The Top Traits We Look for in Millennial Team Members

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As I travel, I meet leaders who consistently ask about hiring and firing staff. How do we find good members and how do we cultivate their talent? How do we find young staff members who possess a strong work ethic and great attitudes? Great questions. Whether you’re student affairs staff or an HR executive in business, we all face this issue: what are the essential traits we need in young team members?

Cultivating our human capital is of utmost importance to accomplishing our mission. Harvey Firestone once said, “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” At Growing Leaders, we take this very seriously. We won’t even interview people whom we don’t believe have the goods.

Like college and pro coaches, it all begins with recruitment. You’ve got to start with the proper raw material. So, what do we look for when interviewing potential team members?

Here are our top essentials in staff:

During the interview process, we do our homework to discover what kind of bandwidth our job candidate has shown in their former workplace. We always look for people who have high capacity to handle lots of tasks, to multi-task and to grow with the needs of our organization. Discover similarities between what they’ve done and the job you want to offer them. Initiative.
We look for potential staff who show initiative, before and even during the job interview. Do they merely wait for you to lead the way, or do they show any spark of curiosity and pro-activity in them? Do they ask questions of you? Do they initiate meeting anyone else you pass by on the way to the interview spot? We look for folks who demonstrate this leadership trait because it predicts so much of their success. Network.
Before the interview, we try to sniff out what kind of network they enjoy; who they hang around; how comfortable they are in meeting others; and how well they connect with strangers. Our work will require them to embody strong interpersonal skills, so we hunt for this in our conversation and our online search. Energy.
People who thrive on our team are high-energy people. In fact, when someone interviews and we can tell from their narrative and from their personality that they are low energy people, we know it will be unfair to hire them. They’d be swallowed up in the tasks, the pace and the energy of our current team members. We recognize the DNA of our team, and it does not mesh with low-energy people. Ownership.
Finally, we look for people who display a sense of ownership in what they do. We will ask specific questions about their last job, personal hobbies, family and style—and usually get a sense of the depth of their sense of responsibility. I look for staff whose actions demonstrate ownership of their work and discomfort when a task is left undone.

I want you to notice that three of the five elements above have to do with attitude, not aptitude. While we always look for smart staff people, it would be difficult to over-estimate the power of soft skills, like an optimistic attitude; or, a spirit of initiative or a sense of ownership. For me, soft skills are as important as hard skills. It’s about being an “Early Bird” not a “Mockingbird.” Initiate instead of imitate.

Years ago, one of our interns approached me his first week on the job and asked if he could have an office key. My eyes must have communicated shock, because this young college student explained why: “I already love what I am doing here. I can see I may be coming in early and even leaving late, and I just didn’t want to presume that others may do the same.”

I gave him a key right away.

Help Millennials Transition from Backpack to Briefcase

In order to cultivate great habits and attitudes in new professionals, we have developed Habitudes® for New Professionals, one of our latest installments of the Habitudes series. (Habitudes are images that form leadership habits and attitudes.) This engaging discussion guide is designed to help new professionals:

  • Overcome a sense of entitlement towards tasks that seem “beneath them”
  • Persevere in a career when it may move slower than they wish
  • Trust their supervisor even when they don’t completely agree with him or her
  • Take initiative and set the pace for other teammates
  • … and many more leadership habits and attitudes

Check it out HERE.


The Top Traits We Look for in Millennial Team Members