Interviewing: 3 Ridiculously Obvious Traits to Hire

The content below works for those interviewing and those being interviewed. Enjoy!

If you recruit, interview, and select people, here’s our counsel: Hire CHARACTER over CREDENTIALS.

In the Outstanding! book, we share a client’s response to this philosophy:

“You know, John, we do hire based on perceived skills, background, and education, but come to think of it, we almost always fire on the basis of character, or should I say, the lack of it. We have it backward.

Yep. Most organizations do.

So let’s explore three ridiculously obvious—but often overlooked—character traits to bring into your organization …


In 1986, I was seeking to leave my Cargill desk job and get into sales. One frigid Minnesota January night (is there any other kind?) I sat before Jim Strutton in a Marriott. He was recruiting a person to sell leadership and sales training in the Twin Cities. Perched on the edge of the couch, leaning forward to show my eagerness, I was asked this question:
“John, how do you feel about ‘cold calling’? You know, phoning executives you’ve never met to ask them for an appointment?”

Considering the question, I paused, and then said: “Jim, I don’t think I’ll like it—but I’ll do it.”

Years later he told me that answer drove him to hire me. In more than nine years with Jim, I was his top sales rep the final five (I share that humbly, of course!). Success came because I made those cold-calls.

Just as I told Jim I would.

When interviewing, look for people who do not spin, feed you what they think you want to hear, and speak “politically correct” mumbo jumbo. If that’s what you want, call your local congressperson or senator today.

Look for authentic people, always.


If a candidate blames his or her last employer for anything, then he or she will someday blame you.


Some managers, once they decide to pursue a person, have that candidate read the QBQ! book. Here’s what they say:

“In our next visit, we’ll ask you to tell us what you thought of this material and how you’ve lived this philosophy on the job.”

The goal is to measure a candidate’s reaction to fundamental, principle-based, proven content on personal accountability. If the person rejects the ideas in the QBQ! book—STOP THE PROCESS. The last person you want is one who blames, points fingers, whines, and complains.

We do agree on that, right? 🙂


A three-word “job description” for any position you’re attempting to fill:

Do. Stuff. Now.

Am I right or am I right?

If you want a body to sit and do nothing, go to the county fair, win a life-size stuffed teddy bear, bring it to the office and place it in a cubicle. Doing this is no worse than hiring a person who wants to be told what to do next.

As we write in QBQ!—“It’s better to be one who is told to wait than one who waits to be told.”


Three character traits not taught in any college or university in the world: Authentic. Accountable. Action-oriented.

Which one is most critical for you to bring into your organization today?


8 Responses

  1. John, great article. I agree with all three points especially the last one. I would much rather ride a horse I have to rein in or hold back occasionally rather than a nag I have to constantly spur to get it to move! Give me action!
    Bottom line, character counts! In the workplace, the home and yes, even in government! It will always come out in the end.

  2. This is true! I have seen people with good skills and credentials slow things down, bring down morale, and destroy work because they did not care and/or were not accountable. It probably would have been better to leave the position vacant. Hire people who always make the effort to do the right thing.

  3. Wow, its as if the Lord said, “John, send these words out today… Mona is struggling with this!” I’m actually in the process of hiring for two positions. Action-Oriented is first – they need to get after it, get to work, “get ‘er done”! Secondly, Accountable – if they didn’t “get ‘er done” – they need to take responsibility for it and then we’ll talk about why and how we can remedy the situation. Gosh, wish I had a couple of spare QBQ books laying around to give the new prospects to read. Hmmmmmm…… 🙂

  4. John
    Your suggestions to hire based upon character rather than credentials seems to be right on, unless the candidate can’t learn the job. Thanks for the tip.

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