Like it or not, first impressions matter. A study from the résumé-building website Zety found that 83% of hiring managers call that initial gut feeling they get about a person a critical factor when making hiring decisions. What drives a first impression is your traits.
“Traits are different than skills,” says Zety’s career expert Jacques Buffett. “Skills are what is on your résumé. Hard skills could be a programming language you know, and soft skills include leadership, teamwork, and communication. Personal traits are the qualities that turn up during the interview. It’s the impression you leave through your attitude and how you compose yourself from the second you walk in the door.”
In the Zety study, recruiters ranked what they consider to be the most important traits. Here are the top 10:
Recruiters want to hire someone who will be loyal to the team and the company. Loyal employees contribute more to the business, says Buffett. “It’s critical to success of team spirit,” he says. “It’s how a company builds an esprit de corps.”
Consumers are looking more closely at companies and are judging their corporate integrity. In turn, businesses look for this trait in an employee. “They want the employee to have moral integrity,” says Buffett. “It’s become ever more important with so much public scrutiny.”
Sincerity is hard to measure because it’s subjective, says Buffett. “It boils down to an impression a recruiter gets during an interview and if they really believe what the person is saying,” he says. “Employers want employees who are friendly and honest. It’s not a trait you can rank objectively on a scorecard; it comes down to human judgement.”
In 2020, companies learned that the best laid plans don’t always turn out. As a result, recruiters are looking for candidates who can roll with punches, tackling new problems and opportunities. “There’s so much growth in every business sector,” says Buffett. “Employees need to be able to adapt.”
This trait feeds into adaptability; you need persistence to follow through, says Buffett. “Whether you’re innovating or overcoming challenges, sometimes you can’t complete it in a day,” he says. “Persistence is ultimately about goals, either at the micro level or at the macro level with strategic goals.”
Building a team that works well together and avoids unnecessary conflict requires hiring personable fellow members. “To work closely together, employees need to build trust,” says Buffett. “Being unkind wouldn’t go a long way in building trust.”
Another trait needed to work with colleagues is patience. “If you or a coworker has a bad day, you’ll need patience to deal with them politely and efficiently,” says Buffett. “And so many jobs have an element of customer service, whether it’s external with customers or clients, or it’s treating others within the organization. Patience is required there, too.”
8. Emotional Intelligence
This trait is particularly important with leaders who need to read others’ emotions to communicate effectively, says Buffett. “To respond appropriately you need to understand the person’s motivations,” he says. “There are plenty of bad bosses out there, and to be good boss you need emotional understanding and compassion. Employees aren’t robots. Teams are made up of unique individuals with unique traits and qualities.”
One of the most recent causes of conflict in the workplace has been politics—especially in America, says Buffett. “We see a lot of intolerance in workplace split down party lines, but intolerance can also be of personal characteristics and prejudice,” he says. “Hiring an intolerant employee can create an untenable environment and recruiters want to avoid its negative effects.”
Recruiters also look for open-mindedness, which can be someone who is willing to try new ways of doing business and new methods of working. “This also feeds into tolerance,” says Buffett. “It’s also being open minded to different cultures, religions, and political backgrounds. You don’t have to agree to be open-minded and tolerant.”
How Employers Identify Traits
First impressions can be valuable, but recruiters will often dig deeper to confirm their instincts. Buffett says many will turn to social media platforms like Facebook, Tik Tok, or YouTube.
“It’s a very common way of finding personal information,” he says. “Recruiters won’t find that information on LinkedIn. If you’re looking for a job, make sure your social profiles are cleaned up.”
Recruiters also rely on behavior tests. The survey found that more than half use psychological profiling techniques to identify candidates’ personality traits.
While social media and personality tests dig deeper, if your first impression isn’t good, a recruiter may not choose to move forward with either. The bottom line for a job seeker is to be mindful of your demeanor from the second you walk in or log into the videoconference. Buffett says phone calls and emails can also help to form that impression.
“Speak to current friends and colleagues to find out what impression people have of you,” he recommends. “Look at the 10 key traits and determine how you can improve on those. How you come across is critical.”