Last updated: October 19, 2020
Once upon a time, the prevailing definition of dream employee was any applicant whose resume listed the specific skills and experience necessary to do the job. Not so in today’s fast-paced, rapidly changing business environment, where smart human resources professionals look for deeper, broader, less tangible qualifications. The right resume can still get an applicant through the door, but it’s often the traits revealed during the interview that determine whether or not an offer will be made.
Which traits will help you separate your dream employee from applicants who are merely skilled and experienced? Opinions on that are probably almost as numerous as the applicants in your pool, but most successful employers agree on a few critical characteristics.
- Proactivity. Did the applicant take the time to research both your company and the position and prepare questions about either or both?
- The ability to communicate clearly. Does the applicant demonstrate a talent for listening, as well the abilities to share information both verbally and in writing?
- Social intelligence. Does this individual seem to understand the work environment and be able to put interactions in context?
- Honesty/integrity. Does the applicant answer your questions honestly, even when those answers might be detrimental? What do references have to say?
- Intellectual curiosity. Does the applicant show an interest in finding solutions? How about willingness, or better yet, eagerness to master new technologies?
- Self-motivation/self-discipline. Will this prospective employee need micromanagement or instead demonstrate the ability to recognize a task, prioritize its parts, and get the job done?
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- Is this person likable and easy-going?
- Will this person be easy to work with and slide seamlessly into the company culture?
- Does the applicant seem passionate about your business, already excited about your vision and the chance to be part of the team that helps you fulfill it?
Look for someone who loves to hustle and get the job done ASAP, but without sacrificing quality.
Remember this, too: high-energy employees are adept at multi-tasking, learn quickly, and can supply the kind of positive energy needed to keep a team moving steadily toward the goal.
There may be an obvious reason we call them dream employees. Today’s ideal employee is a curious, lifelong learner. Look for a totally engaged individual who takes a creative approach to everything he or she does and loves to contribute new ideas and insights. Whether it be coming up with the next big thing—and a novel plan for implementing same—streamlining daily processes, or identifying and solving problems, you want to hire workers who can create an atmosphere of inventiveness, giving fresh impetus to the entire company.
Needless to say, your own company’s needs will influence your specific definition of the dream employee. That being the case, you’ll want to take the time to pinpoint the perfect traits before you actually begin the search. While you’re making your list think about the fact that skills can be learned and experience gained, but personality is ingrained.