10 Traits Executive Leaders Look for in Top Talent

Alan Breed

We all know that hiring new talent can be a challenge. Where do you find the best candidates? And how do you know whether they are a good fit for your company? It’s important to identify which characteristics you and your organization care most about when hiring new employees. In a recent interview series, prominent executive leaders shared what they believe are the most important traits to look for when hiring. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Resilience

“I’d tell young people that it’s all about resilience. Your career is not going to go the way you planned. It is impossible at the age of 23 to pick the right industry, the right company, and you can visualize what you’re going to be doing in your 40s, 50s, and 60s but chances are that it’s going to be something quite different. So remain open to opportunities and change. Also tell them that nothing beats hard work in getting there, there aren’t many short cuts at all.”

– Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest

2. Competitive Spirit

“The most important things [to look for in] hedge fund managers is that they are smart and they are honest. Close behind that is probably competitiveness…someone who won’t lose- doesn’t lose.”

– Julian Robertson, Founder & Former CEO of Tiger Management

3. Trust

“There’s an X-factor, and by-and large in my mind, that’s the element of trust. Whether you’re partnering with someone in a business venture, whether you’re looking for investors, or whether you’re just taking a job-having convinced someone they can trust you is a huge thing.”

-Steve Ketchum, Founder & CEO of Sound Point Capital

4. Passion.

“I’m looking for passion for the business…They’re creative and have lots of ideas and bring lots of positive energy…I want ‘culture-carers,’ and people that are team-oriented; I want people that put the firm first…It’s never about them or their interests.”

– Tony James, President & COO of Blackstone

5. Drive.

“…What difference does it make if a person is smart or not? The only difference in smart people is they’re more fun to have around…Look at Warren Buffett. What a drive that man has! Behind everyone who is successful, there is a drive.”

– Bill Comfort, Former Chairman of Citigroup Venture Capital

6. Integrity.

“The number one thing for me is integrity and honesty. I get leery of anything in a resume that leads me to believe I can’t trust the person, because we’re in the money business and we’re under tremendous regulatory scrutiny…So almost more than grades for me, I spend a lot of time interviewing the person and understanding what motivates them and have they shown an ability to have integrity.”

– Alan Breed, CEO of Edgewood Management

7. Maturity.

“I’m looking for someone that acts a little beyond their years. If I feel like this guy or this woman has something a little special, I’ll try to do certain things to unnerve them a little bit. I might question some of their skills just to see how they react to it. And if they can react with an air of sort of hunger but humility and real tenacity, I find that kind of irresistible.”

– Jimmy Dunne, Co-Founder & Senior Managing Principal at Sandler O’Neill

8. The Firm First.

“The mindset that it’s not about you. Whoever came up with that phrase…God bless them. And that you’re part of a team. You want the institution to look good; you want the institution to be successful while you’re being personally successful. And [you’ve] got to be all in it to get that result.”

– Deborah Wright, President & CEO of Carver Bancorp

9. Skill.

“We’re looking for someone with obviously strong analytical skills, strong finance and accounting skills, modeling skills—at that junior level that’s an important part of the job…A real sense of initiative, the ability to work with others, and a high degree of integrity.”

– Ian Snow, CEO & Partner of Snow Phipps

10. Overcoming Challenges.

“I love dealing with people who have had some challenges and they’ve been able to drive through them and have success—whether it be in academics, whether it be athletics, whether it be some summer job, or in their careers, so I look a lot for that.”

– Ted Virtue, Founder & CEO of MidOcean Partners

Happy hiring!