Brand New Small Business? What to Look for in Potential Employees

By Rachel Stones

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Starting a new small business can be stressful. You focus on growth, revenue, client satisfaction and so much more. Don’t let your hiring needs add additional stress. When hiring you will have your list of key requirements including industry experience needed, software familiarity required and more. But what about other traits not specific to a position?

What should you look for in your first or tenth or twentieth hire that will make your company more successful? Read on for 5 key traits to look for in potential employees that will help your new small business take a step in the right direction.

Someone with Integrity

While this trait may not scream “I’m important!” it can be a huge asset to have in an employee. Having integrity means they’re going to be honest with you. That means they will spend their working hours helping your business succeed instead of goofing off or wasting time. It also means if they make a mistake, they will come to you and explain (which means you won’t waste any time getting it fixed). An employee with integrity can also set the tone for any other office staff you have. 

I’ve been in multiple offices where a co-worker lied or misrepresented information to protect themselves or to appear better than reality. In most instances, this had an immediate negative impact. A couple things can happen when employees who are dishonest are part of your team. It could lead to other employees following their bad example and it could also lead to discord between team members. 

Hiring honest candidates can also help with customer relations. These candidates will display integrity with your clients, customers and vendors which is a huge plus. Having trustworthy business relationships means others will come to rely on your business for years to come. But how do you find out if a candidate possesses this trait? 

Follow up with references provided, especially past employers. Ask specific questions regarding honesty and whether an employee showed integrity. While not all employers may be able to provide specific information, this will give you a starting point. 

Self Sufficient Starter

A candidate who can learn their role well and be trusted to operate on their own is worth their weight in gold. They’ll come in and get to work, trusting themselves to get started and coming to you only when needed. This can be a huge time saver for you. Instead of babysitting employees and outlining their tasks each morning, you can focus on your own set of tasks.

Self-starters can also carry this trait further when they seek to help co-workers, learn new software, work on solutions to fix their work problems as well as those around them. To determine whether a candidate is a self-starter ask them to describe a typical workday or their work habits and answers to these questions can help you discern whether or not they feel comfortable working without much guidance. 

Willing to Go with the Flow

Starting out, your business is learning and growing and not everything is going to be set in stone.

Hiring a candidate who can be flexible and adapts well to changes in the workplace is important. Not only might their duties and responsibilities fluctuate as you determine where their position fits within your business but processes and procedures may also be evolving as you determine the best way to operate. Having an employee who is willing to adjust as these changes take place is key.

To find an adaptable candidate you can ask potential employees to describe a scenario when they’ve had to improvise or adjust to change. Or if you want to throw a curveball, you can see how they react to a change in the interview schedule or invite them to perform a task they normally wouldn’t perform during the interview process. Their reaction could be a good indicator if they’re willing to go with the flow.  

Positive Thinker with a Positive Attitude

I clearly remember seeing a poster 15 or so years ago that read “Attitudes are contagious, is yours worth catching?” Over the years, I’ve come to see how true this sentiment can be.

It’s easy to let a negative person or situation influence the way you feel. That driver who shook his fist at you during rush hour can put a wrench in your morning. But, what about the barista at the coffee shop who smiled as she handed you your cup of coffee? Each person we encounter can leave us feeling better or worse. And while we can choose how we let each person influence our own feelings and attitude, having positive people around us more often can make a difference.

Surrounding yourself with habitually positive people will help you maintain a positive outlook toward your work. If someone has a positive attitude, then they likely practice positive thinking. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking has numerous health benefits including better coping skills during times of stress. That means you’ll be able to count on your employee if stressful situations arise (and they will, sooner or later).

To find a candidate with this trait you can ask them about their personality. How do they describe themselves to others? Maybe give them a list of traits and ask them to select a few that best describe them. This could help you find candidates with the qualities you hope to foster in your workplace. 

Eager to Succeed

You want your business to succeed, so hire employees who share that vision. If your employees are excited and driven to succeed in their roles, and to see that success aid the company in its success, then you’ve got yourself a winner. Usually employees need to be passionate about the product or service your company offers in order to have this drive for success. 

Look for candidates who have shown a similar zeal in past positions. If they’ve helped others to succeed, they’ll likely help you as well. You can also ask them what they know about your company’s services or products. Have they researched what you’re all about? Do they sound enthusiastic about working for your company? 

The Takeaway

While you may not find someone who possesses all five of these traits, the above list gives you an idea of what to look for when seeking your next hire. Find the right fit your business and move forward.


About the Author: Rachel Stones specializes in helping small business entrepreneurs by offering tips for success. She also writes for the Built for Teams blog where she covers additional HR and small business topics. Besides writing and blogging, Rachel also enjoys cooking, shopping, spending time with family and friends.

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