6 Qualities to Look for in a Candidate

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You have a job opening at your firm and the resumes are starting to pour in. A few candidates peak your interest and you bring them in for an interview. They all appear to be qualified to do the job, but how can you be sure that a candidate is the right fit for your firm?

The key is recognizing that there are certain qualities that are inherent in good employees. Be sure to ask interview questions that get to the heart of whether that particular candidate possesses those qualities.

Here are 6 qualities you should be looking for when you're interviewing a candidate.


If the candidate does not know how to do the basic functions of the job, nothing else really matters. It is the foundation to having a successful tenure at your firm. Not only is competence about the ability to do the job, but it also refers to the candidate's level of common sense and practical ability to deal with the day-to-day challenges of the job.

Interviewing tip: Ask behavior-based questions to assess competency. Think of everyday situations that will likely occur in the position and ask how the candidate would handle it.


Can you rely on this person once they are hired? Do they have a history of absences, coming in late and leaving early? If you give them an assignment, can you be confident that it will be completed correctly and in a timely fashion?

Sample Interview Questions:

  • Tell me about a time personal issues pulled you away from work and how you handled it.
  • Tell me about a time when your workday ended before a task was complete.
  • How many days of work should be considered satisfactory? What has been your record of attendance at work?


Trust is essential in the workplace. Will the candidate do the right thing when no one is looking or maintain their morals when being asked to do something unethical?

Sample Interview Questions:

  • Has your manager, supervisor or coworker ever asked you to do something unethical? How did you handle it?
  • Has your integrity, honestly, trustworthiness ever been called into question? What happened and how did you handle it?

Emotional Intelligence

Emotionally intelligent people are self-aware, confident and open-minded. They have a thick skin that allows them to receive and positively utilize critical feedback. Can the candidate stay cool, calm and collected when faced with difficult clients or opposing counsel? Are they able to persevere in the face of adversity or do they fold under pressure?

Sample Interview Questions:

  •  Could you tell me about a time you made a mistake at work? How did you handle it?
  •  Name a time you received tough feedback from a boss. How did you handle it?
  •  Name a time you had a disagreement with someone on be workplace. How did you handle it?

A Positive Attitude

There is no bigger drain on the morale of the office than a Debbie Downer. Candidates with a positive attitude tend to work harder, have a desire to please clients and will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Sample Interview Questions:

  • What did you like most and least about your last job?
  • Would you describe yourself as an optimist or pessimist?

Personal Accountability

This person is motivated to do well and is almost always moving forward and productive. People with high personal accountability will do well in a job regardless of whether they are poorly trained, poorly managed or not an overall fit.

Sample Interview Questions:

  • Tell me about a time you failed to honor a commitment you made?
  • How do you motivate yourself to complete unpleasant assignments?
  • What have you done to become more effective in your career?

Look for these qualities when interviewing candidates and you will be on your way to hiring the right person for the job.