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19 Best Qualities of a Good Employee

By Erin Ryan Reviewed By Mike Lucas
By Erin Ryan
By Erin Ryan Reviewed By Mike Lucas

Attracting top talent poses the greatest challenge to employers this year, according to an XpertHR Survey Report. Specifically, 83% of human resource professionals surveyed agreed. Needless to say, finding, hiring and keeping good, hardworking employees can be a challenging task.

So, how can you identify workers who will fit well within your company?

Here’s our list of key strengths of an employee that you need to know to assemble a stellar team.

1. Flexible

“One of the key qualities we are starting to look for especially post-pandemic is flexibility,” says Michael Cupps, senior vice president of marketing for ActiveOps. “How willing and open is the candidate to a change of direction?” 

Cupps adds that these need “not be huge things, but subtle changes necessary to carry out the work in a very uncertain business climate.”

To test for flexibility during interviews, Cupps says his company is “throwing subtle surprises at the candidates.” 

“For example, instead of just interviewing with one team member as planned, we might have two show up on the virtual call.” 

“I have also interrupted an interview on purpose and restarted after a 10-minute pause. All staying within the hour time prearranged to be respectful of time, but it does allow us to see how a candidate adapts to change.”

“The goal is to see how the candidate reacts to change, without causing them too much stress in the process,” shares Cupps.

2. Resilient

Another top characteristic of a good employee is resilience. Chintan Shah, president of KNB Communications, a marketing and public relations firm specializing in health care, says this quality makes candidates a strong asset to a company. 

Shah meets with prospective candidates before they’re hired. He comments that he looks for those “who have made mistakes, experienced failures and are not afraid to acknowledge them, but they have gotten back up, are ready for another round, armed with the knowledge they did not previously have.” 

3. Honest

One of the better qualities of a good employee candidate is honesty. 

“Honesty is important because it tends to be a reliable proxy for so many other qualities like accountability, forthrightness and a willingness to have difficult but necessary conversations,” says Eric Rohrback, chief marketing officer of law firm Hill & Ponton

Rohrback adds, however, “there is such a thing as too much honesty, and you want to make sure an employee understands concepts like diplomacy and context.” 

That said, “honesty is necessary for running a business during uncertain and constantly evolving economic times.

4. Demonstrates Integrity

Hand in hand with honesty comes integrity, which can be just as important in professional realms as it is in personal ones. 

Darren Nix, the founder of Steadily Landlord Insurance, has this to say on the topic: “In today’s age, people cannot hide their mistakes, at least not for long. And mistakes happen, but they can only be fixed when caught early and taken care of as soon as possible.” 

Nix says, “Employees with fanatical levels of integrity not only report their mistakes, but are frequently the ones who find them.” 

You also can trust these workers with other aspects of the business, such as time, resources and high-priority projects, he adds.

5. Coachable

“One of the best qualities of a top-tier employee is their coachability,” says Loren Howard, founder of Prime Plus Mortgages.

This may be particularly true in a small business, where one employee may be responsible for varied tasks.

“Most employees won’t have the perfect experience or skill set, but if they can be coached and can learn, they can be one of the best assets to your company.” 

“You want to be able to grow your employees as your company grows,” says Howard.

6. Ambitious

Ambition is another attribute of a good employee. It can’t be replicated or replaced with another skill, but it is contagious. Hiring ambitious employees can have a positive impact on your entire team, and the more pride everyone puts into their work, the better the result.

7. Effective Communicator

Many people confuse being a great communicator with being talkative. While talking is undoubtedly a large part of communicating, one of the qualities in a good employee you’re looking for isn’t the loudest person in the room, but rather the person who can most clearly convey what it is that they’re trying to say.

Effective communication is helpful for the following:

  • Office meetings
  • Client calls
  • Team tasks
  • Writing

Image of a rabbit with raised ears and the words “good listener”

8. Good Listener

“Someone who listens is ready to learn,” says Stefan Chekanov, chief executive officer (CEO) of Brosix. “They want to hear so they can be informed and become stronger.” 

