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Personality Traits and Job Performance: Landing the Career of Your Dreams

Fresh out of college or switching industries? The struggle is real. From resumé formatting to strengthening your interview skills, there are a lot of ups and downs in finding your dream job. Maybe you’ve got the cover letter writing down to a science, but it seems like your interviews are falling flat. Rest assured that you’re not alone and practice makes progress!

The great thing about interviews is they not only help employers qualify future employees, but they allow the job applicant to find a company they’d be proud to work for. Think of it like speed dating, but for professionals. On a date, you wouldn’t exactly show up in pajamas or scream at the wait staff. The same is true for a job interview, and there are certain personality skills that fare better than others. Here are some of the traits that hiring managers tend to look for in an ideal employee!

Personality Traits for Success

  1. Self-Motivation
    In your career, there won’t always be someone there to hold your hand every day and encourage you to finish your latest project. More importantly, you’ll never learn how to be independent in the workplace and build on your existing skills if you require constant follow-up and reminders. Be sure to demonstrate your self-motivation during your interview to set yourself apart! Better yet, once you land your dream job, go the extra mile and take initiative on new ideas and projects. Your future self will thank you.
  2. Positive Attitude
    Nobody likes a negative Nancy, and it isn’t difficult for hiring managers to pick up on subtle hostility during interviews. Even a small dose of pessimism can turn off an interviewer. If you’re struggling with ways to focus on the positive, there are plenty of exercises to help train your brain to see the good in all situations. More importantly, carry these skills over to your day-to-day job once you do get hired. It will make your workplace friendlier and increase your odds of success.
  3. Organization
    One of the worst ways to make a first impression is by showing up to an interview unprepared. Be sure to have extra copies of your resumé on-hand, along with examples of your work. It will show the interviewer that you’re organized and ready for anything that comes your way. Once you’re hired, don’t forget to keep your desk tidy of any clutter or trash. You know you’ve got a problem when you have ants trailing up to your snack drawer.
  4. Confidence
    Whether you’re a software developer or public relations executive, confidence is one of the biggest keys to success in the professional world. All hiring managers are impressed by interviewees who believe in their skills and capabilities. Of course, there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, so just make sure you’re always receptive to feedback on your work without being defensive. A small dose of humility can go a long way when paired with confidence.
  5. Professionalism
    Even if your dream job can be done while sitting at home in your pajamas, it’s important to communicate professionalism if you’d like to be taken seriously. Think of the saying, “Don’t dress for the job you have; dress for the job you want.” The motto applies to attire, attitude, and overall perspective. If you want to be promoted or are striving for a managerial role, be aware of how you present yourself, no matter the office environment!

Qualities of a Good Employee

Keep in mind that every industry is different, meaning every single company has a unique standard on what it means to succeed. Before interviewing at a business, a good rule of thumb is to check out their LinkedIn profile, along with any social media accounts. You’ll get a good idea of what the day-to-day workplace is like and see if it’s the right place for you. Plus, being able to bring up a recent event the company held is a good way to leave a positive impression on a hiring manager. Don’t forget to snag some promotional pens before you leave your interview!

What are some things that you think make you or someone else a superior employee? If you’re a hiring manager, which other personality traits do you favor in employees or potential hires?

Kelsey Brown

Kelsey LOVES to write and she'll always make sure you're using the correct form of "your." But when she isn’t writing, she can usually be found chasing around her two rabbits, hanging at local wineries or watching an episode of Friends for the 574th time.


  1. Mandy Kilinskis

    These are definitely great traits for any prospective employee to have. I think another great one is a willingness to learn. You can fold this into the positive attitude, but I think it also stands on its own. If you want to learn about your company, coworkers, and projects, you won’t just be a great employee, you’ll be a star employee.

    Also to answer the caption question “Who would you rather have on your team?” my answer is: someone with an actual face. 🙂

    • Ellyn Gilmore

      I agree, Mandy, that willingness to learn is another really good trait to have, because if you are not willing to learn then you are never able to work your way up the “career ladder”. Which is unfortunate for you and your boss.

  2. Amy Swanson

    Your traits here are spot-on! I’m not in the position to hire anyone, but I feel that having happy people is great to an organization. During the work week you spend more time at work then you do awake at home, so why make it horrible and unbearable to go to? I’ve worked with people in the past who were always negative, made for some long days. Yuck, definitely potential hires to avoid!

  3. Jill Tooley

    All of these are CRUCIAL traits! Nice list.

    Self-motivation is a tricky one because many employees find it hard to keep going throughout the day. I’ve worked with people (not here at QLP) who constantly made others pick up the slack until the boss stopped by to check on things…and then all of a sudden they were conveniently “working hard.” They never hesitated to take all of the credit, either, but that’s an entirely different story! 😉

    Confidence is probably the hardest one on your list, especially for “shy types” like you or me. It takes a lot of work to be proud of your accomplishments and to convey that to a stranger in an interview without sounding pompous!

    Oh, and don’t get me started on the importance of a positive attitude. I’m definitely not brimming with glee every second of the day, but I always have a smile for people and try to look on the bright side of situations! You’re right, no one wants to partner up with a Debbie Downer in the workplace…especially when there’s a lot of work to be done.

    • Ellyn Gilmore

      Confidence is definitely something I needed to work on, because I tend to be so shy but once I’ve been with a company or in a position for a long period of time I find that the confidence to stand up for what I believe in grows. So watch out QLPers!!! 🙂

  4. Joseph Giorgi

    Excellent post!

    I think that each of the traits you mentioned here are crucial. I’d go as far as to say that #1 is the most vital, though. People who are self-motivated (and have the “get it done” personality type) are valuable in a way that bosses and managers can’t help but appreciate. Knowing that an employee is doing his or her job well without having to be told to do so is invaluable.

    Of course, positivity is always a useful trait as well, and I’d imagine that it sort of factors into an employee’s confidence. I’m sure that optimistic employees are generally ten times more confident than pessimistic ones.

    Again, great post!

  5. JPorretto

    I’d have to say that other than some specific traits I look for in employees, I also look for that all important un-quantifiable “gut feeling.” This has to be some sort of combination of confidence, positive attitude, and other things you mentioned. But they have to be the RIGHT combination of those things.

  6. Jen

    What a great topic! Competition for a good job is tough right now, and it’s important to put your best foot forward, and show your interviewer/boss what a great employee you can be. I think having a positive attitude is the most important quality a person can have in a work environment.

  7. Amanda

    Great post! You nailed it with these qualities. =) Positive thinking makes the world a happier, more productive place!

  8. Phil

    Great tips. A lot of hiring managers or those working in recruitment can benefit from this.

  9. PartTimer

    Thanks for sharing your insights.
    I learned a lot from your article.
    I am planning to apply for a job soon, this would really help me.

  10. Jujama

    Wel… consider yourself added to my blogroll. I have like six other blogs I read on a weekly basis, guess that number just increased to seven! Keep writing!

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  12. Daniel Mcsweeny

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