any software they may run into on the job.

5. Attention to Detail

Attention to detail shines through on cover letters, resumes, and a candidate’s LinkedIn profile. You can also take a note on how they present themselves, what kind of attention they show to instructions, and paperwork such as applications and background forms.

Everyone makes mistakes, and you don’t want to turn away a great employee because of a fluke situation, but multiple typos, a sloppy appearance, or someone who can’t seem to follow basic instructions during the interview process is definitely waving a red flag.

Candidates should want to put their best foot forward. They should pay careful attention to instructions and requests made during the interview process. They should show up on time to the interview and present you with a clean, well-written resume, cover letter, and potential references upon request.

6. Don’t Know Everything (But Are Willing to Learn)

A willingness to learn new tasks is almost as valuable as the employee who says they already know them all. It’s rarely expected that an interviewer knows all the company software or specific language they might not have encountered at their prior job.

Great potential employees, should admit when they don’t know something. They should be willing to be honest about their experience and show an openness and even an enthusiasm when it comes to learning new things.

Ask your interview candidate for the last time they learned a new skill–job related or otherwise, and can they tell you about the experience? They should offer some insights from their learning process and talk about how they grew and expanded their knowledge when they faced a new situation.

Happy office worker

7. Speak Highly of Previous Employers

When someone’s coming in to a new job, chances are they left their previous job for a good reason. Maybe it didn’t fit their needs or personality any longer. Maybe there were bad feelings or something happened.

When an employee is interviewing for a new role, even if they left their previous job on the worst of terms, they should still be able to give you the positive aspects of working for that employer. What experiences did they have there, and what did they learn?

Think about it–someday, if they leave your organization, they might say the same things about you. An employee that takes accountability for their role in a poor job fit is displaying insight and emotional intelligence. You want to hire someone who understands their fit in the world around them. Rather than an employee who talks about how things were unfair, or how it was other’s fault, you want someone who can talk about how they used the experience to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and move forward.

8. Have a Clean Reputation

In today’s day and age, employees should be social media savvy enough to know how to adjust their privacy settings. If you can find photos of them doing keg-stands in college (or last weekend), chances are they either don’t care about their reputation or they don’t know how to avoid sharing private information. Both are not great qualities for a potential job candidate.

If someone doesn’t care enough to keep their personal life personal, you know that it might spill over into the office later down the road. Think of your delicate, snobbiest (or most opinionated) client, what would they think if they saw this potential employee’s profile?

In some fields, sharing and social reputation isn’t as crucial, but everyone should have enough social media and online savvy to keep their private lives out of the workplace and away from the eyes of their potential new boss.

Businesses report that up to 50% of new hires turn out to be duds. With a smart hiring strategy, you can find an employee who will be great for your business. It can be intimidating to look through endless resumes but keep your eye out for those who stand above the crowd!