Essential job skills to look for when hiring

When looking to recruit strong-performing professional personnel, whether IT or otherwise, recruiters should look for several key traits

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Essential job skills to look for when hiring Steinberg: Organisations should look for seven key traits in their potential hires.
By  Scott Steinberg Published  May 23, 2013

When looking to recruit strong-performing professional personnel, whether IT or otherwise, recruiters should look for several key traits, says Scott Steinberg, head of strategic consultancy TechSavvy Global.

According to recent research by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), businesses looking to hire professionals for new jobs will find ten talents and skills to be defining traits amongst high performers. Allowing career-minded executives to better deal with change and the necessities of a fast-paced and distributed working world where leadership and strategic decision-making have become crucial, the ten defining hallmarks of these individuals are an ability to prioritise; to work well in teams; organisational awareness; effective problem solving skills; self-awareness; proactivity; an ability to influence; effective decision making skills; learning agility and being technically savvy.

Per the CEB’s findings, these high-impact employees are much better equipped to deal with the growing need for flexibility and collaboration when making business decisions. Just one problem: The organisation notes that they’re “scarce” and that most “employees lack the ideal mix of skills and competencies to achieve employers’ desired outcome” — hardly reassuring sentiments for upper management or your HR department. With more important business decisions that affect larger groups of key stakeholders increasingly being made at lower levels of management, major shifts in corporate culture and strategic thinking amongst new hires are required.

Happily, certain types of job seekers looking to more meaningfully contribute to their organisation and grow their careers may be better predisposed to mastering these new success skills and rules of engagement. Below are seven traits you might look for in new hires to determine whether they’ve got what it takes to be defining members of your team, and key players as your enterprise realigns to better meet the needs of a changing market landscape:

Communication Skills
The umbrella term ‘communication skills’ includes a trifecta of abilities including the capacity to listen, write and speak. This is one of the top qualities employers look for in modern-day hires, since it’s essential when it comes to receiving, interpreting and giving direction. Likewise, a sense of social intelligence is also vital: Employees need to be able to understand where peers, colleagues and strategic partners are coming from, not just the words they’re saying, so they can better empathise and act on this information.

Chances are your employees will be simultaneously involved in several projects, tasks or initiatives — the ability to juggle all with aplomb is a highly-valued skill. Effective multi-tasking is achieved when work is completed both efficiently and correctly, and with a minimum of inefficiency and stress. Tomorrow’s workers must be well-equipped to juggle multiple tasks.


Enthusiasm is a valuable asset in new hires, as it shows the employee in question is passionate about the tasks he or she is performing for the organisation. It goes hand in hand with positivity, and both can make a noticeable difference in what’s often a stressed, strained and/or hectic work environment. Plus, according to Sigal Barsade, Professor of Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, positivity is not only contagious, but has an impact on overall job performance, decision-making, creativity and turnover. A winning attitude can be invaluable, and contagious.

Decision-Making Ability

Problem solving is a skill that sits somewhere at the nexus of creativity, level-headedness and logic. Those who exhibit it demonstrate a proven ability to objectively interpret incoming signals, and act both thoughtfully and with grace when a solution is needed. Workers with solid problem-solving skills aren’t just strategic thinkers – they should be able to keep a cool head when a situation arises and stay on task without the need for micro-management.


While not a single defining trait unto themselves, the possession of solid organisational skills can be an asset to any worker. They serve as an indicator that an employee is self-disciplined enough to gather the necessary information and data to keep his or her tasks both well-managed and on-schedule — important traits for any leader. Powerful organisational skills alone do not great managers make, but they do help drive job candidates to be more professional, efficient and productive.

Integrity means being true and honest to oneself and others. It shows that someone knows his or her strengths and weaknesses, isn’t afraid to make mistakes or accept responsibility for doing so, and possesses a high degree of loyalty. Someone with strong integrity is someone who can be trusted to show respect, take responsibility and stand by the old adage ‘honesty is the best policy’ — all a boon to your enterprises.

Chances are your open positions will require employees who are able to cooperate and collaborate seamlessly with others. Therefore, you’ll want someone warm, friendly, easygoing and genuine — a solid team player can help bolster any winning lineup. With teamwork key to business success, look for candidates who are ready and willing to become a meaningful part of your organisation’s roster of all-star performers.

Scott Steinberg, a top-ranked international event speaker on the lecture circuit, is a bestselling expert on leadership and innovation, and the head of strategic consultancy TechSavvy Global. Among today’s most well-known strategic innovation consultants and providers of keynote speeches, training workshops and business seminars, as seen in 600+ outlets from CNN to NPR, his website is

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