When it comes to hiring a new employee, what are the top three traits you’re looking for? Do these traits differ between entry-level positions and middle management? And finally, how did you decide which traits are most important? The desired characteristics for choosing employees is probably almost endless, so I won’t bother trying to provide a comprehensive list of possible choices. And I also won’t claim that there are any right or wrong answers to the above questions (although I’m a huge fan of trustworthy, productive and disciplined) ... that’s up to you to decide.

Wall tom
Dairy Coach / Dairy Interactive, LLC

Ultimately, every company and manager has different personnel needs and unique management styles to consider.

Nonetheless, let’s take a look at just a couple of the popular traits that most managers seem to look for when screening potential candidates.

A lot of managers say that reliability is at the top of their ‘must-have’ list. And it’s hard to argue with needing someone you can always count on.

But what does reliability truly mean to you? Are you referring to someone who’s got your back and makes sure the job gets done before going home? Or are you simply looking for someone who shows up every day for work?


Yeah, there’s a big difference. And maybe the first one is more necessary at the middle or upper manager level than at an entry-level position.

But the truth is, many employees (and employers too) believe that if someone never misses a shift, that means they’re dependable and they deserve a raise because of it.

And as critically important as that is, I tend to think of attendance as a minimum requirement for merely staying employed. At some point, poor attendance and chronic tardiness are going to get someone fired, regardless of how talented or experienced they are.

Speaking of experience, that’s another popular trait a lot of managers look for in new hires. And depending on the level of position you’re hiring for, I’d have to agree with the cliché that “past experience can be a great indicator of future success.”

But how much extra value does an entry-level employee with prior experience bring to your team? Sure it makes training on the first couple of shifts a lot easier and faster.

But what happens in a few days or weeks after being hired? Does previous experience pay off in the long term?

Or does someone’s experience at other dairies bring a lot of undesirable baggage like bad habits and misinformation? If that’s the case, this kind of prior experience is hard to “unteach.”

Many people I’ve worked with would agree that they’d rather “hire for attitude and train for skill.” But it seems that few actually do.

Like most managers, I’m sure your profitability and peace of mind have both suffered as a result of “poor hires” in the past. And with any luck, this has taught you that finding top-notch employees who work well in your system is absolutely critical to your company’s success.

Regardless of what you consider to be the three “non-negotiables” that you look for in your dairy’s employees, hopefully your team knows what these traits are. And not just because they’ve heard you talk about them but, most importantly, because that’s what you reward. PD


Tom Wall

Dairy Interactive, LLC