I’m in my first management job and have the ability to hire staff… when I’m budgeted for it, that is. The opportunity hasn’t presented itself often, but I take seriously the consideration involved in choosing the right candidate. The people managers hire will help us execute the overall vision of your department, so it’s important not to avoid buyer’s remorse by knowing what we want in an emplooyee.
I have my own idea of the perfect communicator… but hey. I can’t clone myself, right? Right???
Ahem. Anyway… While it’s almost impossible to find an ideal candidate to fill any role, here are the characteristics I value in a communicator and drive my decision to take on an employee.
I know this goes without saying, but I’ve worked with more than a few communicators who were fine writers, but didn’t knock the socks off of anyone. Whether it was repetitive word use, too many commas, boring introductory paragraphs, missed calls to action, poor structure, or other shortcomings, there were many things that made their writing pedestrian. Worse, they seemed happy putting in a minimal effort. So I always look for people who really seem to care about putting out a good product and elevating their reputation for excellence.
I’m also a big fan of those who can edit well. For me, that means looking at all writing – not only the work of others, but also their own – with a critical eye and a real desire to make it better. That doesn’t mean intentionally looking for problems, but rather having the mindset that most writing can be improved or streamlined. I do it with myself, and I respect those I work with to have the itch to improve no matter how long they’ve been writing.
Skills Other Than Writing… Or At Least an Interest in Learning
Ten years ago, you could be a communicator with only the ability to write well; that’s not the case anymore. Today’s communicators need other skills – including and especially video creation – to be effective in building engagement. Candidates I look for have either a knowledge or interest in video and understand basic principles to creating content that goes beyond the average webcam or dashcam testimonial.
There are also some other skills today’s communicators should have, if only at a basic level – including photo editing software, graphic design, email formatting, data analysis, and layout applications (such as InDesign). The key point is that internal and external audiences are looking for dynamic visual content, and it’s important to give them what they want.
Stays Current with Trends
Keeping up with current trends are critical for successful professionals, no matter the industry. Corporate communication is no different. I appreciate communicators who follow sites like Ragan.com or IABC.com and stay aware of the trends their contemporaries are following to build audience engagement. Informing me of something that’s happening in the world of communication that I might not know about is a good way to impress me.
It’s hard to believe in the age of Google – when we have unlimited information and resources at our fingertips – I still have had many instances in which I’ve made a request of a colleague, he/she tried one method of accomplishing the task, was unsuccessful, and proclaimed that the task could not be completed. That’s why when I’m able to work with someone who exhausts all resources and still tries to think of alternatives to solve a problem or achieve a goal, I feel very fortunate. I think it’s becoming a truly rare quality in many professions, but in a field like communications – one in which people should be creative and think outside the box – it’s especially valuable.
This is a bit of a continuation to my previous point about showing an interest in new and different communication channels. Academy Award–winning producer Brian Grazer and acclaimed business journalist Charles Fishman wrote a book called Curiosity, which stresses that one of the keys to success is to be curious… about everything. When you have a desire to know how anything works or why things are the way they are, it sets you on a path to acquiring knowledge and applying that knowledge in different ways.
I’ve come to really admire that value in people. Stagnation – maintaining your personal status quo – is equivalent, in my opinion, to waiting out life until the end. People who are on a constant quest of self-improvement are people with whom I want to work.
I didn’t mean to get all Tony Robbins on you, but I felt a need to stress why this characteristic is important to me and why I look for it in others. I want to work with people who want to learn more about what they know and even more about what they don’t. When you adopt that principle into your personal and professional life, the possibilities open up and the more value you can add to your organization and audience.
How about those of you who have to make hiring decisions? What do you look for in your potential candidates? Let us know in the Comment section!
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One other quality in people that I love – the ability to join my email list. Is this a characteristic you possess? Then fill out the form at the right of the page!