While skills are important in a new hire, it’s easy to train for them in most cases. What are not so easy to train for are what I call the three Hs of hiring — and a new hire who lacks these traits will not succeed, no matter how skilled they are.
I have hired my share of folks, and many of them have worked under my direct management, so I know whereof I speak.
And what are these crucial character traits? Let’s break them down:
Humility is an oft-overlooked quality in candidates, but its absence should be a deal-breaker.
Being humble doesn’t mean being self-effacing. Rather, it means recognizing you’re not “too good” for any task in the office. It means rolling up your sleeves and pitching in, even when it’s not your job.
Other characteristics of humble employees include:
- Remembering to share credit with their team
- Being honest about successes and failures
- Taking both criticism and praise in stride
- Being able and willing to learn new tasks and processes
When you hire someone humble, you hire someone who wants to work on a team, wants to learn and grow, and understands their role in the company. Plus, a study from Baylor University found that “those who possess the combination of honesty and humility have better job performance” than those who do not. (Honesty, it happens, is the second H — more on that below.)
How do you know if a candidate will be a humble employee? Watch for these signs:
- They use “we” and “our” instead of “me” or “mine.”
- They show rather than tell on a resume or in a portfolio.
- They engage politely with each person they meet, from the front desk admin to the head of their future department.
- They wait for the interviewer to finish before speaking.
On the other hand, the candidate in front of you may be a real braggart. Keep an eye out for these red flags:
- The candidate talks over those whom they think are less important.
- They almost always use “I” or “mine” when describing accomplishments but rely on team-oriented verbiage when discussing past failures.
- They point out the failings of others (bosses, former colleagues, professors, etc.).
- They start answering a question before you’ve finished asking it.
Here are some amazing things that honest employees bring to the table:
- They won’t allow colleagues or managers to be dishonest.
- They will give critical feedback you may not get elsewhere.
- They understand the social contract between company and employee and hold up their end of the bargain.
All that and they won’t steal from the supply closet! Honest employees are also the very best people to represent you to clients and maintain your hard-won brand image.
How do you ensure you’re hiring truthful employees? Start by bringing some of your most honest employees into the hiring decision. Honesty seeks out honesty, so these people will often be able to tell when candidates are telling the truth.
You should also be up front with candidates about how much you value honesty. This should drive more honest applicants to apply and less scrupulous candidates to self-select out.
Throughout the recruiting process, you should encourage candidates to study up on your core values — including, of course, honesty. During the interview, grill each candidate to see if they really understand your values. Ask your interviewees to explain your values and their feelings on each one. Pay close attention to their answers.
If you see long, unexplained gaps on a resume or multiple jobs in a short period of time, take note. This could be a sign that the candidate has trouble holding a job. Another red flag could be career regression, with the applicant’s roles seemingly diminishing in importance over time. Similarly, a candidate who has seen an unbelievable amount of success in a short time — like a superstar VP at 23 — is probably too good to be true.
Finally, background checks may be in order to verify that all candidates are telling the truth about their pasts.
Hunger is key. You may have the humblest, most honest candidate in town, but if they have no hunger for your company, your industry, your values, or their own role, then nothing you do or say is going to make them stay.
Hunger is tricky to define, but most of us know it when we see it. Hunger is what drives an employee to get up every day and do their job. Whether it’s hunger for their own career ambitions or hunger to be part of a successful company, there must be a hunger inside that employee to keep them motivated and engaged.
Identifying candidates who are hungry is actually pretty easy. Hungry candidates will let you know they’re hungry.
Recruiting hungry candidates requires being clear about your company culture in all its positive and negative aspects. After all, a hungry candidate will only thrive if your company offers them a mission they feel is worth pursuing.
AB InBev’s employer branding efforts can be instructive here. While there are downsides to having a company culture that’s described as “sink or swim,” the company refuses to sugarcoat the truth. Instead, it celebrates its fast-paced work environment, thereby attracting candidates who actually excel in such a high-stakes culture.
A version of this article originally appeared at iRevü.