Twelve recruiting experts share the top traits they’re looking for in good employees. Follow their blueprint and make your next amazing hire.

What makes a good employee in an organization?

Is it culture, skills, or something else?

What are recruiters looking for when they are filling their open spots?

And with unemployment rates at record lows, candidates also have their pick. How can you find great candidates with the qualities that you desire?

We asked 12 top recruiting leaders, CEOs, and business owners about how they attract talent and what they look for in great hires.

Question: What are the qualities of a good employee?

Every job position has a different set of ideal characteristics. For example, top-performing salespeople tend to be fairly extroverted while the best programmers lean towards being introverts. With that being said, if I were to select a few characteristics that I want all my employees to have it would be integrity, accountability, creativity, adaptability, and high aptitude levels.

Employers often tend to focus on skill sets alone and overlook the important qualities that make ideal workers, resulting in bad hires. Identifying quality employees who share a growth mindset, creativity, and leadership potential, can improve workplace productivity. Employees with a growth mindset are excited to learn new skills and competencies while evolving with technology. They are not intimidated by innovation and advancements. Creative employees apply their knowledge to solve problems in new ways. When you add these qualities with leadership potential, they can keep the company morale high and get others excited as well.
Tania Fiero
Tania Fiero
PHR, SHRM-CP, Vice President, Human Resources
Innovative Employee Solutions
A good employee does everything that is expected of him or her. A great employee does everything that is expected of him or her…AND THEN SOME. Great employees anticipate next steps and plan accordingly. They read. They crave information to see the bigger picture. They ask thoughtful questions. They make connections. They visualize outcomes and make things happen. They realize that effective strategy is only as good as its execution. Great employees see the possibilities in challenges and create solutions. They bring others with them and raise people up to accomplish goals together.
The most essential elements I seek in employees today are proficiency in: Communication skills, self-awareness, ability to influence, empathy, and the ability to learn new things quickly and apply them at work. Beyond these I really want to have someone who possesses grit and drive. I look for people who do not need a high level of direction or instruction and are able to tolerate a high degree of ambiguity.
As the CEO of a growing recruitment firm, hiring the right people is critical to success. Tiger is nothing without our incredible team! In new hires, I like to see a willingness to learn and the ability to ask for help when necessary. While many recruitment CEOs might look for KPI-driven salespeople, I hire people who demonstrate the core values of Tiger and who are going to be likeable professionals that our candidates and clients will enjoy working with.
Our ideal employee is one that reflects our company values. We aim to hire people who are humble yet ambitious, helpful, self-aware, and empathetic. The concept of 'cultural fit' is one we intentionally avoid as culturally homogeneous teams tend to stifle innovation. Instead, we place significant emphasis on people who add to our company from a cultural perspective, be that through life experience and/or professional experience.
Stevie Buckley-min
Stevie Buckley
Director of Talent

As a specialist recruitment company, when recruiting for our clients and when recruiting for ourselves, the characteristics of a good employee very often comes down to attitude and approach. If someone is able to communicate effectively, has a positive ‘can-do’ attitude and is able to work effectively both individually and collaboratively with teams of people, then it is very likely they will have success. Consistency in behaviour and self motivation are key to achievement. Recruiting people with the values of the organisation will ensure greater likelihood of success.

We know that if people feel good about where they work and who they work for, they can thrive and continue to deliver results.

As businesses become increasingly globalized and reliant on technology, employees skilled in communication remain crucial. It’s also important to have employees who are willing to experience new cultures and engage with their colleagues across the globe, which will benefit both the employee and the business by improving communication and fostering a sense of community. Finally, employees who contribute feedback are necessary to help build an environment which supports honesty and encourages personal and professional growth.
Jen Locklear-min
Jennifer Locklear
SPHR, Chief Talent Officer
We look for people who have a highly developed sense of ownership, accountability, and empathy. These types of employees will want to build productive relationships with their clients, candidates, and colleagues. It’s really hard to train those skills. Beyond these soft skills, we seek active learners: those who know what they don’t know, who then will proactively pursue the solutions to problems as they come up.
Chris Murdock
Chris Murdock
Co-Founder and Chief Sourcing Officer
IQTalent Partners
Here at Scoop, our diverse team is united by our desire to fundamentally improve the way people get to work. We value curious, considerate problem-solvers who are excited to get their hands dirty–ready to give a good push–who lead with contagious energy and a deep desire to always continue learning. These characteristics map back to the values we as a company embody each day, and ultimately lead to a team of individuals who feel empowered to make this experience the most valuable of their career.
Jon Sadow-min
Jon Sadow
Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer

1. Drive - Recruiting is love/hate. You either love the thrill of finding candidates or you don't. Nothing in between. The recruiters I have hired over the years have always had a passion to be better at what s/he does whether it be researching new ways to find candidates or bringing up new ways or processes to do things faster and smarter.

2. Customer Service - I started in operations with Marriott. I knew that when I decided to pursue my career I wanted to be positively impacting people and I expect the same from my employees. The goal is to always stay ahead of your clients not waiting for them to ask but delivering what you promised and when you said you would deliver. That is, if they tell the hiring manager they want three to five candidates by a specific date, the expectation sits with the recruiter to deliver on time, every time.

3. Promotability - When interviewing recruiters and sourcers, I am looking for vision, hard work, team player, but most importantly, can they take their skills to the next level. Can I see them in my role? I always look for this because I am replaceable.

One of the perks we offer in joining 15Five is the Gallups StrengthsFinder assessment, in which we help employees determine their strengths and try our best to align their strengths to hone in on their Zone of Genius, and become their best-selves. When employees are operating in their Zone of Genius, they are performing at their highest ability and have the ability to learn and grow - another one of our company values. We look for people who are vibrant, engage in activities that improve that vibrancy and are inspired to continually learn, grow, and expand their capacity as individuals in order to make a significant and meaningful impact in the world.
Shane Metcalf
Shane Metcalf
Co-Founder and Chief Culture Officer

Conclusion: What Makes a Good Employee?

A selection of the top qualities as listed by the experts:

  • Integrity
  • Problem-solvers
  • Customer-centric
  • Accountability
  • Active learners
  • Grit

Ultimately, it’s a two-way street. Your company will influence team members as much as those team members will impact your company.

That means your company should embody many of the characteristics you’re looking for in them, such as a positive attitude, a strong work ethic, and emotional intelligence.

Creating a company culture that values those qualities will give your new hires a place to shine.

  • What other traits do you think are important for good employees?
  • What recruiting tactics are you using to find good employees?