What an employer looks for in an employee

Basic qualities

As a small business owner, I think these are the basic qualities an employer looks for in an employee:

  • They generally know how to do their job. (The level of supervision they need can vary depending on their experience.)
  • They show up for work every day.
  • There are no important problems with their personalities.
  • They have a good work ethic, and will do what their boss asks of them.

Problem employees

On the other end of the spectrum there are the “problem employees”. These are the attributes that I see in problem employees, i.e., the things that will get you fired without much notice, or will make you the first person to be laid off in a bad economy:

  • Some part of their personality is a problem. They don’t fit in, they are anti-social, constantly argumentative, they lead the gossip pool, they have a “can’t-do, sky is falling” attitude, etc.
  • They don’t give you an eight-hour workday. They either take a lot of breaks, spend a lot of time socializing, or sneaking around doing personal things that don’t pertain to work while they’re being paid to work, or have other issues in their personal lives.
  • They don’t know how to do their job.

Employees who get big raises and promotions

My final list shows the attributes of employees that get better raises and promotions than everyone else:

  • They have a positive, can-do, team-oriented personality and work ethic.
  • They get their work done with little or no supervision.
  • They offer ways to improve the way things are done.
  • They may be the best at what they do.
  • They are capable of leading or managing other people.

Where this comes from

I’m motivated to write this for several reasons. First, I’ve run into several people lately who either

(a) don’t know what they’re doing

(b) don’t put in full days

(c) have poor attitudes, what Zig Ziglar calls “a hardening of the attitude”.

While I’m in this neighborhood, this discussion reminds me of my ex-business partner. As a consultant, I worked with a small team of developers at a client site, and my partner would often say “If D, or R, or N have to come back to the office we’re going to have to lay them off”. He was extremely pessimistic for someone in a “leadership” position, and these people had done nothing to deserve to be laid off asap. They were all good people and good workers.

Alvin Alexander have worked in the programming field for 20 years now, starting with languages like Fortran and C, then moving to Java, Perl, PHP, and Ruby and he  also founded a consulting company named Mission Data


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