The MOST Important Key Traits for a Productive Employee

Employees are the lifeblood of your organization. Running a profitable business means that you must be able to delegate responsibility and trust that the job will be done with the utmost of integrity.  This begins and ends with hiring the right person for the job. If you miss this important step in your business development it could cost you millions in lost revenue so take the time and contemplate the process seriously. When you hire the wrong employee, you not only slow down production, but can lose enormous money down the line.

Successful Business Meeting — Image by © Corbis

What makes an ideal employee often depends on your vision for your business but underlying all potential candidates are a few key character traits. I’ve learned over the last 7 years that when you have A+ employees, you’ll provides products, and services which are A+. Let’s examine them here a bit more closely.

Hire People Smarter Than You

Hire people extremely specialized in their field because they’ll be able to provide awesome insight to your bottom line. They’ll be able to provide the best insight into whatever they are doing within your company.

A general laborer can accomplish the job of an electrician if given the proper direction but an electrician can’t facilitate the process independently and eliminate the possibility of malfunctions and electrical fires. This is why it’s important to hire people who can get the job done if they need to by themselves. For example, hiring people specialized in a field that you yourself are not well-versed in, allows you the freedom to concentrate on other projects with full confidence that the job will be done professionally.

Employee job performance is directly proportional to the amount of autonomy and self-direction given by employers to their staff. Therefore, it stands to reason, that employees with a rich knowledge in their specialty will have the necessary skills to initiate and facilitate their own work paths and thus eliminate the need for micro-management.

There are many ways you can find the right people for the job. Always invest in head-hunters who are responsible for finding the best people for the job. Never be cheap on quality employees because the output is way more then the actual amount of money you have spent.

Don’t Take Culture for Granted

Your mission statement reflects the values and attitudes that drive your business practice. Upholding the tenets of your philosophy or modus operundi means that employees must follow practices which lend themselves to achieving your ultimate goals. This can be described as the culture of your company.

The strength of your vision will be tested during difficult times and how well it survives depends significantly on your employees and the degree to which they adhere to company practices. It is for this reason that it is vital to hire individuals who fall into your particular company culture. KISSmetrics suffered through a class-action lawsuit and due to the strength of their company culture they were able to retain every one of their employees. Hiring practices that take this factor into consideration are setting themselves up for long-term business success.

Try incorporating questions into your interview process that directly address this issue.  Zappo is a company which has taken this to the extreme. They even go so far as to entice potential candidates to quit within the initial interview by promising them monetary compensation. Albeit, this is a drastic tactic but it certainly helps them weed out individuals who are truly not committed to the company. Keeping company culture intact allows your company to thrive and survive over the long haul so why not put the stakes high from the beginning.

Hire Hungry People

Leading a successful company takes drive, determination and above all hard work. Motivation is the key here. What motivates your potential candidates?  The most qualified applicant is not always the best choice. How hungry are they to prove themselves? Will they roll up their sleeves and get deep into the thick of it? When push comes to shove will they step up and get their hands dirty in order to make your company thrive?

Let me illustrate my point.

Neil Patel has mentioned that at KISSmetrics he had narrowed their search down to two potential candidates to lead our new sales team. Both of them had years of experience doing what he needed them to do, however the person selected came down to one important thing; motivation.

This is the type of individual who brings energy to a team. Hunger equals drive so hire someone who doesn’t just want the job but needs the job to further their own career. It is no surprise that this is the candidate which was chosen; not the most qualified but certainly the one with the most hunger.

You need to have someone who is motivated to do the best work no matter what the situation. I’m sure we all know people who are very educated, but find it very hard to secure a job, and it all comes down to one thing going forward. It’s all about the attitude, and motivation they bring to the table. I rather hire someone who is less educated, but be willing to work hard every night to get the project completed. This person will try to make sure they find a solution, and will try almost everything available to them to make sure it gets done. When they run out of options, they’ll network with the right people to make sure they still find a way to get the job done.

In the end, as time goes on you know this employee can be trusted to handle the entire job. This in the end adds value to your company…right?

Money Isn’t Everything

Look for candidates that are excited by the prospect of working for your company. Individuals who are intrigued by the possibility of furthering your vision and are keen on learning from you will ultimately make the best employees. These same people know there is value by working for you, and will work their tail off even if the money isn’t high.

All people require monetary compensation for their efforts. Those whose intentions fall in line with your vision won’t mind being compensated at a slightly lower rate in order to be a part of something bigger. These people know the reward will come at a later time once they have helped you build a bigger, and better company. You’ve seen this happen at companies like Apple and even Google.

Fortitude in business requires stealth in finding and hiring the right person for the job. Employ individuals whose motivation isn’t just monetary but who are invested in everything your company has to offer.

Understand Scaling Doesn’t Happen Without Progress

Forward thinking employees help grow your business. These people stay positive, and continue to make the right decision NO matter what the situation. They know moving forward is the only way they will change the current situation, and this mind frame is very important to any organization.

It is efficiency which will drive your company to succeed so pay attention to the processes you employ.  Growth requires hiring more employees, giving effective training and scaling systems to meet the needs of an expanding company.

Look to hire individuals who can readily adapt and creatively employ solutions to the processes you have set forth. It is only by testing, measuring and adjusting your business plans that you can hope to see growth and development in your company.

Hiring individuals who are adept at managing difficulties and developing solutions will ultimately allow you to expand and successfully navigate the expected growing pains.

Don’t Accept Candidates from Recruiting Firms

Above I mentioned head hunters, and believe if you have an in-house hunter than it’s OK to hire people they recommend. These people are in-house so work for you, and no other company.

Recruiting firms are a source of potential employees but perhaps not the first line pick. It is quite possible to encounter reliable employees through this avenue but beware that you are selecting candidates who felt it necessary to employ a service to lead them to employment. You might want to take this into consideration as generally speaking confident talented individuals can source out their own employment.

Recruiting internally is quite a different story and doesn’t fall under the same category as hiring an external recruiting firm. Test out this theory for yourself to determine its validity but let me just give you a word of caution; buyer beware.


Accountability and integrity are vital character traits of a good employee. Incorporating simple creative tasks in the interview process can help you gauge a potential candidate’s ability to organize and pay attention to details. Inevitably you want employees who are self-sufficient and who will inspire your trust. Smart and talented employees can help you to create effective team environments but accountability is critical to building successful business ventures.

A productive employee will always hold themselves responsible for a mistake made because this will give them motivation to better themselves. Any employee who feels they have NOT made a mistake will never excel to make things better, and this will be very bad for business. The person which is working for you, and going to be the MOST productive will always strive to be better even if this means to hold themselves accountable for whatever has happened.

Solid Communication

Communication within your organization is extremely important to your overall success. Breakdowns in communication can negatively impact your business and ultimately your bottom line. Throughout the interview process it is crucial to pay attention to body language, facial expressions and the level of eye contact. The presentation of a potential employee in an interview setting can help you to determine their communication style and degree to which they can actively listen and decipher important information.

Final Thoughts

Hiring just the right person for the job can seem like a daunting task at first.  Creating an effective interview and selection process may seem like tedious work but it can yield fantastic results for your business if done correctly. When you see your business triple by working with the right employee’s, you’ll know in the end you’ve made the right choice.

My suggestion is to source out candidates from Linkedin because they provide VAST amounts of information. LinkedIn these days is like an online resume which is way more organized.  This is by far one of the most lucrative ways of finding the best potential candidates for your job openings.

Concentrate your efforts on developing effective strategies to recognize positive character traits of potential employees and the payoff will come in the form of dividends to your company and the success of your business.