Qualities I most admire in candidates I have interviewed

I have been in the search business for more than 35 years and have met many impressive people. Looking back for some common themes about those who have excelled beyond past experience, I have a few thoughts about those I most admire.

  • People who are comfortable with who they are and how others perceive them. They are not only comfortable in “their own skin” but also are self-confident while never boastful.
  • I enjoy people who are reflective not only of their past but also have the willingness to ask questions and challenge their thoughts and beliefs and to make adjustments along the way without changing their core.
  • If someone is a good storyteller, it’s an important way they can demonstrate clearly how we as humans relate to each other.
  • I enjoy hearing about the dynamics of their family life while growing up and for sharing personal information. How candidates responded to circumstances has a great deal to say about who they are as adults.
  • It’s important for candidates to relay their accomplishments, but I appreciate those who also talk about the contributions of others around them who have helped them get to where they are at today.
  • Integrity is such an important quality but often difficult to determine until you have a relationship with people. Then you can get a feel for whether you trust what someone is saying. However what they have done in the past is probably even more important.
  • People who are avid readers and have intellectual curiosity always impress me. This includes those with narrow interest, as well as worldly ones.
  • I rarely talk to people who are strategic and/or visionary. I really admire those who are thoughtful about the future and how people and organizations need to react.
  • I enjoy talking to people who know how to manage people and it’s a focus of what they do every day.
  • While I have said I respect people who are reflective I also admire those who have the courage of their convictions and have the ability and desire to confront difficult situations. Often these people are confident about how to solve a problem or how to take advantage of an opportunity.
  • In the world we live in today almost nothing is static. So I admire those who are champions of change and to actions to support and implement change initiatives effectively.
  • While this might seem contradictory I also like to see in people the ability to be adaptable and flexible and willing to listen and try to understand alternative solutions and perspectives.
  • I am always interested to know where the people that a candidate has managed in the past have ended up in their careers. Sizing up people, developing them and promoting them are all indicators of successful managers and leaders.
  • I love speaking to good communicators, who are engaging, interesting, fun and people who are convincing while unassuming. This goes for their written correspondence as well.
  • Finally, I really like people who enjoy engaging with other people. That shows a sincere interest in people and can communicate to me that people make a difference.

There are so many qualities to consider when evaluating someone’s leadership abilities and qualities that are important to develop to be considered an inspiring leader. Like many things in life, developing these qualities is a work in progress and we should strive to continually improve.