Whether you employ five people for 500, finding the right employee is one of the most critical tasks you will face. Employees are the ambassadors of your business, with the power to make or break your reputation and either generate--or cost--you money and credibility.

Any new employee requires an investment in training, but some of the factors most critical to an employee's success are difficult to teach. Look past the resume and the standard interview Q&A to see if the candidate has the mindset to be successful at your company. Education and experience are important, but consider these other important qualities when evaluating your next candidate.


If you find someone who is not looking for just any job but is particularly excited about working for you or your company, pay attention. Give special consideration to the applicant who is a fan of your products or raves about your industry reputation. Employees who actively target the places they want to work will bring a passion to the job far beyond those simply interested in collecting a paycheck.


Not every interviewee will follow up with a thank you note or reach out during the decision-making process, but those that do are demonstrating their interest, professionalism, persistence and attention to every detail.


As the interviewer, you will be asking questions, but the ideal candidate will come in with questions of her own. The strongest applicants are interested in expanding their knowledge and will want a deeper understanding of your company, the position, your vision and your industry. Look for someone who is open and excited to learn and grow, as opposed to someone who comes in thinking they already know everything.

Listening Skills

This is an often overlooked skill, but an important one when dealing with clients, coworkers and other stakeholders. Good listeners are relationship builders. If someone tends to interrupt or talk over others in an interview situation, they will probably do the same thing with your customers.


The right hire will fit in with the existing company culture and people. If they will be interacting with your clients, think about how their personalities will mesh. Someone's over-the-top exuberance might be entertaining in an interview, but it might be difficult to work with them with them for long periods of time in close quarters. On the other hand, an interviewee who is lackluster, doesn't smile and shows little interest in asking questions is not the right fit either.

A Funny Side

A sense of humor not only contributes to a fun work environment and employee bonding, but is also a sign of emotional intelligence. If a job candidate appreciates your sense of humor, they may also bring strong interpersonal skills to the position. You will be working alongside each other in the trenches, so it's good to have employees you enjoy being around.


Being able to look on the bright side is a valuable asset in any employee. A positive outlook often signifies a resilience and fortitude that can benefit your company. If a prospect uses interview time to describe everything that was wrong with their last job, that's a red flag. If they are saying it about someone else, they will no doubt soon be sharing improper information about you at some point.


The smaller the business, the more important your team members multitask and demonstrate their willingness to shoulder a variety of responsibilities. When the workload gets heavy, you need someone willing to jump in and do whatever is necessary, regardless of their job title. Watch for signs they are open to doing whatever needs to be done even when it falls outside their job description. "It's not my job" is a pathway to failure for the small business.


Experience is not as important as someone who is self-motivated and tenacious. The best employees are looking for a combination of growth opportunities, responsibility, autonomy and a chance to prove their worth. If you have the choice between someone who has years of experience but a bad attitude, or a person who is anxious to work and has more to offer in terms of ambition and drive, choose the latter. Experience is important, but a positive, ambitious person will bring new energy to your company while gaining the experience on the job.