If you’re like every other company in the US right now, you are struggling to find people to fill the open roles necessary to keep customers satisfied — or just to keep customers, period. Everything right now is very fluid, and change is happening at a rapid pace. That includes the workforce.

I did a quick search on the internet for “key qualities in a new hire.” Here is a sampling of the results:

  • “Ten Standout Traits to Look for in Screening a New Hire”
  • “The Top Three Qualities…”
  • “What are the Top Five Qualities of a Job Candidate?”
  • “What are the Top Seven Qualities…”
  • “Fourteen Top Qualities Employers Look For…”
  • “Nine Qualities of a Good Employee”

Clearly, there are a lot of ideas about what the key qualities are as well as how many there might be. After seeing such a wide range of thoughts on what traits we should be looking for, I realized that you could make this list as long as you want. It’s very easy to just keep adding to the list, but it’s not so easy to boil it down to the one critical quality that every new hire candidate should have.

The Most Important Quality

So, what is that one unique quality that a new hire candidate must possess? Simple: It’s a sense of humor. Think about that phrase — sense of humor. It’s more than just being funny. It’s having a sense of what it takes to be funny and when. Do you even have that characteristic on your list? I challenge you to think about your most productive associates, no matter what the role is. Don’t they all have the ability to bring levity to a situation? And do it at the right time and in the right way? That is a very powerful quality that you either have or you don’t have. It isn’t something you can train a new hire on. But why is this such an important trait to seek?

Humor Offers Much More Than Just Entertainment Value

Someone with a strong sense of humor brings several positive qualities to the organization:

  • They can diffuse tense or difficult situations. We have probably all experienced a time when someone was able to inject a bit of levity at the right time and change the tone of the discussion.
  • They use humor to engage with others and not as a tool to attack them. There is a clear difference between humor and sarcasm.
  • They use humor in a self-deprecating way and don’t take themselves too seriously. Using humor this way can quickly and easily displace a strong ego.
  • They can think quickly in situations and can respond appropriately and effectively when the unexpected is said or done.
  • They have a great sense of timing and know when bringing humor into the situation is appropriate and when it’s not.
  • They can read other people and understand how to truly engage.
  • They tend to be optimistic and see the possibilities in difficult situations.
  • They usually have a high level of self-confidence and demonstrate the ability to get things done.

Humor? Really? That’s it?

Of course, that’s not the only quality you should consider when screening candidates for a new position. But it’s certainly the one thing that differentiates strong performers from the rest. My own personal experience bears this out, having been the CEO of a large organization with over 700 employees. As I look back, the people who stayed the longest and contributed the most were those who had a great sense of humor and used it wisely. I challenge you to add this to your list of new hire qualities. Then track the results over time. You will arrive at the same conclusion that I have – humor rules the day. Now lighten up!

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