“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."
– Alvin Toffler

Zooming in on the Successful Employee

So you need a new team member. Of course, you want a super star: someone who can perform the functions of the job flawlessly and blend in with your company’s culture. First, you need to figure out what that means for your team.

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of seeking candidates based entirely on the skills necessary to perform day-to-day tasks. While, yes, you need those skills, focusing just on that aspect may not result in the best long-term fit, or may not ultimately drive the progress you need for your department. Don’t lose sight of the big picture in favor of the specifics.

Instead, work your way down to specific skills from the big picture. Start wide and zoom in. When envisioning your future hire, consider: first, the company/department’s needs and goals; then, how the individual will contribute to those goals; and, finally, the skills and personality traits necessary to get the job done and fit in with the culture. Think of these concepts as the three steps funneling down, all pointing you to the right person.


Step 1: Company and departmental future

Always take into account the ultimate outcomes you want for your team or your department. Sometimes, bringing on a new person to maintain the status quo is your goal; and sometimes, you need someone new who will be the missing piece on your team or allow you to elevate members of your current workforce.

Whatever you decide your team needs, this is the starting point of your search and sets the scope. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Where is the company going? What goals do you hope to achieve?
  • Where is the department going?
  • How does your department fit into the company’s overall goals?

Step 2: Individual contribution to that future

Next, think about the specific ways in which the new addition to your team will contribute to the ultimate goals of your organization or your team. Perhaps there are particular projects they will helm, or specific deliverables you will rely on them to produce. In addition to that, you may find that your team needs someone who has the personality to motivate their team members, or to be the one who helps to keep people on task. At this point, think about what your team needs.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the business purpose of this particular role?
  • What goals / achievements do you expect this role to meet?
  • What personality traits will round out the dynamic of your team?

Step 3: Skills and fit

Lastly, lay out the skills and personality traits this individual will need to perform the daily functions and work well with the culture of your team. These are the specifics you probably started with instinctively. Ask yourself:

  • What will this person do each day?
  • What skills and knowledge do they need to accomplish these tasks?
  • What have been the traits and skills of people who have already been successful in this role?
  • What personality traits will make this person a cultural fit?

Taking these three steps and asking yourself key questions will help you to filter through the qualifications, experience, and skills of all candidates you screen, and hone in on the particular candidate that will push your team forward.

Making the day to day tasks your sole focus will leave you with a two dimensional image of a person. To really find that successful employee who can elevate your team, you should have a three dimensional image in your head. Simply remember that if you make the job live for you, then you can find someone who will bring new life to your team. Start with the greater goal, and you can find someone who will help you accomplish great things.