If you're filling an open position, you want to find the perfect candidate who is hardworking, smart, confident -- in a word, successful. But with just a single-sheet resume on your desk and an hour-long interview before you, how can you assess the indefinable qualities that predict success?

These six entrepreneurs share the unique characteristics that can help you evaluate whether or not a candidate's on-paper successes will translate to your business.

Interest in personal projects.

You want your new hire to be someone who gives it their all when working on a company project, but this can be difficult to gauge before you see them at work. That's why Adam Steele, owner and operator of link-building company Loganix, looks to see that the candidate is motivated to complete projects outside of the office.

"I love to see that people I'm hiring have self-motivation and an interest in their own projects," he says. "I created a position for a developer once because I was so impressed with the projects he had played with when he was in between positions. He is an invaluable member of the team today who creates little apps for me that automize everything I do."

Willingness to accept feedback.

Roger Lee, CEO of 401(k) provider Captain401, recognizes that the ability to absorb feedback is what separates a great hire from the pack -- so he tests his candidates with mild criticism.

"I make it a point to give light critical feedback in an interview. You don't want a pushover that accepts all criticism, nor do you want the defensive 'my way or the highway' type," says Lee. "A good hire will thoughtfully evaluate feedback and have the flexibility to change. A great hire will ask questions to understand feedback so they can course correct on their own in the future."


"One question that really gets to the core of a candidate's ego is 'Do you consider yourself smart or lucky?'" says Adelyn Zhou, CMO of research and strategy firm TOPBOTS. A candidate who doesn't show appreciation for their success probably isn't someone you want to work with.

"This question identifies whether or not a candidate recognizes that their success is usually the result of many external factors outside of their control," she says. "While I want to hire someone smart, I also want to hire someone appreciative. It's good fortune to be born smart."

The ability to cite examples.

A list of skills on a resume means nothing if the candidate can't back it up with tangible examples. Sam Saxton, president of spiral stair manufacturer Paragon Stairs, asks follow-up questions to find hires who don't just talk the talk, but also walk the walk.

"Everyone tells you they're hardworking, innovative, a team player, etc. But those who can back these claims with real-world examples are the candidates to look for," he says. "The more I started to ask follow-up questions (tell me more about that, tell me how that worked), the easier it became to identify value."

Quick response time.

"You can tell a lot about a person by the time it takes for them to respond to an email," says Dave Nevogt, co-founder and CMO of Hubstaff, a time-tracking software platform for remote teams. So whether you're coordinating for an upcoming interview or waiting for a thank you note, pay attention to how quickly the candidate responds.

"I don't expect applicants to follow up within seconds, but a response within a few minutes or a couple of hours demonstrates more reliability than those who take days to respond," says Nevogt. "This is especially important for remote teams like ours because effective communication is key."

Passion for learning.

Derek Broman, CEO of discount gun retailer Discount Enterprises LLC, looks for new hires who are not only passionate about learning, but are also willing to speak up and teach their colleagues -- even their boss.

"I'm the boss, but I know I can learn from the people I hire. One thing that indicates success is a passion for learning," he says. "I try to surround myself with people who know and enjoy what they're doing, and we can learn together and from each other."