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April 29, 2011
Eight Universal Qualities of Great Employees
If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants. — DAVID OGILVY, Advertising Executive and Author
Obviously the right qualities for different jobs vary tremendously, but here are eight qualities that should be regarded as universal:
1. Look for personality over formal education, but take both if you can get them. Most people coming out of college with a background in marketing know nothing. I have hired several young people right out of school and most tell me they learn more at our office in two weeks—honestly, TWO WEEKS—than they learned in college. (They have to read Cunningly Clever Marketing in week one.) A friendly, outgoing, enthusiastic disposition, and a desire to know more, is normally far more important than formal education. If they have both—great.
2. Look for positive attitude and positive body language. Positive thinking is so overused it’s a cliché, but its value is real; you should never discount it. The glass is either half full or half empty. Don’t even bother trying to fill up the half-empty people. It doesn’t work.
Body language is something that’s not often considered, but is important. It not only affects your customers, it affects your other employees. I have heard that Ritz-Carlton won’t hire people who can’t make positive eye contact in an interview. If you can’t sit straight, stand straight, and walk around with a smile, it’s a problem that grows like cancer.
If they have both a positive attitude and personality, you won’t have to worry about them being a “team player.”
3. Look for people who are REALLY open to personal growth and learning new skills. Few people are interested in acquiring new skills. At least a dozen of our current clients have marketing people in place who are running on three cylinders and should be fired. Why? Because they are either “too smart” or “too busy” to actually improve their basic marketing skills. All have delayed our continuous offers of FREE training on how to get the most benefit from our website product. This would take about an hour and would instantly improve their communications, save them time, and make their companies more money.
I frequently interview people who profess their love of learning, but leave clues about their REAL attitude towards self-improvement by saying things like “I didn’t take that course or buy that book because the company wouldn’t pay for it.” Anyone who would leave their personal and business development and longterm success to the whims of their boss is a moron.
4. Look for organized people. Look for people with excellent organizational and time management skills. Disorganized people simply cost you too much time and money. Look at their cars; if they’re a mess, that’s their general method of operation.
The number of people who show up to an interview having not read our corporate website in detail is astonishing and, once again, shows a lack of basic organization. The information is there for the taking; if they don’t take it now when they are looking for
a job, they won’t bother later.
5. Look for the right age group that fits your product or service. Obviously the ideal age for employees will depend on your business to a large degree (for example, 21 or older if you sell alcohol and perhaps over 55 if selling senior living). All things being equal, throughout my business career I have found the most productive employees are usually people in their late twenties to early thirties. By 28 or so, most people are partied out and looking for a career, and people of this age are far more likely to take direction than older employees.
There are, of course, a ton of great people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond… but they have kids, spouses, pets, aging parents, prejudices, and physical ailments that 28–35 year olds simply don’t have. They are also seldom willing to work all the hours God gave—including weekends and holidays—to get a start-up going.
6. Look for speed and a bias for ACTION rather than procrastination. In today’s world, where everything changes fast, speed is of the utmost importance. It’s not just speed you are after, but a predisposition towards action rather than inaction. You want people who will get things done and not agonize over each little decision.
7. Look for contributors, not takers. Regardless of the position, you want an employee who is willing to contribute ideas and answers for improvement, rather than just blindly follow the status quo. Ask questions about what they would do differently if they got the job. Employees who contribute to the process and actively participate in general office life are far more valuable than those who don’t—and most don’t.
8. Look for dependability—there is no substitute. Last, and by no means least, great employees are always dependable. This means they are punctual. In the five years or so I worked at a menial job while in my early twenties, I never showed up late. I guess I just expect the same. Punctuality is nothing more than a form of courtesy and self-discipline, and you don’t need people who don’t have either of these traits.
Good employees have a strong commitment to finishing the job. The real world is not 9–5 and it never has been. If they are not willing to stay an extra 15 minutes to get a project completed on schedule or help a customer with a problem, they should be working for a big corporation, not you. Dependable people do the job they are supposed to do every time, and no one has to worry that they won’t deliver the goods.
It will help your hiring process immensely if you list the qualities you are looking for in a new employee and stick to them when hiring.

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Andrew Wood has been a successful entrepreneur in multiple industries and one of the world's leading marketing experts specializing in strategies that will quickly increase your business. He has authored more than 20 books including the "Cunningly Clever" series of books on marketing, sales, and entrepreneurship. Andrew speaks worldwide on sales and marketing topics and has a large following on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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