The Key Trait of Great Hires

For twenty years, I’ve been hiring and firing people. I’ve been lucky enough to have some great performers, a bunch of good performers and an also a few crappy performers. It seems like every time I turn; someone has an answer for me on how to hire better. For years I have given the advice if all else fails, hire smart people. It’s not a bad strategy. For the most part, if you hire the smartest ones of the bunch, you’ll have more good performers, than bad performers. I’m talking pure intelligence, not necessarily book smarts.

But, just hiring smart people still isn’t perfect. I want to hire good, or great, people every single time. How do you do that? That’s the million dollar question.

To me there is one trait we don’t focus enough on, across all industries. Optimism.

Your ability to look at the situation and come up with positive ways to handle it. Think about your best employees, almost always there is a level of optimism they have that your lower performers don’t.

I can’t think of one great employee I’ve ever worked with that didn’t have a level of optimism that was at least greater than the norm. They might be optimistic about their future, about the companies future, about life in general. The key was they had optimism.

Optimistic people find ways to succeed because they truly believe they will succeed. Pessimistic people find ways to fail, since they believe they are bound to fail. This hiring thing can be difficult. Don’t make it more difficult by hiring people who are not optimistic about your company and the opportunity you have for them. Ask questions in the interview that get to their core belief around optimism:

Tell me about something you’re truly optimistic about in life? (Pessimistic people have a hard time answering this. Optimistic people will answer quickly and with passion.)

Tell me about a time something you were responsible for went really bad. How did you deal with it?

The company has you working on a very important project and then decides to cancel it. How would you respond?

Surrounding yourself with optimistic people drives a better culture, better teams, it’s uplifting to your leadership style. I want smart people, but I truly want smart people who are optimistic about life. Those people change the world for the better, and I think they’ll do the same for my business.

9 thoughts on “The Key Trait of Great Hires

  1. Hi there,
    This starts with assignment gave by our hrm lecturer, wanted to read and summarise blogs of hr expert so I google it and find your blogs, Every blog is very useful for students who aspiring career in this field and please Guide us for opportunities in this field.

  2. Hello Admin,

    Is an optimistic, unsuccessful employee worth as much as a successful employee who is less optimistic? Without job success it doesn’t matter the level of the employee’s optimism.

  3. I was asked to describe myself using one word in an interview once and that manager later told me that my answer was the reason they chose to hire me over another candidate. I chose the word “Optimistic”. I’ve been in recruiting and hiring for 15 years now and I agree…some of my best hires tend to be optimistic/happy/positive (not to mention smart) people.

    • Megan –

      What a great story for folks who are out there interviewing! We love to hire optimistic people! Saying, “I’m a realist” or “I’m pragmatic” only tells me you’re probably a pain in the ass!


  4. I’ve always said I would rather hire the “glass half full” person over the “glass half empty” person. Negative people will suck the life out of an entire team, you can’t underestimate the impact one bad hire will have on your staff.

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