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The Top Three Things To Look For When Hiring

This article was based on episode 170 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get my guide to interviewing for these three critical skills when you become a member at Purchase any full episode guide at

We all want to hire great people. The question is: how do we know a great candidate when we see one? Credentials on paper aren’t an obvious or accurate depiction of the person’s capabilities or attitude. Instead, it’s important to explore the types of behaviors that you believe will make a person successful in the role. There are three top behaviors that I always advise managers to look for regardless of what position they are hiring for. These are self-awareness, a learning orientation, and the “how might we” mindset. When we hire for and encourage these healthy behaviors, management becomes a whole lot easier!


The better someone understands herself, the easier it will be to set her up to succeed.

Who Are You?

Does the person know, and acknowledge, their strengths and weaknesses? Rather than overcompensating, a person with healthy self awareness accepts their struggles and is open to asking for and receiving help. This allows them to focus their energy in the spheres where they excel. In addition, individuals who understand under what conditions they thrive and don’t (such as remote work, tight deadlines, or lots of time in meetings) are better able to convey what they need in order to achieve their best results.

How Do You Show Up?

While we know what’s driving us to say or do certain things, our colleagues don’t always experience us as we intend. Being aware of how others may interpret your behavior, and then sharing your intentions or actively working to adjust your behavior accordingly, helps eliminate conflict before it’s started. And if conflict does arise, people with strong self awareness and an ability to see themselves through the eyes of others, are more likely to take ownership over their mistakes or role in the conflict.

Do You Explore Your Mistakes?

We all make mistakes, the question is whether those mis-steps become learning opportunities. Great employees are able to consider why they acted as they did, what would have been better, and then change their approach in the future. These types of people are able to make conscious choices to behave differently rather than being subject to their habits and emotions.


The more he wants to learn, the easier it will be for him to expand into the role.

Are You Growth-Oriented?

Growth-oriented employees view feedback as an opportunity to improve themselves. They seek feedback even when it’s hard to hear. They are comfortable with being on a learning curve and understand their performance will improve as time goes on. This mindset enables people to take on tasks they are unfamiliar with while expecting that it might not be perfect the first time around. Yet instead of paralyzing fear or an unhealthy drive for perfection, they learn along the way and improve over time.

Are You Willing To Ask Questions?

My grandfather’s favorite quote was, “Everything I learned, I learned from someone else.” Even the greatest leaders aren’t born knowing everything. The humility to ask questions is an essential behavior in large part because it generates trust. As a manager, you know that if your team member is struggling or something is unclear, they will ask for help.

How Do You Learn?

Between changes in business strategy, technology, and career advancement, what is expected of us at work is constantly evolving. A person who is able to learn efficiently will be better prepared to succeed over time as the work expectations shift. When an individual knows what type of learning environment or mode works best for himself, such as reading, watching a video, or having someone serve as a coach, he’s able to better integrate and apply the learnings.


The more someone sees opportunities instead of roadblocks, the more you can rely on him to be your partner.

Do You Proactively Solve Problems?

As Rick Kiley put it in Episode 20 “Lessons From A Real Life Manager”, there are three types of people: people who create problems, people who identify problems, and people who solve problems. You want to make sure to have the last kind on your team; proactive problem solvers who figure out solutions without always relying on you.

Do You Think Creatively?

Inevitably things will happen that disrupt a task, project or goal. These could be small things like the internet in your area goes down for a few hours or a big thing like the budget was cut in half. In situations like these, great employees think creatively about how they can still achieve the best outcome despite the setback. They aren’t limited by the way things have always been, but consider the possibilities for what could be.

In addition to exploring a candidate’s past accomplishments, skills and values fit, try to get to know them on a deeper level by exploring these three critical competencies. By incorporating self-awareness, learning agility, and the “how might we” attitude into your talent acquisition process, you can select the best possible type of employees for your team. And in doing this, you make your job as a manager that much easier.

Get my interview guide for these three competencies when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at Or, purchase an individual episode guide at to help you implement the learnings and continue to enhance your rockstar manager skills.

This article was based on episode 170 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.




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