We all know the cliches seen on nearly every resume; things like”detail oriented” and “proficient in MS Offce.” But what does a hiring manager or recruiter really want to see? What are the difference makers?
To get the answer to this question, we asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council this question:
“What is the one soft skill you look for in a new candidate?”
Here are their answers:
The most important skill (hard or soft) we seek in employees is empathy. It’s the foundation of a good team and the key to customer satisfaction. To us, the most talented engineer without empathy is less valuable than the mid-level engineer with deep empathy. In order to build great products, you have to deeply understand the customer and how he or she truly feels. Doing that requires empathy.
Sense of Humor
I look for a sense of humor in all new potential hires and recruits. Humor disarms stress and fosters a sense of community in any high-tempo work environment. If a candidate can smile or laugh at the lighter side of life, he or she will be more inclined to bring levity to the difficult situations that you will face as a group, and contribute positively to your company’s evolving culture.
Does this person have a firm handshake? Do they look you in the eye? Is their email free of spelling errors, happy faces and run-on sentences? A candidate’s communication style and the way they carry themselves is always something I look for, as this person will be a representation of my company from the moment they are hired. I need to feel confident in you before I feel confident in your work.
I prefer employees that design their own personal goals and architect the tasks necessary for them to reach those goals. There is nothing like not having to micromanage everybody in the office. As long as I can meet with them periodically to review those personal goals to ensure they align with the company’s, everybody wins.
We screen candidates for their patience. Do they jump in on answers or wait for your question to be finished? Do they tell others the immediate answer that comes to mind or do they collaborate to get to a better solution? And when their work is critiqued, are they defensive or excited to work through issues? Lack of patience creates a volatile workplace, which is death for a startup.
Although you might meet a lot of candidates with talent and skills, passion is what generally separates the good team members from the great team members.
An Internal Locus of Control
When people are relating stories, you can quickly tell whether they believe they got themselves into a situation and then got themselves out of it (and therefore possess an internal locus of control) or whether they view the situation as a circumstance beyond their control that just resolved itself. The former will be the best managers and employees, as they will see a problem and act without blaming circumstances.
The most important soft skill for a new hire in a young or growth venture is their ability to make decisions and take action on them. Ideas and strategies are only as good as a person’s or company’s ability to act on them, and as a CEO, you can’t do everything yourself. So you need people willing to decide and act according to your vision.
The most successful hires are driven. Whether they have a chip on their shoulder or just want to make a name for themselves, people that are motivated to become something special are powerful allies when building a business. They have confidence, passion and they’re willing to work long and hard to make their dream — and in turn, yours — a reality.
Someone who is able to take initiative on the things that they need to know and do to make themselves and the company successful. Instead of waiting to be told what to do, they take the initiative to figure out what and how something needs to be done and execute the task from start to end, which implicitly proves that he or she is a person who moves things forward.
It is a sign of intelligence and competence that we have a visceral reaction to.
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.