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Finding employees who are the best at what they do is one thing; finding the professionals who are the best fit for your firm can be another struggle entirely.

The team at Corporate Essentials gathered more than two dozen traits you can look for while recruiting. Use this helpful list of qualities of a good employee to separate the “great candidates” from the best employees for your company.

Cultural fit

You established a vibrant office culture for your workplace. One key to keeping that culture thriving for the future is to ensure that your new employees fit into it. Tailor your recruitment process to include personality profile indicators that allow you to see whether people fit with the values of your company culture.

This is an important first step in guaranteeing the people you bring in compliment your existing talent and culture pools, enhancing the overall workplace.


Having confidence in your professional skill set is important to succeeding regardless of the level at which you interact with others. Hiring confident people will give your entire operation the strength and self-assurance to always put its best foot forward when interacting with both internal and external interests.

Hard working and hungry

“The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately” is a popular quip of our time, with good reason. People who have a genuine, burning desire to succeed will do so regardless of the obstacles that stand in their way.

Your role as gatekeeper to the recruitment operation of your firm requires you to evaluate people and decide whether they exhibit the qualities of a good employee or just happen to be a person you like. A good employee will have that special spark, showing you that he or she is more than a dreamer.


There is much to be said about surrounding your people with intelligent team members. There are different kinds of intelligence, identifying the people whose intelligence best fit with the needs of your teams can be a challenge, but it’s one piece of the recruitment puzzle that is well worth careful consideration.

Smart people are able to come into a situation and show you new and different ways to improve things; they are able to act as agents for change.


Those with ambition are more likely to stay motivated through the boring parts of a project, seeing it to fruition – whatever challenges may arise. Often, employees with higher aspirations bring great creativity, solid communication and motivational skills into the mix.

However, ambition in employees can be off putting for some, so it is important that those with high ambition also have a dash of humility and emotional intelligence to avoid alienating their colleagues.

Leadership qualities

Great companies have leaders at all levels. Leadership is an important component of a successful business, so when you evaluate the qualities of a good employee for any of your current vacancies, leadership should definitely appear on that list.

Leaders help projects run smoother, make internal relationships more productive and often work the hardest on projects involving external partners.

Is not afraid to give input

One of the pillars of a great workplace culture is open communication. So, having employees who are unafraid to contribute opinions, feedback and input to projects is key. A good employee will not only know that his or her input has value to others, but also have the tact to convey even criticisms with clarity.

Beyond this, great employees can discern the best way to provide that input; whether that is during the meeting in a formal capacity or in the break room over coffee in a casual manner.

Encourages others

Building people up is a huge part of being a great team player, and when it comes to qualities of a good employee, the ability to consistently encourage others is a truly valuable skill. Providing encouragement to colleagues is part of keen emotional intelligence, as a level of intuition is required to figure out how to best encourage a wide variety of people.

Sometimes this is as simple as giving a hi-five and never leaving the other party hanging; for others, it might be encouraging them to grab a snack, take a break or another personal care reminder. In all cases, having employees who can motivate and encourage their colleagues is a great asset for your business.

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Just delightful

Some people are just amazing to work with, and it is difficult to pin down exactly what it is that makes them so. When you are recruiting for a new position, seek out those candidates that buoy you up during the interview process.

People who can make you feel good when they are arguably at their most anxious are going to be dynamite contributors to your overall company culture.

Thinks outside the box

One of the best things about bringing new talent into your business is that you have the opportunity to flesh out ideas that you may have had ticking along in the background for years.

Innovative thinking is one of the top qualities of a good employee, and seeking new hires who can truly think outside the box is a great way to maximize your chances of finding a new solution to an old problem, or a different way of handling an inefficient process.

Is not intimidated

Some people truly relish a challenge. This can be both a blessing and a curse depending on team dynamics and the nature of obstacles that spring up during work. However, having staff members who can remain undaunted in the face of big challenges can be a huge strength for your whole firm.

This kind of person is also likely to have the ability to think strategically while coming up with new solutions, and will probably be great at motivating others through the chaos.

Wants to learn

One quality that all great employees share is knowing that learning is vital to their continued success. Establishing a company culture that values continued professional development is a great way to attract new hires with a desire to learn new things.

The notion of ongoing learning as an asset is far from new, but if you are not familiar with it, consider this: employees who are satisfied with their skills are less likely to adapt to changes in your industry due to advancing technology or other innovations. A successful business needs learners to blaze a path into the future.

