By: Maurice Gilbert
Good character is arguably more important than any skill set a candidate can bring to your company. After all, what use is an experienced corporate compliance officer if she never does what she says she’ll do? Unfortunately, I can’t direct you to a great book or executive training program that can instill good character. I’m afraid these things typically start long before candidates enter the job market. If you suspect, for example, that a candidate is irresponsible or lacks integrity, eliminate the professional from the interview process. Listed below are the most sought-after character traits that my clients look for when interviewing.
- Responsibility. This is everything from consistently completing one’s work to taking responsibility for one’s own actions. Although we’re more likely to use this word when talking about teenage drivers and babysitters, responsibility is a quality every employer wants in an employee.
- Positive attitude. The late Randy Pausch, in his recent bestseller The Last Lecture, put it best when he said we all have the choice to be either positive, glass half-full, Winnie the Poohs or pessimistic, down-in-the-mouth, Eeyores. Not only is life more fun for the Poohs, but they’re more productive employees and more inspiring leaders.
- Strong work ethic. Employers aren’t slave drivers, but they want to know that their workers are putting in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. If your employees are spending more time on Facebook than working, they are not a bargain under any circumstances.
- Professionalism. This includes everything from dress and demeanor to language and behavior. An ideal job candidate is one who looks polished and can hold her own at cocktail parties and expensive restaurants, not one who tells off-color jokes around the office and makes a spectacle of himself at the office holiday party.
- Integrity. Do you do what you say you’re going to do? Can you be trusted with confidential information? Are your expense reports truthful and reasonable? Employers want someone who can honestly answer questions like these with a resounding, “yes.”
- Adaptability. An ideal job candidate is one who can quickly shift gears and be resilient and thoughtful in the face of multiple, shifting priorities and even crises.
- Loyalty. Employers want workers who will stand by them, even when times are tough. They want employees who don’t badmouth them or their co-workers, who believe in the company’s mission—whether it’s providing health care or building cars—and who bring that passion with them to the office every day.
- Self-confidence. Call it poise, confidence or charisma, but the ideal job candidates carry themselves with a certain something that inspires others to trust them. Granted, much of this comes from actually being good at your job. But even the most competent workers can be undercut by their own lack of confidence.
- Initiative. Companies are always on the hunt for workers who don’t need to be told what to do before they do it. In a tough economy in particular, employers want employees who see a need and fill it, who think “outside the box” and who don’t wait around for a problem to become a crisis before they act on it.
- Hunger to learn. As any teacher will tell you, the best students are those who can’t wait to sink their teeth into something new. The ideal job candidates aren’t afraid to work outside their comfort zone. They are always looking for the next challenge and are anxious to dive into new projects and learn new things.
As you look to evaluate candidates for these character traits, remember that you can easily develop questions to screen for these attributes.
Maurice Gilbert is Managing Partner of Conselium Executive Search, which specializes in placing Compliance Officers and Legal Counsel for clients in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific. Maurice is also CEO of Corporate Compliance Insights, a worldwide publication devoted to governance, risk and compliance issues. Maurice can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.