When you're hiring for an open position, you hope to get a wide pool of applicants who have the skills and experience you're seeking. However, as you review that stack of resumes and post-interview notes, it can be difficult to separate the best from the rest -- especially if many meet your qualifications on paper.

To help make that decision easier, we asked a group of successful entrepreneurs to share some clear signs that they believe indicate a high-quality candidate. Here's what they look for in their applicants and why each candidate skill or trait is so important.


While skills and knowledge are a great indication of what a candidate can do, they don't give you insight into their abilities to adapt and grow, says Jaryd Hermann, founder and CEO of WECAST INC. That's why you need to look for a candidate who is proactive in their career.

"A candidate who will take initiative means they create value beyond the scope and deal with problems independently," Hermann says. "Their hunger and ability to learn shows their growth potential."  


In any business, things can change quickly and require the flexibility and adaptability to pivot. Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance, says that if things change course in the middle of a project, a top performer can simply adjust and still deliver great results.

"That's what sets your top-level folks apart from the rest -- they're essentially cross-trained employees who never received any cross-training," Schrage adds.

A Natural Ability To Learn

According to Nicole Munoz, founder and CEO of Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc., an employee who is able to learn skills on their own is a tremendous asset to have. 

"It shows a great degree of capability and flexibility and a broad range of interests, which means that this person can become very valuable to the company," Munoz says. 

Good Communication Skills

Having good communication skills is vital in any workplace, so during the hiring process, observe how well a candidate communicates and whether they're at ease, says Syed Balkhi, co-founder of WPBeginner.

"If you're looking at long-term and leadership roles, it's important to hire someone who has the ability to communicate well," Balkhi explains.

Value Alignment

Like many great leaders, Jennifer A. Barnes, founder and CEO of Optima Office, Inc, looks for candidates who align with her personal and company values. She does this by asking unique interview questions that reveal a person's character.

"I love asking how they would spend $5 million after taxes, what their biggest pet peeve is, when the last time they did something new for the first time was or what their favorite place to vacation is," Barnes says.

A Deep Interest In The Company

Most candidates know they need to demonstrate some level of knowledge about the company they've applied to. Kevin Leyes, founder and CEO of Leyes Media and Team Leyes, looks for applicants who go beyond the basics and ask deeper questions to get to know the company even better.

"They should already have prior knowledge and a broad notion of the company's values and vision, what's being sought and what's being done on a daily basis," Leyes says. "Deeper questions that cannot be publicly clarified are welcome, and in many cases can even be positive, as great interest is shown."

A Vision Of How They'll Fit In

When Jordan Conrad, founder and publisher of Writing Explained, is hiring someone, he not only wants the candidate to understand the business and its goals, but he also wants them to have a clear idea of how they fit the job and what they can offer. 

"Candidates who bring real, tangible ideas of what they would do if hired show they've researched the job position and are serious enough that they've already begun their work," Conrad explains.

The Right Behavioral Skills

Stephanie Wells, founder and lead developer of Formidable Forms, says behavioral skills should be a primary focus when you're hiring someone new.

"Behavioral questions during their interviews will tell you how they behave under pressure, handle conflict, etc.," says Wells. "It's important to evaluate these characteristics so you know you have a team player who listens to feedback and has a good attitude."