Eager to improve

On a similar note, good employees are constantly trying to find ways they can make themselves better, smarter, faster and generally more useful to their teams and employer in general. Looking for ways to improve yourself is a great first step toward improving the teams you work with, which in turn can provide a benefit to the wider organization.

Whether it is something little, like learning how to make a wicked cup of coffee on the new machines in the break room, or something massive, like mastering a new piece of software that everyone else is struggling to learn, individual improvements, accomplishments and achievements can have a ripple effect in a positive atmosphere.

Works well with others

That old joke about teachers marking down whether or not a child could “play well with others” is more important than most people realize. Being able to work independently is important – but being able to contribute to a team environment is vital to creating a collaborative atmosphere that yields shared success.

If you hope to get good work from your teams, you need to build teams with people who can find commonalities, celebrate difference and embrace the challenges that working together can bring.

Intellectually curious

Having staff that just accept things as they are can make life easy – but better never quits, as the adage tells us. Having team members who probe into the why, how and what of processes, projects and products can provide useful insight for all.

This is why curiosity is definitely on our list of qualities of a good employee. Without a curious nature, there would be no one asking the questions that lead to innovation.

Creative problem solver

Some people need a little more than a cup of amazing coffee or a fresh apple to get their mind churning toward solutions for problems – big and small. A great characteristic for employees in any situation is the ability to grapple with problems and find different solutions.

Some of these will be boring, run-of-the-mill solutions that simply answer the immediate need. However, in the right circumstances, a creative problem solver will be able to provide an extraordinary solution to a common, boring problem, and that can be the start of something big for your whole operation.

Remains humble

One of the greatest parallels between the sports field and the boardroom is that virtually no one in either arena likes to see someone showboating.

Being able to accept compliments and praise without losing sight of the contribution others have made to your success is a skill many struggle to master – so those who are able to achieve success at high levels and maintain a fairly humble attitude are employees worth recruiting.

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Pays attention to details

It can be difficult to keep a view on the long-term picture or maintain an overview of the project’s entire scope without losing focus on the little things – which is why paying attention to detail is another key feature on our list of qualities of a good employee.

Finding a balance between the gestalt and minutiae of any project is a skill that experience helps to develop – but in rare cases, you may find a person with a knack for being able to focus on details without losing the big picture.

Paying attention to little details, finishing touches and personalizing projects is an important part of creating successful deliverables, and employees who can do so are a great addition to any team.

Encouraging and optimistic

Having a positive outlook can be difficult, particularly when difficult or repetitive work comes into play. Seeking out employees with an optimistic disposition is a great way to help foster a culture of encouragement among your teams.

Finding new team members who can boost the positive outlook of your group may not be the easiest task, but it is worth investing the time and effort in recruiting positive people to reap the rewards of encouragement and optimism for your team.

Driven to do great work

Another characteristic, that tops the list of responses when people are asked for their top qualities of a good employee, is drive. This is more than just having the motivation to show up on time each day, more than the perseverance to complete tasks to the required minimum standard.

When we say great employees should be driven, we mean that one should expect them to have a keen appreciation of a given job’s requirements and the expectations of the client, but also that the person in question should be “driven” to provide an exceptional response to each deliverable.

Those who are driven to do great things push the envelope for their colleagues and coworkers across the board, raising the bar for performance standards.

Disciplined with the ability to focus

On a similar note, discipline and focus are much-touted qualities of a good employee that entail more than taking a quick break rather than a long one. Being able to focus on overall project goals and keeping track of the day-to-day deadlines requires more than ordinary discipline; it requires a balancing act.

In order to be part of the workplace culture, one is expected to take occasional breaks, enjoy communal snacks and engage with other teams. But to achieve results for the team, it is common for a person to feel pressured to focus purely on the task at hand.

Having the discipline to spread oneself between the areas of “fun” and “focus” to truly engage in both the work at hand and the workplace culture, is what makes a good employee a great one.

Listens attentively

As Stephen R. Covey explained in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, most people do not listen to understand, but rather to reply. Thus, a good employee can be identified for their ability to listen with the intent to understand, process and absorb information.

As qualities of a good employee go, this one is hard to beat. When people actively listen to the conversations in which they take part, all parties are more likely to feel understood and valued as contributors. When people feel valued, they are more prone to openly communicating.

Open communication leads to more people participating fully in the discussions and processes that lead to a productive workplace. Finally, an open, fluid communication model paired with a productive workplace where people feel valued underpins your company culture by fostering an air of inclusion.

Transparent and honest

There is little point in hiding the truth from anyone in today’s increasingly connected world. Whether it is the little white lie employees sometimes feel compelled to tell before hitting the beach or a cagey response to questions about software a person knows during the interview process: the truth comes out more often than it remains hidden.

