20 Top Qualities that Determine a Great Employee

© Shutterstock.com | blocberry

Every employer wants to hire employees who will be a good fit for the company culture and are aligned with the mission of the company. In most cases, an employee’s culture fit comes down to their personality. What kind of person are they? What are their greatest values? What are their beliefs?

Sometimes, as an employer, you will come across job candidates who have both the skills you need, and the personality that makes them a good fit for your organization. If you come across such a candidate, you’re onto a winner. More often than not, however, employers usually find themselves having to pick between employees who have the right skillset, and those that have the right personality. So, which of the two should you go for when hiring?

While you certainly want employees who have the right skills, sometimes the best choice is to go for employees who have the right personality and then train them for skills. This is because, while skills can be taught, there is not much you can do about a person’s personality.

For instance, when hiring for management-level and C-level positions, it is better to go for personality rather than skill. It doesn’t matter how skilled a person is, but if they don’t have leadership qualities, or if their style of leadership is not aligned with your company culture, this person will not succeed in that position. On the other hand, if you hire someone who is a great leader, they can always learn the technical skills on the job and perform greatly in the position.

Hiring for personality is also great for entry-level positions. Since such positions do not require lots of expertise, it is far much better to hire someone who is the right fit for your company culture, and one who is driven and eager to learn. Such employees are more likely to grow in your company, and are a better investment for the future of your company compared to skilled employees without the right personality.

When looking for the ideal employees to add to your existing workforce, remember that though knowledge is an asset, it can be taught. With respect to a person’s basic character, things are not so easy. No need to put the whole emphasis on personality but do give it a heavy weight when picking the best from the pack. In this article, we give you an in-depth look at 20 qualities of a great employee.


Here we discuss 20 qualities to look for whatever the age or sex of the candidate, the industry you’re in or the expected pay. If you want to learn about leadership qualities that are in high demand right now, then check out this article.

1. Ambitious

Ambitious employees are willing to go the extra mile whether to achieve company goals or make their way up the corporate ladder. They will not shirk from putting in their best because they set goals and high expectations for themselves. They also strongly yearn to progress in their career. Ambition triggers openness, creative ideas, and a go-getter attitude – all of which are good for your company. However, your ambitious candidate should have a sensible amount of emotional intelligence within him. This is so that he does not alienate most of his co-workers in the march towards his ambition.

2. Confident

As a manager or a CxO in your startup, you would obviously be happier handing a project over to someone who’s confident over someone who’s hesitant and unsure of himself. A confident employee is also more willing to take risks or go for challenges that an uncertain counterpart would shy from. Great outcomes come from people who have faith in their abilities and talents. If the candidate is someone who you would want to interact directly with a client(s), the latter too will be impressed by the person’s self-assuredness and therefore feel like continuing the business relationship with him/her and your company.

3. Humble

Nobody likes someone who boasts or brags about their accomplishments. The more preferred candidate for a future employee is someone who would prove their value through their hard and commendable work rather than through words, whether they are true or exaggerated. A productive workplace should not have arrogant employees.

4. Committed/Passionate

All employers love a person who’s willing to do more than what’s required from him (even things that don’t fall into his line of duty), is constantly exceeding expectations and happily accepts any task or project, however difficult it may be. In addition, a person who is passionate about his job will not feel like he is working. Thus, he will naturally put in his best because he loves what he does. He also derives happiness from the time spent with his co-workers and superiors. Though money is a motivator to work, people who work for you should also appear like they enjoy what they’re doing to get that money in their hands.

Two questions you can ask at the interview to identify a passionate person are given below with how they help:

i. What was it about your work that made you most satisfied at your last place of employment?

The answer to the above question will let you know whether the person is really looking to put his passion into practice by working at a particular job or instead, looking for comfort with a specific work style or culture.

ii. How do you keep up-to-date with your industry?

If the candidate is unable to cite any personal or professional development he’s done of late, it is definitely a red flag as far as passion is concerned. Those who are really passionate about what they do, spend extra time outside working hours to better their skills and develop their knowledge. The genuinely enthusiastic would probably smile and have a spark in their eye when answering this question.

5. Reliable

What could be more irritating than an employee who does not follow instructions? Either he is not as serious as he should be or did not listen attentively when the instructions were given. Either way, the result is mistakes, faulty products and the missing of important deadlines not to forget unhappy, disappointed customers and/or clients. An employee who does not listen to the whole thing but likes to budge in between presents a picture of lack of respect for his boss. Following instructions shows that the employee takes his responsibilities seriously and is capable of shouldering additional responsibility. Reliable also means showing up for work on time, informing the concerned authorities when he cannot make it, and keeping to deadlines. A dependable worker has a greater likelihood of remaining on the payroll.

