CXO

How to identify a high-performing tech job candidate: 5 traits

A holistically high-performing tech staff isn't easy to attain. But if you can seek out these five characteristics in your new hires, you'll be on the right path.

Every company wants to do well; however, that takes certain types of people to perform at a consistently high level. Extremely successful employees—or high-performers—can be defined as those who go the extra mile and always excel at their work, according to Gartner.

If companies want high-performance employees, they must foster an environment where those individuals can flourish. "Regardless of what business you're in, if you want to improve a team it's critical that employees are engaged," said Cameron Smith, senior global director at Genesys. "Gallup's 2017 State of the American Workplace report found, 'Business or work units that score in the top quartile of their organization in employee engagement have nearly double the odds of success when compared with those in the bottom quartile.'"

SEE: Hiring kit: Data architect (Tech Pro Research)

To fundamentally improve a team, supervisors and business executives need to step up. Employees can't be engaged in a company that isn't worth engaging in. "Instead, it's more of a two-way street, with companies playing a large role in fostering talent," said Smith. "The competence of an employee's supervisor, making sure appropriate workloads are assigned, and company culture all play a role in keeping staff performing at a high-level."

Employers need to also make sure they are hiring the right people. While a candidate may check of the boxes for a position skill-wise, they may not have the personality or work ethic necessary to become a high performer. But it's never too late to foster a high-performing staff; companies need to consider the qualities they want, and hire accordingly.

Here are the top traits to look for when creating a high-performing tech staff.

1. Self-motivated

High-performing individuals don't have trouble staying motivated. "[They] are self-starters that work efficiently and quickly with little outside motivation. They set their own goals to meet the requirements of their managers and work diligently to exceed them," said Stuart Ridge, chief marketing officer of VitaMedica.

Motivation can be conjured from many places, whether it be confidence, ambition, or stress. Regardless of the source, companies need to look for a candidate that has strong drive and relentless determination. Laziness doesn't get results.

2. Adaptability

In the ever-changing tech world, adaptability is a necessity. A high-performance worker needs to be able to think on their feet, reassess situations, and be willing to handle whatever is thrown their way. "As everything is rapidly shifting, technical talent must be able to adapt readily to new business demands and technology advancements, and then accelerate quickly toward new opportunities and solutions," said Mark Leary, intelligence analyst with Cisco Services.

Part of adapting is also picking up the slack when necessary. Sometimes employees are asked to complete tasks that aren't necessarily theirs, but will help the company in the long run. "Every team occasionally hits a bump in the road and has to adjust their course or pivot completely. High-performing staff have no problem dealing with the extra work to keep their team afloat," said Ridge.

3. Ambition

High-performers want to work at a high-performing company. Companies that reach that level of success are also integrally ambitious, wanting to exceed expectations and deliver results, so there is no use hiring someone whose goals don't align.

See: Hiring kit: IoT developer (Tech Pro Research)

"The highest performers I have worked with all have significant ambition in their careers," said business consultant Dave Labowitz. "Since they are seeking to elevate their roles, they tend to work harder, learn faster, and go out of their way to contribute value any way they can. When we work together to create a shared vision of their future they begin to see new possibilities which then become motivations."

4. System expertise

In order to be high-performing, companies must hire individuals who are skilled in a variety of areas. "In today's industries, technology systems don't exist in silos. High-performing staff can connect everything, couple systems and services, and are overall experts in systems integration," said Leary.

Having one person that is the expert in something is great, but what if that individual is unavailable? A high-functioning company cannot rely on a single person to be the expert in a single area. "These staff members are also competent in numerous areas of their work, so they can be utilized in many different ways," said Ridge.

5. Grit

When looking for high-level employees, organizations should look for somebody that seems a little bit different. "Many high-performing staff members are just a little different than their coworkers because they are not afraid to bring up new ideas or challenge the status quo," said Ridge. "They add a little flavor to the rest of the team."

This flavor can also be translated into grit, or the willingness to work hard and take risks. A risk-taker thinks outside of the box, developing new ideas to solve problems and form solutions. "The more grit a team member has, the more they'll rebound and learn from each disappointment. If you want to reinforce grit in your teams, the best thing to do is make it safe for them to fail," said Labowitz.

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Image: iStockphoto/nd3000

About Macy Bayern

Macy Bayern is an Associate Staff Writer for TechRepublic. A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Macy covers tech news and trends.

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