For potential recruits, it is more likely they will be honest about their skills, abilities and experience if they know that the company values openness and further education.

Passionate about their work

Finding professionals with long-term experience in a given role who still have genuine passion for what they do is not as rare as you might think. People often choose their professional path based on their interests, and given the chance to develop their skills at an appropriate pace, those people often retain the love of the industry that attracted them in the first place.

A good employee will acknowledge that the role they love is one with room to grow. Great employees have some ideas on how their role can change and grow with them.

Emotionally intelligent

So much of what we have discussed here today boils down to a balance between being book smart and being people smart. This point is a key factor in an employee’s ability to achieve that balance.

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, stands out on our list of qualities of a good employee because those who have a higher EQ make better employees at virtually all levels.


Another key point on the list of qualities of a good employee is being self-aware. People who know themselves, understand their strengths and accept their weaknesses are able to hit the ground running regardless of the circumstances.

These employees can ask for help, offer effective feedback and interact with ease on multiple projects whatever the day throws at them.

Respects other ways of thinking

The ability to listen, understand, interpret and accept opinions that differ from our own is a skill that develops over time for most people: and, it is vital for the success of your company both internally and externally.

Seeking new employees who are firm in their own understanding enough to appreciate and balance a contrary point of view is a great way to bolster your in-house diversity and increase your reach in new markets.

Committed to the company

While maintaining a solid work/life balance is important, commitment is vital when considering the qualities of a good employee. Knowing your people are committed to delivering the best for customers, and supporting the company’s values along the way, provides a huge amount of reassurance for others who have made the choice to stick with your firm through thick and thin.

Identifying new recruits who show both promise and a similar level of commitment can be challenging, but the reward of dedicated workers is worth the effort.

Flexible and adjusts to change well

There is little in the business world that is guaranteed apart from the fact that something will invariably change. Whether it is adding or taking away a benefit, or reframing the scope of a project two days before the pitch deadline, some people take change in their stride better than others. It is those people, who can accommodate and run with changes, who will make great additions to your team.

Has compassion

Compassion is something that co-workers value for a number of reasons, and it can be a powerful tool at the negotiating table. Seeking out compassionate employees can be a boon for your office culture, as those who have a higher degree of compassion are often better to work with, particularly through stressful deadlines or while navigating larger company-wide changes.

Constantly sets goals

All too often, we fall into the trap of setting goals during the annual review cycle and neglecting other areas where goals could be amazing motivators for everyone.

Among the qualities of a good employee you can easily overlook is a skill for setting purposeful goals throughout the whole year. This is a great indicator that a person is engaged with their day-to-day work, as well as keeping an eye on long-term goals.

Understands work/life balance

Some people have a healthy respect for the investment and commitment others have in activities outside of the workplace because they themselves have developed a good balance between their work and “regular” lives. Others have no real appreciation for the art of balancing work demands against those of home life.

The key to evaluating a potential employee with no understanding of a work/life balance is figuring out why they lack this quality. For some, it is the byproduct of working in a more hostile culture where employees were expected to relentlessly give their all toward workplace goals and their personal life was deemed irrelevant.

These people are often easy to convert to your way of thinking. Other folks, who for whatever reason are willing to prioritize their workplace role and responsibilities above all else, can be more difficult to include in a company culture that embraces the work/life balance.

Handles conflict well

Conflict in the office can be difficult, whether it is an internal conflict or one between your staff, service provider or client. Employees who can diffuse contentious issues before true conflict arises, or those who can steer their way through a conflict and come to a mutually satisfying resolution, can help to protect the intricate balance of a healthy company culture.

When you are looking for new employees, prioritizing qualities of a good employee in this way can help you select the best of the best-fitting team members for your firm’s future. Your company’s culture is likely one of the benefits that draws new recruits to your HR department, so it is wise to protect and nurture it by bringing in new folks who fit well within the picture you have established.

If you have questions or are curious about how to further refine your recruitment processes for a solid corporate culture fit, our teams are always here, happy to give you the insight they have gained from going on 20 years in the office coffee service industry. At Corporate Essentials, we are always only a cup of coffee away.

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Joe Simonovich

Joe has a strong background in marketing and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). The start to his career as a customer service representative has given him a unique foundation and different perspective on almost all business-related situations. Joe is now the Chief Growth Officer (and Director of Creating Awesomeness) at Corporate Essentials. He brings a unique skill set and a hands-on approach to any leadership role and believes that hustle is simply a way of life.