5 Employee Strengths to Look for When Hiring

By Sean Gordon

How many times have you been asked the question “What are your strengths and weaknesses” in a job interview? Does this question make your heart race, or do you feel adequately prepared? How do I say what I’m not good at while not looking terrible, and how do I say what I am good at while not bragging? This might be a tough question to analyze, but there is a secret to help you succeed. You want to emphasize a positive quality or skill that is needed for the job and minimize while still being truthful about the negatives.

Let’s take a moment and look at a scenario. Recently we interviewed multiple candidates for an open position. As always, one of the interview questions they were asked is about their strengths and weaknesses.

Most candidates respond something like this: “My strength is probably the ability to deal with people. I’m pretty chill and don’t get upset easily. I can’t really think of a weakness. Maybe I could be more detail-oriented.” Is this answer something that would resonate as a positive response to you? Probably not. In contrast, our top candidates responded something like this: “My strength is that I am an exceptionally hard worker. My weakness is that I get stressed when someone on my team doesn’t do their part and we miss deadlines.”

How do we define the qualities of a good employee? What do we as hiring managers or decision-makers look for when separating average candidates from the top players? A major factor is being able to understand employee traits and being able to identify those traits in candidates.

We have provided 5 characteristics of candidate strengths that are crucial to look for when hiring for a position within your organization:

Strong work ethic

Most applicants desire to display their motivation to work hard. If your candidate does not bring up this characteristic in the conversation, then they may not be the best fit for your organization. Candidates who set and strive to reach big goals are more likely to work harder and respond well to stretch goals from their supervisors, all while doing more than just the minimum work expectations.


Dependability can be a major difference between selecting candidates. It is important to know that your candidate will follow through consistently rather than occasionally. You want team members who will boldly greet a challenge. A great question to ask for dependability is “Tell me about a time you were right but still had to follow instructions.” This question gives you a sense of whether the candidate can be depended on to take direction and work well with others – two crucial skills in a work environment.


Positivity will always lead to a more productive workday. It allows for a better work environment as a whole. When you are looking to hire a new team member it is important that they not only work hard but also add positive energy to your team. Negativity can damage customer relationships, erode trust, and ultimately hinder the overall health of your organization.


Self-motivation is huge! Here’s why:

As a leader, you cannot be solely responsible for the performance of your team. It is a team effort. Your job is to advocate for your team through training, coaching, and continual shared learning. If your employees lack self-motivation, they won’t be able to fully step into their roles. A question to ask during the hiring process is: “What, in your experience, motivates your best, most successful job performance? Can you give us an example of this motivation in action in the workplace?”

Team oriented

“I before We” will never be an effective best practice in an office environment. Employees must place the team before themselves to ensure the success of the organization. Key factors to look for when interviewing a candidate is seeing how they responded in a previous team conflict or difficult situation where it would have been easier to choose themselves over the team. This will be a great indicator of whether they will be team-oriented. You are looking for candidates who are going to add value to your existing team, not challenge it. A great question to ask in a candidate interview for this topic is “Has your team ever failed to reach a goal? If so, what went wrong and what did you learn from that experience?”

These characteristics are starting points when hiring for a role within your organization. Looking for these qualities within your candidates will allow you to weed out candidates that could potentially hinder your organization.

To learn more about engaging better candidates during the recruiting process click here.

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