The Single Most Important Trait to Look For When Hiring




One way to define a company might be to say that it’s a group of people working towards a common goal. Like any team, a company is only as strong as its weakest link, so choosing a new hire is one of the most important decisions you can make.

Depending on the role, you might be looking for particular technical skills, a certain kind of experience, or even just the little things like consistently showing up on time. But regardless of the position, the single most important trait you need to look for is Ego, and that’s because so many other things are affected by it.

A developer with all the right skills and experience isn’t as valuable as a more-junior developer if the former is inflexible, unwilling to learn, and drags down your team’s morale due to an inflated Ego.

A salesperson with great contacts and through-the-roof charisma isn’t a worthwhile addition to your team if their Ego has them do all the talking and no listening during client meetings.

A fry cook who thinks they deserve far better because of their Ego isn’t going to stay in that role for long and their attitude can drive good employees away.

Instead of Ego, an inflated sense of self-importance, look for Confidence, a sense of self-assurance and trust in one’s own abilities. There’s a fine line between them, but you have the entire interview process to figure out which side a candidate falls on.

In our developer interviews at Devetry, we have candidates play out scenarios, often during paired programming with a current dev. The goal of these scenarios is to force the candidate out of their element and expose how they react when they don’t hold all the cards. Do they get frustrated and defensive, displaying an inflated Ego? Or do they show resourcefulness and humility, displaying Confidence?

There are countless benefits when you employ Confident people, rather than those with inflated Egos. Your overall culture will be healthier and employees will do better work for longer. You’ll find and retain customers more easily. Coaching and training will be more effective at building a team rather than a group of individuals.

We’re currently hiring for a VP of Business Development role and, as a CEO with a background in sales, I know how common an inflated Ego can be in that particular position. Since I want our VP of Business Development to work closely with our Marketing team, and I advocate for salespeople who are better at bilateral communication than arm-twisting and assumptive closing, I’ll be looking for Confidence rather than Ego. I respect someone who is an advocate for their own work, who knows how good they are at what they do, but that can’t get in the way of considering what’s best for the company — after all, we need to be a team all working towards the same common goal.