Top 5 Key Traits Employers Seek in Prospective New Hires

Top 5 Key Traits Employers Seek in Prospective New Hires

by SFAN Staff · Career advice

Fri, 17 Aug 2018 · 3 minute read

SFAN image

There are certain traits that make you successful in a job.

In my previous article, I shared some insights on the 6 biggest job application mistakes you must avoid at all costs. A gentleman reached out to me after reading the article to ask if I could write a follow-up piece on what employers look for when hiring.

I have had the pleasure of participating in numerous recruitment exercises both through personal engagements with institutions like President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) West Africa (as a consultant responsible for assessing and interviewing applicants from 9 YALI West African countries including training a team of local and international assessors and interviewers) and through SFAN’s job placement initiatives.

Regardless of size, industry or legal structure, the five traits below are distinguishing traits many employers look for in a prospective new hire.

Smartness - clever, witty, or readily effective attitude 

Whenever we sit down with a client for a briefing, this is one of the traits mentioned again and again as the first thing they want from a new hire. The reason is simple -- employers want someone who can get the job done.

It’s no longer enough to focus on the job description, you need an experience and mastery of other transferable skills like social media, communication, email, etc. Therefore, your ability to demonstrate both industry competence and related functional leadership will set you apart.

Passion - strong and barely controllable desire 

The business world is getting increasingly fierce, thanks to technology and competition. A passion for your work helps you maintain the level of focus and commitment required to survive and thrive. Consequently, recruiting managers are keen to find candidates who can progressively demonstrate dedication and commitment to their job. When someone cares about the job, he or she can go the extra mile in delivering above and beyond expected results -- not just doing the barest minimum that earns him/her a paycheck. A candidate with passion adds great value to the company.

And, it is easy to tell whether a person is passionate or not. One meeting or interview with a candidate is enough to tell you whether he or she is passionate. 

I have seen that candidates that approach an interview with enthusiasm and have concrete goals for their career, a self-development plan, and are able to articulate their thoughts usually perform well on the job. As any recruiter will tell you, self-motivated candidates are like flickers of light; they help others find direction.

Kindness - the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate 

We live in a world where everyone does not have the same starting point. Therefore, you must be compassionate and considerate in how you treat yourself and other people.

We have all heard of the power of little acts of kindness. A prominent example is the incident of August 2016 Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro. Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D’Agostino where four laps from finishing the 5000m race when they tripped and fell. The American athlete, Abbey D’Agostino got up first but instead of continuing running, she pulled up her opponent and said, “get up, we have to finish this!” Unfortunately, shortly after that, her knee gave out; she had injured her right leg in the fall. D’Agostino was on all fours on the Olympic track, her face writ in pain.

Realizing what had happened, Hamblin stopped running and reached back for her. They continued to run side-by-side in the bottom spot until they finished the race. These women have never met each other before.

Although this might be an exceptional case, we encounter issues and situations in the workplace every day that one may be tempted to look the other way. However, one act of compassion may be all you need to make a lasting difference. And, it starts with being gentle to yourself because if you are not kind to you, you cannot be kind to anyone else.

Hustle - grit, a trait of perseverance 

Angela Duckworth
is an American psychologist and researcher. As part of her work, she
spent years researching traits that make a person successful or not.
From Westpoint Military Academy to National Spelling Bee to Private
Sales Enterprises to Hollywood, one significant characteristic she
learned as a distinguishing factor for success is a simple word, grit. 

Grit, as she defines
it is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals; stamina,
ability to stick with your future day-in-day-out, and working hard to
make that a reality. Grit is living life like a marathon, not a sprint. 

Our era of instagramification has led many to believe that
success (in jobs and life) can be automated like social media posts and
grocery orders. But then you study highly successful people and you
realize that to be successful at anything you do requires a mind-blowing
work ethic. Candidates that demonstrate the ability to hustle and reach
for their goals will always outshine others who want things to happen
by autopilot. 

Research has proven that talent alone does not make a person great; the world is filled with talented failures. 

Carol Dweck , the Professor of Psychology at Stanford University popularised the idea of Growth Mindset through her book “Growth Mindset: The New Psychology of Success ”.
It says that the ability to learn is not fixed, it can be learned. In
other words, failure is not a permanent condition, it can change with

Integrity - the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles 

Being dependable and trustworthy one of the most important traits in the
workplace. It fosters a great work environment.\n\nNo one wants to deal
with someone or a company that says one thing but goes on to do an
entirely different thing. We all want someone that can follow through,
take responsibility for their actions and execute on commitments. 

Strive Masiyiwa
is the billionaire founder of Econet Wireless. His teachings are filled
with stories taken from his own experience in which he steadfastly
refused to compromise his principles. Masiyiwa says that integrity is
one of the major reasons for his success in life and business: “In my 30
years running a business (remember I started in 1986),” he wrote,” I’ve
met and known some highly gifted entrepreneurs who looked ready to set
the whole world ablaze, but after a few years, some of them failed
spectacularly. Whenever I looked back on what had happened… more often
than not, it was an issue of integrity.” 

No matter how much success a person accumulates by compromising or
cheating, it will eventually fizzle away. Every culture and belief show
there are no shortcuts to success. It may be painful to maintain your
honest stance but in the long run, it will pay off.

In the words of Brian Tracy,
self-development trainer and coach,  “there should be no exceptions to
honesty and integrity. Integrity is a state of mind and is not
situational. If you compromise your integrity in small situations with
little consequence, then it becomes very easy to compromise on the big

Join thousands of young Africans launching their careers.

Get free career and entrepreneurship tips delivered directly to your inbox.