The 13 Most Important Traits of an Ideal Employee

I discouraged my two sons from attending college until they spent a few years in the real world working at various jobs so they could decide what they really wanted to do in life. Going too soon to college has many serious drawbacks. Most students will change their major or drop out because they didn't know what career they wanted to pursue; those that graduate will not get a decent job, and even if they do get a decent job they'll still be stuck paying back their student loan for years on end.

And if the parents were unlucky enough to cosign the student loan then they would be stuck for the money, ruining what might have been an enjoyable retirement with no prospect of ever getting paid back.

My older son, without ever stepping foot in college, now has his own business repairing smartphones at a half-dozen malls in New Jersey after less than a year in business, and has more in his retirement account at his age than 99% of college graduates of his age.

My younger son, without ever stepping foot in college, has a job at a very large Internet-based company with over 700 college-graduated employees running their network and is considered their most valuable employee.

Instead of wasting their time in college studying things they don't like or need, they spent those years racking up hours on things they did like and were fervently interested in. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers: The Story of Success (my Aug 2011 book selection) informs us that the most successful people in any discipline are those who have logged at least 10,000 hours in the discipline of their choice.

I have had hundreds of employees in my previous businesses and I would certainly have instantly hired anyone with the same traits as my sons, despite their lack of college education, so I would like to share with you what I consider the 13 most important traits of an ideal employee. This does not mean that I will only hire applicants who possess all 13 traits, rather that they possess most of them. Certainly if one person had all 13 traits he would be the perfect employee, and I don't know if I want to hire a person who is perfect.

Here are the 13 most important traits of my ideal employee, in no particular order:

  1. Can Speak English Intelligibly

    Do I really have to point out that if your customers and employees cannot communicate with each other it will impact your business adversely. For example, I was at a McDonalds in Atlantic City last Monday and the cashier had an intolerably dense Bangladeshi accent. It took a while before I could make myself understood as to what I wanted to order. While waiting for my breakfast order I noticed a few people coming back to complain that their order was filled incorrectly.

    I won't be going back.

  2. Smokers make bad employees
    Photo Credit: Guardian

    Doesn't Smoke

    Smokers spend the workday waiting to take a smoke break and so cannot concentrate on their job.

    They also stink. Unless your business involves selling cigars, fertilizer, or fish, you may not want your employees sending offensive molecules into the nasal cavities of your customers or other employees.

    Also smokers will negatively impact your health insurance costs, although perhaps not as much as ObamaCare will.

    You can find at least 10 reasons why one should not hire smokers in my article: Whirlpool: Fired for Lying About Smoking Habit.

  3. Will Fit in Culturally

    Will the new hire fit in with the existing employees? I do not mean that all your workers be ethnically the same. In my phonecard business we had Chinese, Russian, Hindu, and other ethnically diverse employees but they all shared the same culture, they all enjoyed working with each other.

  4. Is Punctual

    For small businesses there is nothing more critical than punctuality. I don't mean just showing up on time, an ideal employee will come early and never, ever fail to show up at all. Some of my readers may object that there are good reasons to miss work; however there really are none. As I wrote in my Employment Manual:

    Unless you are dying in a hospital (note from doctor relating to your terminal illness), do not miss work because you don't feel good or because your boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with you. Suck it up or I will break up with you.

    If your home is on fire and you can somehow assist the firefighters through your intimate knowledge of firefighting techniques unique to your domicile, then an exception can be made. Otherwise wait until the workday is over before visiting your smoldering ruins.

  5. Has Passion for the Work

    If your employees are passionate about their job, they will not feel as if they are laboring and will likely add value to your business. My son constantly trains at least 4 candidates for more than a month or two in smartphone screen repair and is happy if he ends up with at least one employee who is suitable to be hired. How does he know if an employee will work out long-term? Passion. If the prospective employee has passion, enjoys doing the job, he will work out. Without passion, my son won't even consider keeping the person beyond the training period.

  6. Does Not Have an Ebonic Name

    That's right, someone with a name like Tabiqwa, or Bershawn, or Trayvon (and it's no accident he was belligerent enough to get himself killed) should not be hired. in fact, usually they are not, see my article A Trayvon by any Other Name. If most employers will not hire people with Ebonic names, then it is not a huge leap to believe that customers, vendors and others may not want to do business with you if you employ workers with those kinds of silly names.

  7. Is Not a Muslim

    Too many companies who have hired Muslims later find out that Muslims cannot do the job they were hired to do. Either they won't handle pork, or stock shelves with alcohol, or cannot work 8 hour days without praying every hour and a half, or want to wear religious garb that does not fit the company look.

  8. Is Cheerful

    Just recently I fired an employee because some of my customers complained that he was a grump. If you get a few complaints you can be sure that, like cockroaches, there are many more that you're not aware of. Notice that I did not mention friendly - a cheerful employee is obviously friendly - I want specifically want cheerful - that is, someone who makes my customers feel happy.

  9. Is Hard Working

  10. A hard worker will put extra effort into any task. I don't want someone to give me a 100%, I want 110%. That means going to a higher shelf or smiling a bigger smile if that is what the customer needs.

    A few months back I let an employee go because he was not a hard worker. When it wasn't busy he didn't tidy up the place, clean the shelves, or keep himself occupied. He was happy letting the day slide by without any effort.

  11. Is Trustworthy

    This is especially important if the employee is handling large amounts of money. Back in the early 1980s I was fortunate enough to have a number of trustworthy employees who I had no problem letting carry a few hundred thousand dollars at a time from place to place.

  12. burqa babe

    Is Presentable

    If you have a dental practice, your employees should not be missing any teeth. If you own a hair salon, your employees should not have scraggly hair. If you run Hooters, your employees should not be wearing a hijab.

  13. Has a Good Attitude

    I want my employees to come to work with an upbeat and happy demeanor. Nothing will depress other employees as much as someone who comes in with a sour face. Employees should act as happy, fresh and energetic as if they were splashing through frothy waves on a sandy beach. Yes, I'm serious.

  14. Is Attentive to Customers

    I had to let an employee go because my customers complained he was always on his phone either talking or texting and they had to wait to get served. Unless a bomb squad is calling him to help dismantle a Muslim terrorist bomb and only he knows the secret sequence of wires to cut, I do not want any employee to ever be on the phone.

If you cannot find enough employees who have at least 7 of these traits, then make sure your business puts in place a mechanism to train those new hires to help them acquire those traits.

This has been a Thursday 13 post [# 90] and is updated on some Thursdays.

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