4 Positive Attributes Recruiters Often Miss (and How to Avoid This)

“If you spot it you’ve got it” – I love this phrase, in fact I had it in my email signature for quite a while, but I think it’s only true to a certain extent.

Now this can work well in situations such as a treasure hunt contest but not so much in others such as a recruitment process. Modern recruiters are usually time poor and have limited opportunities to interact with and assess their candidates. This increases the likelihood of premature passing of judgement and overlooking some subtle positive traits that could help one decide if the candidate is the best fit for the job.

Based on a combination of personal experiences and those of my peers, I have identified some of these positive attributes that are commonly overlooked. They are:

A time-starved recruiter may overlook these positive candidate traits says @trevorpvas Click To Tweet
number 1Transferable skills

Also known as “portable skills”, they are developed over the span of a candidate’s career and are essential for adequate performance.

shutterstock_165466232Some of these include interpersonal, organisational and leadership skills, and they are much harder to spot when a recruiter only takes 10 seconds to look at a resume and make a decision. Some recruiters can also be over-fixated with finding qualified candidates that fit the Position Description and overlook others who possess these transferable skills that will help them assimilate into the new role easily and excel.

number 2Empathy

A good employee not only wants to do the job, but they care about the people with whom they interact with. To him or her, it’s the relationships that counts and this candidate will help to foster a trusting environment that is essential for the well-being of the team.

In a time-pressured environment where a recruiter’s focus is on the candidate’s qualifications and relevant experience, it is easy to overlook this attribute that could help an organisation enhance their organisational culture.

number 3Proactive

Most organisations highly value employees who can accomplish goals, but there is a difference between the ability to hit KPIs and being truly proactive in their roles. A proactive employee works ahead of the curve and allows time for more thoroughness. He or she is also a person who will use the company’s resources wisely and works actively to improve work processes.

So while you are busy checking off the list of accomplishments made by your candidates, take a step back and start asking the questions that will help you identify this crucial attribute. This is what will set a great hire apart from a good one.

number 4Intellectual curiosity

We are talking about the ability for a candidate to problem solve AND also the passion for learning new technologies or solutions. Most candidates will have no problem resolving issues but not many also possess that innate curious mind that pushes him or her to go above and beyond the boundaries of comfort to break away from the inertia of silo thinking that plagues so many organisations.

To make this attribute even harder to spot, candidates these days are usually very well prepared and it is easy to get lost in the vivid pictures they paint of their achievements. A discerning recruiter will have to work doubly hard to avoid falling into this trap.

How can a recruiter become more efficient in spotting the best talent? @trevorpvas shares more. Click To Tweet

So how can a recruiter rise above all the distractions to become more efficient in spotting these positive attributes? Here are some suggestions:

  • Complete a brief “requirements analysis” in regards to the job with the understanding that it is an assessment;
  • Use an Inbox exercise to get a measure of the candidates. Recently when recruiting a digital content staff, we asked candidates to complete a short writing test. I have also asked potential general managers to prepare short business plans to determine their tactical nous and abilities to diversify a business;
  • If you can squeeze out the time, arrange the candidate to meet the team he/she would be potentially joining and observe how he/she handles himself/herself and how he/she interacts with the rest.

The goal is to keep it simple, straightforward and make the assessment relevant so that it allows you to understand what is acceptable, good and great easily.

So what other positive attributes would you remind recruiters and talent managers to look out for? And what do you think can be done to make them more visible during interviews. Love to hear your thoughts.

Images: Shutterstock

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2 Responses to “4 Positive Attributes Recruiters Often Miss (and How to Avoid This)”

  1. Nice post Trevor.
    I think this is where matching technology begins to fail. How do these softer skills get identified or assessed? Can algorithms identify a persons level of empathy or proactiveness? It might be able to pick up transferrable skills and experience but these softer skills associated with capability and competency are much harder to measure.

  2. Trevor P Vas


    I do think the softer skills can be included in analytics. Two examples of this are Predictive Hire and Talent Ready. Both tools try and get to the essence of a persons soft skills and then this can be compared to high performers and benchmarks.

    But you’re right how far do you go? Where do you use your judgement based on the information in the assessment.

    Following anything blindly is not my approach, but in speaking with psychologists about errors in recruitment. That is people who were employed and not successful in the job. In most cases the person who made the decision to employ ignored the assessment report.

    This would make a great talk at the ATC!


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