Additionally, Chekanov says good listeners are typically more empathetic and often favored by other employees.

When it comes to listening, here are a few ways you can evaluate the strength of a good employee:

  • They don’t interrupt.
  • They give you their full attention.
  • They ask open-ended questions.
  • They recap what they believe they heard and ask for validation.

9. Great Attitude

Employees with great attitudes can be valuable assets, even if they aren’t quite refined yet in their line of work.

“Employees who are upbeat and enthusiastic are critical components of your company’s culture of success,” says Matt Weidle, business development manager at Buyer’s Guide.  

“They have the ability to bring people together and keep the team on track, even when things go challenging for them,” says Weidle. 

He adds, “Hiring someone with a positive outlook will excite the team and assist you in taking your firm to new heights of success.”

10. Confident

Skill is important, but without confidence, that skill might never see the light of day. During your hiring process, confidence is something to keep an eye out for, as is overconfidence.

After all, there is a difference between being confident and being cocky. The right employee for your business is one who is confident enough in their work to stand by it but humble enough to take criticism when needed.

You should be able to identify a confident applicant from basic interview questions like “What do you think you can bring to this company?”

11. Humble

Humility is another good employee trait. It is the line between confidence and arrogance. While it’s often thought to be a respected trait in leaders, it’s also an important skill of a good employee and a valuable component within the culture of a company.

Research has shown generosity and helpfulness to be among the character traits of humble people. Humility also encourages the following traits highly valued in many organizations:

  • Tolerance
  • Openness
  • Realistic viewpoints
  • Appreciation of others

12. Growth-Minded

“The most valuable quality for an employee is a willingness and desire to grow,” says Jeff Meeks, vice president of sales and marketing at EnergyFit. “You want someone who is prepared to grow with your company and is excited to learn and master new skills.” 

Meeks adds, “It’s all a question of whether your workforce is static or dynamic. A static workforce may consist of employees with impressive skill sets, but as soon as your company outgrows the preliminary set of skills, you are held back by an unwillingness or lack of capacity for growth. A dynamic workforce, however, will grow with your company.” 

With a dynamic workforce, “Employee turnaround will decrease significantly, company loyalty and community will increase and your workforce will contribute to the evolution and success of your organization,” he says. 

13. Reliable 

A reliable, dependable person is a model of consistency, and this is another characteristic of a good employee.

“Knowing that the job will get done and it will get done well is what every manager looks for,” says Alex Williams, chief financial officer of FindThisBest

“Reliable employees prove time and again that they finish their tasks on time and they are always up to the standards.” 

Signs of a dependable employee:

  • Consistently arrives to work on time 
  • Takes initiative
  • Always meets deadlines
  • Asks questions and knows what’s expected of them

14. Strategic Self-Starter

While working well as part of a team is important, it’s arguably equally as important to be a self-starter who’s able to function independently when needed. 

Independent workers don’t need to be micromanaged because they’re able to direct themselves. They often have good organizational skills, manage time well and give a task the full attention it requires. 

Along these lines, Teri Shern, cofounder of Conex Boxes, says hiring managers should be on the lookout for workers displaying a trait she refers to as “calculated initiative.”

While employees might think that certain situations are good for taking initiative, there are still times when it’s best to get help, and an employee who can distinguish between when it’s best to get help and when to just do it themselves is very valuable,” Shern says. 

“When an employee has this trait, it means they know their limits as well as know how to judge difficult situations carefully,” she says. 

“You can therefore trust that they’ll do more than what’s asked of them and that they’ll do it well, which will help your company improve in areas you might not even realize need improvement.”

15. Team Player

Every business is a team, some bigger than others. And just as important as the leader of that team are the role players. Being able to work with other employees toward achieving a common goal is one of the professional qualities you should always look for in a new hire.