6. Positive

Generally, people don’t like being around those who are pessimistic, negative or just plain unhappy. Just like the co-workers, an employer would love to see someone who comes to work with a smile on his face and is always optimistic, whatever the situation. Positive and happy behavior is contagious. It practically lights up the workplace. However tedious or menial the task, a positive person goes about his work happily and efficiently. In addition, problems call for solutions and employers desire workers who can recognize problems and assist in suggesting, devising and executing solutions. The more problems they help solve, the more precious they become to your organization. The ideal employee is willing to accept responsibility for all that he does.

Optimistic people are a recipe for better teams and better culture. In short, it is really great to have a positive employee to realize your organization’s bigger goals.

A wonderful way to identify positive candidates during the interview process is to ask questions such as:

Can you give me one or two examples of things you’re really optimistic about in life?

7. Culturally fit

Finding a candidate suitable for your office culture is easier said than done. First, make sure that you have a clear idea of what your company culture is about. Think along the lines of the characteristics and values that you and your existing staff hold important. Your hiring team should be well-versed with your company culture. Decision-making, language, and daily workplace practices also show workplace culture.

Some examples of interview questions that can help you find an employee suitable for your office culture are given below:

  • Name 3 of your key work-related values. Share examples of situations where you demonstrated these values.
  • Did you ever commit a mistake at work? If yes, how did you fix the problem?

When you do find someone who is a cultural fit, you should be prepared to attract him to things like great compensation packages, inspiring leadership or opportunities to have a direct role in projects.

Employees who are not a match to the company’s environment usually leave in favor of a work culture or environment that is in harmony with their beliefs and values.

Here’s an example of what it means to be culturally fit. An employee who likes to work in a team and welcomes feedback from all kinds of people is prone to be efficient in an organization where teams are vital for daily operation. On the other hand, an employee who is not comfortable with a team wouldn’t be a suitable fit for a workplace with team culture.

8. Driven or self-motivated

Self-motivated individuals don’t need to be pushed to get work done. They possess the stamina to perform outstanding work and usually, work hard consistently. You don’t have to worry about slack or lost hours when there’s a self-motivated employee working for you. They also fix a pace and model that others can and want to follow. The return on investment for such individuals is very high because with respect to cost, they don’t need additional rewards.

Self-motivated people know what their purpose is in life, and they live it. They rise above adversity, problems, momentary failure and loss. They believe in others and themselves too. They epitomize humility and can laugh at themselves, take criticism and admit vulnerabilities. They are persistent and try to keep updating their knowledge on a regular basis.

9. Enthusiastic/eager

People who arrive for work energetic and enthusiastic every day, have an edge over their counterparts who are not as enthusiastic and also, easily burn out. Eager and upbeat employees are always happy to learn new things and to strive for greater success. They help to build a working environment that triggers new ideas and is unique and enjoyable to their co-workers too.

10. Hard-working

Nothing can replace the benefits of hard work. There are some people who work hard for a few years and then lose pace. Also, people who are particular about working only from 9 to 5 even when urgent projects need to be completed, cannot be considered as as hardworking as one who is willing to put in extra time and effort. The basis of an effective organization lies in how capable it is of hiring result-oriented and industrious workers who execute.

Ideal employees keep reminding themselves of how essential it is to themselves and the company they work for to keep the hard work going.

11. Team Spirit

Plenty of companies have teams. It is not only essential to perform well as individuals but also as a member of the team. To do well in a team requires patience, tolerance, and good social skills. Team efforts are associated with many advantages: work gets done faster and is more likely to get done when more people are involved, relations among employees improve, and members of the team learn from each other’s characters, feedback and contributions to the team.

12. Self-managed

Every boss loves someone who doesn’t have to be told what is expected of him and is even willing to do more. In addition to being aware of his roles and duties, the self-managed employee strives to improve himself, reduce his weaknesses and play up his strengths. If the self-managed employee is self-disciplined, even better. He will not waste his employer’s precious money and time on distractions such as the cellphone or casual internet browsing. He is also punctual, doesn’t procrastinate or take unnecessary breaks and is conscientious.

13. Proactive

There are two kinds of kinds of employees – reactive and proactive. The former wait till they are told to do something while the latter take initiative in discovering inventive methods of being productive so that their company gains from it in the process. The latter thinks ahead and implements without expecting a request – he is a rock star. A proactive worker truly stands out, and any manager would favor him for advancement.

Further, hire those people who are willing to take action and chances. Of course, chances could lead to failures but then, failures are the stepping stone to success. Failures help to build up confidence while encouraging the birth of new ideas. Action-oriented and not stagnant employees are the ones who are going to make money for your company.

14. Marketable

Marketable means the employee should be presentable to clients. He should be someone who can represent your business in a way that conveys a good impression of it to the client. So in addition to being well-groomed, he should be professional and have a favorable personality.

