The One Trait You Should Always Look for In Your Employees

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The recipe for an ideal employee has many ingredients. Top performers are hard-working, resourceful, creative, professional, and agreeable–to name just a few of the traits that create a productive worker. 

Of course, you’ll never find someone who perfectly embodies all these traits. And, certainly, some of these ingredients are more important than others, which means you must prioritize the most crucial characteristics when building your team. 

So what is the #1 most important trait you should always look for in your employees? 

Think for a moment. 

The answer is: Integrity.

What Is Integrity
Integrity is often defined as doing the right thing even when no one is watching. That is, acting in an ethical, responsible, and honest manner even when there is no incentive to do so. A person with integrity has a strong moral compass and unwavering sense of truthfulness, accountability, and duty. 

Integrity is sometimes summed up with the 7 Pillars of Integrity, a list of qualities that make up integrity. These pillars are:

  • Honesty
  • Responsibility
  • Respect
  • Ethical decision-making
  • Accountability
  • Trustworthiness
  • Loyalty

If someone demonstrates these 7 traits, they are said to have integrity.

The importance of integrity in the workplace
Integrity is a crucial trait because it fosters a more positive and productive workplace. 

Employees with integrity take responsibility for their actions, are truthful (even when they make mistakes), help others, and work hard. They are honest about their abilities and dependable in completing their duties.

When a deadline is missed or an issue arises, integrity drives employees to take accountability for the mishap and prioritize solving it. 

These employees have mutual respect for each other and for their work environment. They support their peers, aid those in need, express gratitude for others’ contributions, and promote teamwork. They may even serve as role models, pushing your entire workforce to strive for excellence. 

But in the pursuit of excellence, they are realistic about their limitations and take commitments seriously. They advocate for themselves and never take on more than they can handle (reducing the number of missed deadlines, slipshod work, and burnout). 

And because these employees respond so well to failure -- admitting wrongdoing and looking to resolve the problem -- they stop little issues from turning into big problems and continually improve the workflow of the organization.

Identifying integrity in potential employees
Identifying integrity in your current workforce is not hard to do. You may even have a few noteworthy individuals in mind right now. 

Employees with integrity stand out for their honesty, responsibility, and work ethic. Even if you don’t see someone’s integrity right away, their attitude and actions will reveal it eventually. 

However, when you’re hiring, you have limited time to get to know candidates personally, and so you need to learn how to identify integrity in just a few interviews. 

There are a few things to look for when evaluating potential hires. Asking about two key past experiences is an easy way to reveal a candidate’s sense of integrity. 

The first: Ask interviewees about past mistakes. Those with integrity will take responsibility for errors and describe the steps they took to resolve problems. They’ll demonstrate learning from their mistake and will not shift the blame to others, skirt around the question, or give you the highly improbably answer of “I’ve never made a mistake.”

The second: Ask interviewees about their past employers. Candidates with integrity speak highly of their past employers -- or, at the very least, don’t bad mouth them, even if they were fired. Speaking poorly of past employers often indicates a lack of integrity. 

Other important traits to look for in your employees
There are many other important traits to look for in your employees. Integrity, while arguably the most important, is just one ingredient in the recipe of a quality worker.  

Other traits to look for include:

  • Confidence
  • Communication skills
  • Growth mindset
  • Teamwork
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Motivation or passion
  • Adaptability
  • Resourcefulness 

Your employees are people. None of them perfectly exemplify integrity or any other quality. But by selecting those who always strive to be their best, are honest, accountable, and ethical, you can fill your workforce with more positive and productive employees. 


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