“The majority of businesses today are teamwork-oriented,” shares Dominique Kemps, CEO of The Glassperts

“The workplace is a real-life laboratory where individuals with different characters and perspectives merge into one team, each individual adding part of his or her expertise and knowledge.” 

“Employees must be able to listen to their colleagues, accept criticism from the boss and adjust their own style in order to achieve mutual understanding,” says Kemps.

Here are a few ways to identify a team player:

  • Listens well
  • Isn’t afraid to lead but doesn’t need to
  • Can give and receive constructive feedback
  • Has a history of collaboration

16. Good Cultural Fit

Hiring employees who match your company’s culture, values and vision is arguably just as important as every other quality on this list.

“This attribute is far more valuable in the long run than you might think and could make all the difference when it comes to converting leads, making the right business decisions and more,” says Josh Wright, CEO of CellPhoneDeal.

When you’re interviewing for a new position, especially one that’s part of a collaborative team, it’s important to keep your current employees and their personalities in mind as well. 

Finding employees who get along and work well together can make an immediate impact on the way your company socializes internally and can even increase productivity.

Not surprisingly, culture and values ranked the highest among workplace factors that mattered the most to employees in the U.S., according to Glassdoor’s Economic Research report.

17. Detail-Oriented

Being detail-oriented is a must in today’s business environment. A detail-oriented employee is one that makes few mistakes, follows directions well and asks questions if they need something clarified. 

You may be able to identify a detail-oriented employee in the interviewing process by the questions they ask and the information they’ve gathered on their own about your company.

Image of a hermit crab and the words “creative thinker”

18. Creative Thinker

A creative thinker not only finds ways around simple obstacles but brings new ideas and different perspectives to the table.

“Employees that bring forward unique opinions and solutions have a good impact on your organization and in no time, they become a valuable asset to a firm.” says Patti Naiser, CEO of Senior Home Transitions.

Naiser suggests hiring people who can think outside of the box.  

Identifying a creative employee in the interviewing process can be tricky but there are ways to do it. One way is to present your applicants with a hypothetical situation to which there is no wrong answer. You’re not necessarily interested in their solution but more in their thought process and the creative ways they decide to solve the problem.

19. Embraces Challenges

Another skill of a good employee that you should seek is the ability to embrace challenges. If you ask this employee to complete a task they’ve never attempted before, not only will they do it, they’ll try their hardest to understand and accomplish it.

Deren Tavgac, cofounder of data analytics company Cube Analytics says, “I always tell my team that the first reaction to a challenge should be trying to carve out a path to ‘yes.’ It’s always easiest to say no, or assume something cannot be done, but successful employees are resilient and never see no as an immediate solution.”

Identifying Good Qualities for a Job Candidate

With 20 years of human resource and recruiting experience, Jodi Brandstetter, CEO of Lean Effective Talent Strategies, offers this advice when searching for new talent: “A good employee is not the same for every one company. In order to create the best hiring process to find the best talent for your company, a company needs to understand its culture as well as the role.”

“By understanding your culture, you can link traits and attributes that you want from a new employee,” says Brandsetter. “Once you have the traits and attributes, you can build interview questions around them to ensure the candidate meets your company’s culture.”

Additionally, author of “Hire the Best … and Avoid the Rest,” Michael Mercer, Ph.D., offers this tip: “Before hiring anyone, you must uncover qualities of your current best, wonderful employees in the same job. Then, you focus on applicants who have the same or very similar qualities of your best employees in the same job.” 

Mercer suggests gathering biographical details of your top existing workers, including previous work experience and training, and having them take personality and intelligence tests. The goal is to have a benchmark you can compare to incoming applicants for similar roles.

Erin Ryan Social Community Manager and Senior Writer at Fast Capital 360
Erin has more than 15 years’ experience writing, proofreading and editing web content, technical documentation, instructional materials, marketing copy, editorials, social copy and creative content. In her role at Fast Capital 360, Erin covers topics of interest to small business owners, including sales, marketing, business management and financing.
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