15. Detail-oriented

It is essential to pay attention to details. Even the slightest of mistakes could create major issues. Employees who take detail seriously are also ones who delight in their work. They put in the extra effort for minor details that many others possibly take for granted. In simple language, this means crossing the t’s or dotting the i’s.

16. Autonomous

Employee autonomy means that they have freedom and discretion with respect to how to schedule their work and coming out with their way to carry it out. Being a boss, you have multiple tasks to look after. So, when you delegate a project to the individual you’re appointing, you wouldn’t be happy if he kept asking you questions. You would prefer execution.

An autonomous employee is capable of managing his time well enough to get monster tasks done quickly and productively.

17. Creative

Businesses need people with great ideas to really grow and prosper. Your employees should be ones who are willing to experiment with new things and think out-of-the-box that in itself will help reduce the redundancy and mundaneness of the daily routine. In addition, it will help improve employee and company productivity.

18. Honest

Whatever and how many other qualities an employee may have, he is incomplete without authenticity and integrity. Employees who are not forthright and honest would lead to clients being out off and consequently, trouble for your company.

Honesty and transparency are two sides of the same coin. So, an honest employee will be transparent at all times. Transparency improves the office culture and environment and makes people feel happy within the walls of the workplace.

Honest and humble people, especially when they are in the higher ranks of the company, are greatly appreciated.

19. Communicator

Employers are happy to hire employees who can communicate in a lucid manner and well, whether when speaking or writing. Inappropriate or inaccurate employee-employee communication can lead to many issues within the company and with clients as well.

20. Has leadership qualities

Leadership starts with self-confidence and is strengthened by repetitive success and positive reinforcement. If you have a person with leadership qualities working for you, you can consider possibilities of giving him a key leadership role in your company.


On top of the above 20 qualities of a great employee, here are 8 other bonus strengths that employers look for when hiring.

21. Loyalty

Imagine having an employee who refers your customers to a competitor because they have been promised a commission by the competitor, or simply out of spite. How long would it take you to fire such an employee after finding out what they are doing? I bet you’d let them go immediately.

As an employer, you want employees who are loyal, employees that you can trust to work professionally for the best interests of your company at all times, even without close supervision.

22. Flexibility

The world of business is highly dynamic, and if your business is to survive, it needs to be capable of adapting quickly in response to changing business conditions. For this to happen, you need to have employees who are flexible, employees who can adapt to new ways of doing things within a moment’s notice. If your employees are rigid, your company will be equally rigid, and as examples from companies like Kodak, Nokia and Blackberry show, rigid companies do not last long in the business world.

23. Eagerness To Learn

This is closely related to flexibility. For your employees to adapt to changing business conditions, they will probably need to learn new skills and new processes. Therefore, you should look for employees who show eagerness to learn. In addition to adapting to new business conditions, employees who are eager to learn will keep improving as they gain new knowledge, thus making your company more productive and efficient.

24. Independent Thinking

As an employer, you also want to hire employees who are capable of independent thinking. Instead of agreeing with everything you say, such employees have their own ideas and opinions, and they are not afraid of sharing them. Having such employees is a huge advantage because it gives you access to fresh ideas and new perspectives that could be crucial to the success of your business.

25. Professionalism

Professionalism is another hallmark of a good employee. Candidates with the quality of professionalism carry themselves as professionals at all times. They dress and act appropriately, they are always on time, and they are competent in their work. They know how to prioritize their work and handle their work responsibilities on time. They are focused on their jobs, they are respectful and courteous towards your customers, and they care about the reputation of the company. Who wouldn’t want to have such an employee working for them?

26. Decisive

Very often, working in a professional setting requires tough decisions to be made, and therefore, you want employees who are not afraid of making such decisions. Instead of waiting for the boss to make every single decision, a good employee should be capable of analyzing a situation and their possible options, evaluating the possible outcomes, and making a firm decision.

27. Organized

Being organized is a very important character trait at the workplace. Imagine having an employee who keeps misplacing important files, missing meetings and deadlines, forgetting tasks they need to work on, and so on. It can be very frustrating. To avoid such frustrations, you should always go for employees who are well organized, employees who can plan for their time and who know what needs to be done when, who know how to properly manage their paperwork, and so on. Working with such employees is a breeze.

28. Problem Solving

A large part of the day to day life in the corporate world involves solving various problems. Problems with customers, suppliers, systems, employees, and so on. Therefore, it is important for you to find employees who have a knack for problem solving. Whenever such employees encounter a problem, they will take it in their stride and resolve the problem as a normal part of their workday. Employees who do not have problem-solving skills, on the other hand, will have to wait for someone else to come and resolve the problem for them, thus holding up work and burdening other employees or their bosses.

Comments are closed.