The 4 Most Common Traits of Top Talent and How to Identify Them

Mar 13, 2018

Top talent share certain traits, and while there are quite a number of them, in this article we’ve listed the top four, as well as how to identify them in candidates before selecting them as employees:

#1: Positive attitude

People with positive attitudes are usually pretty easy to spot. Typically, they pay attention to the good in people, and they can even see positives in negative situations.

They are not the type to consistently complain or whine.

Signs in people who are positive instead of negative, include:

  • Hopefulness
  • Optimism
  • Resiliency
  • Confidence
  • Enthusiasm
  • Kindness
  • Will to succeed

However, it's important to note that sometimes, a positive person may not have realism as a balancing trait, so candidates who show signs of a positive attitude also need to show signs of realism, otherwise them being positive turns into a negative.

How to identify a positive attitude in candidates

Ask questions like:

  1. What is your greatest failure? Listen carefully to what the person says, so that you can identify whether they have a positive or negative mindset. If you can see they’re still beating themself up for a past failure, they are likely to have a negative mindset.
  2. Tell me about a stressful time in your life. Again, listening carefully to the answer should provide insight as to the person’s overall attitude.



Related: The value of the introvert employee in the workplace



#2: Effective communication skills

A person with effective verbal, written and non-verbal communication skills is a true asset to any company, because good communication is such a rare skill.

People with good communication skills are able to listen, and understand better the unspoken just by watching facial expressions and non-verbal cues like hand gestures.

Skills of a Good Communicator

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In addition, they are able to understand others and unofficially “mediate” for others who don’t have the same level of skill.

How to identify effective communicators

  1. Watch them: good communicators rarely fidget while talking to people. They maintain eye contact and are attentive listeners. They will not get distracted or show disrespectful behavior, like yawning and looking away to see what else is going on around them. They show interest in what you are saying. They are usually confident and assertive.
  2. Ask a difficult question that needs explaining so that you can listen to how they respond. If they convey the answer with clarity, and you understand what they are saying, the individual is probably a good communicator.



Related: Techniques the world’s best companies use for hiring top talent


#3: Resourcefulness

If a candidate is resourceful, it means they have the ability to find fast and perhaps unusual but clever ways to handle a situation.

In times gone by, a resourceful person was a rare gem indeed, but today, with Google just a click away, you can find solutions to anything, even things that you know nothing about.

However, some people may still shy away from all the information that’s now available online, but top talent will know how to find what they’re looking for, even if commanded to compile information about ocean acidification or a scientific fix for underreplication.

How to identify resourcefulness in candidates

  1. Ask about a time they needed to find solutions to difficult problems.
  2. Find out if they’ve ever bent the rules, because bending rules is a trait of resourcefulness.
  3. Compile an exercise where they need to display resourcefulness.

#4: High self-confidence

Candidates with high self-confidence are good for business because they create healthier teams, are more productive, achieve more, close more deals, influence others positively, make things easier for the boss because they don’t shy away from making decisions when necessary and they don’t require external validation. They take initiative, and can usually be relied on to take the lead when the need arises.

How to identify confident candidates

Watch for these traits:

  1. They usually take care of themselves, so watch for people who take the time to exercise, eat well and have hobbies.
  2. They understand their own strengths and weaknesses and take responsibility for their mistakes and their lives.
  3. People with high self-confidence are those who are quick to praise others - they may compliment their waitress on her pretty hair, or tell you that your smile is contagious. It takes confidence to compliment!



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