What are the top skills you look for when hiring?

We asked several talent and recruiting managers with the strategic accounts practice group at Robert Half to address the question above so we could gather their best insights on what attributes make a job candidate exceptional. Based on their responses, here are 11 qualities you’ll want to showcase in interviews throughout the hiring process:

Articulate communicator

I always look for articulate candidates — this is a skill important throughout the job search.

A candidate with good communication skills can explain why they’re a good fit for a role and, overall, instills confidence that they will be able to succeed in future jobs. When a candidate gives me details and context, I trust that we can work together to overcome any barriers that may come up.

Scout Heath, sourcing specialist, Columbus, Ohio

Strong communication skills and explanations

When hiring, one of the top qualities I look for in a candidate is strong communication skills. I’m looking for this in how they explain previous jobs on their resume, how they can explain what they are looking for in their ideal job, and how they follow up after our initial conversation.

Leah Pizzi, senior sourcing supervisor, Phoenix, Ariz.

Strong interpersonal and thorough communication

One of the top qualities I look for when recruiting is communication. If a candidate responds in a timely manner via phone and/or email and can articulate their qualifications for a position, it shows certain reliability and overall professionalism. It also shows that they're highly interested in the position.

If a candidate does not have strong interpersonal communication skills, it can present as a lack of professionalism, dependability and even a lack of interest.

In my experience, I’ve also learned that typically if a candidate has thorough communication with me, they will probably have thorough communication in the workplace, and that’s usually key to a successful placement.

If you are interested in a position, I highly recommend communicating with your point of contact to see it through. Be thorough in your responses, ask lots of questions, stay responsive and keep following up about the position.

Dani Rappenecker, senior sourcing specialist, Effort, Pa.

Communication responsiveness

Two of the qualities I look for most during the hiring process are what our candidates are also looking for from us: communication and responsiveness. Setting realistic expectations from the beginning allows you to see how the candidate responds to those expectations throughout the entire process. If they are receptive, if they show exceptional interpersonal communication skills and if they remain responsive — these qualities let me know we may have a great candidate on our hands.

Communication and responsiveness must be reciprocated. I always set expectations with my candidates on when I’ll be reaching out and doing weekly check-ins to see how their job search is going, but I also set expectations with the candidate on when certain things need to be done. This two-way street allows us to build strong relationships and represent the best available candidates to our clients.

Kristin Keaton, sourcing specialist, Columbus, Ohio


When I’m interviewing a candidate for a job, I like to ask about examples of situations that went wrong in a previous job. I want to know that they can identify where they fell short and that they learned and implemented changes going forward.

Sound processes and success often results from previous stumbles. Everybody makes mistakes. It is important to show what you’ve learned from them.

Mike Parisi, manager of strategic accounts, Chicago, Ill.

Soft skills

Of course, a candidate having the appropriate required skills for the job is important; however, I also focus on the candidate’s soft skills. A candidate whose soft skills align with the company’s corporate culture and goals is a winning combination. Some examples of important soft skills companies look for are communication skills, leadership skills, critical thinking, a positive attitude and being a team player.

Angela Karabetsos, senior vice president, Phoenix, Ariz.


As a recruiter, our job is to match candidates and companies — that doesn’t mean “Do you check all of their boxes?” but do you have the skills for the role? That starts with understanding your motivators, strengths, and areas of opportunity. Consider the following:

  1. Motivators — When looking for a job, what is most important to you? How will you rank roles presented to you?
  2. Strengths — What soft/technical skills do you excel in?
  3. Areas of opportunity — What soft/technical skills are you working on and interested in learning more about?

By being transparent, we can work together to find the best fit for your career.

Erin Wallace, branch manager, Columbus, Ohio


One of the top qualities I look for when hiring is authenticity. The hiring process can be strenuous for all, but at the end of it, I want to really understand the type of individual I’m hiring.

I’m not looking for a “yes” person or someone who gives the response they think I want to hear. I want to hire someone who is honest and transparent to where I know not only what motivates them but also what will really engage them in a role.

It’s also important that they feel comfortable stepping into the role as their authentic self from day one; otherwise, it will never be the right fit long term.

Katie Rhoads, manager SA talent delivery center, Columbus, Ohio


There are many things I look for when finding a great candidate. Of course, you want to find someone who meets the client’s skill requirements, but the personality of the candidate is also incredibly important.

I love to speak to the candidate about the company’s corporate culture and make sure it is a great fit for both the client and my candidate. It is truly fulfilling when you find a candidate who is elated about the job position and where they will get to work. Anyone can do a job, but finding someone who is also excited and passionate about the work is even better.

Mackenzie Kizer, sourcing specialist, Columbus, Ohio


The top qualities I look for when hiring are candidates’ work experience relevant to the job. Once we connect, I observe their professionalism, the confidence they have in speaking about their skill sets and the overall passion they have for the opportunity.

Deziray Davis, sourcing supervisor, Atlanta, Ga.

Being honest, enthusiastic and hardworking

When hiring, I look for someone who is honest, enthusiastic, and hardworking. In my experience with staffing, I find the best candidates are those who are excited about a new opportunity and will commit to working hard to achieve goals while being honest in exceeding goals and metrics.

Eric Simmons, sourcing supervisor, Atlanta, Ga.

Robert Half recruiters (top row, from left):  Scout Heath, Kristin Keaton and Mike Parisi; (middle row, from left): Angela Karabetsos, Erin Wallace and Deziray Davis; (bottom row, from left):  Katie Rhoads, Mackenzie Kizer and Eric Simmons. Not pictured: Dani Rappenecker and Leah Pizzi.

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