10 traits small business owners look for when hiring


Contributed by Fundera

Getting hired by a small business is often about fit. Will your could-be managers and colleagues get along with you? Do you exude the business’s principles? Can you form relationships with your co-workers to make busy work days a little less stressful?

A lot of small businesses recruit, interview, and hire with these questions in mind. They seek people who resonate with their mission, values, and ethics. They want to hire people, not resumes.

As a result, a candidate’s personality is often as important as their skills and background when they interview. At a small company, your job may change as business needs shift, so it’s important to hiring managers that you’re a good culture fit.

Small business owners know that the decision to hire someone is a crucial one, and a misstep can be costly. Employee turnover has been estimated to be as much as six to nine months of the lost employee’s salary. Therefore, understanding why an employee is a good cultural fit can go a long way toward influencing a hiring decision.

Here are the 10 traits small businesses often look for in a candidate when hiring:


1. Enthusiasm

True excitement is difficult to fake, which is why it makes the top of this list. If you don’t show enthusiasm for this specific role, with this specific company, the company you’re interviewing with is less likely to see you as a long-term fit.

Enthusiasm doesn’t necessarily mean beaming smiles and cries of joy throughout the interview. It can be conveyed simply through the way you talk about the role you’re interviewing for. Interviewers will recognize genuine enthusiasm when they see it.


2. Curiosity

A good employee follows directions and adheres to regulations but still expresses curiosity about the way things are done—both within the confines of their role and throughout the company. A candidate who comes to the interview with questions about the position clearly cares about their own fit, as well as the potential for learning and growth.


3. Personality

Everyone’s personality is different—it’s what makes them who they are. But business owners want to see a candidate display their personality, whatever it may be, and demonstrate what qualities they hold dear. You can do these things quietly, loudly, or moderately, but your personality has to come across one way or the other, or you won’t stand out.

Keep in mind that certain personalities won’t be a good fit in certain work environments. Exuberance or a placid attitude may not vibe with the office culture. That’s okay—don’t change who you are. Wait for something that fits.


4. Flexibility

Small businesses and startups are often looking for people who say they’re willing or able to “wear many hats,” or take on roles and tasks outside of what’s in the job description. While businesses shouldn’t overload people with responsibilities, candidates should be willing to step outside their comfort zones and learn new skills when called upon to do so.


5. Drive

If you’re applying for an entry-level job, you should do so with the expectation that you’ll use that experience to grow, level up, and become a more integral part of this organization—or another organization.

The “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question isn’t necessarily about ensuring that you’ll stay with the company that whole time but that you have the drive and ambition to do bigger and better things.


6. Long-term potential

Any good company will want to see you succeed, even if that means eventually moving on to other opportunities. But they also don’t want to invest time and money in you, only for you walk away soon after being hired.

Business owners want to know that you are the right fit for not just right now but six months, a year, and years from now. Demonstrate your passion for the company and show your willingness to grow with them, and you’ll get much further along than someone who seems in it just for next week’s paycheck.


7. Resourcefulness

Creative problem-solving and outside-the-box thinking are crucial when working for a small business. Problems can arise at a moment’s notice, without an obvious resolution. Come ready with examples of times you have helped your previous employers or colleagues out of a jam—it will demonstrate your ability to think critically and progress in the face of adversity.


8. Integrity

No one wants to hire someone who will steal from them, make other employees uncomfortable, or otherwise detract from the business via unethical behavior. A commitment to integrity is difficult to guarantee, but it’s crucial to state its importance to assure employers they’re trusting the right person.


9. Experimentalism

Experimentalism goes hand-in-hand with resourcefulness. Are you willing to try new platforms, apps, programs, and other tools to increase efficiency? Do you want to be the one trying a new method or practice, even if it leads to rejection or failure? Being experimental, especially when a company is growing and trying to differentiate itself from competitors, is a huge bonus.


10. Soft skills

“Hard skills” are the skills that you need to do your specific job. Computer programming, knowledge of machinery operation, or language proficiency are hard skills you learn through education and training.

“Soft skills,” on the other hand, are interpersonal people skills that every employee should have, even if they’re harder to teach or define—things like empathy, communication, listening, and leadership fall under soft skills. These are the skills that cannot, at this time, be replaced by robots or AI and are thus the most future-proof.


Every small business has different needs—particularly regarding hard skills that will help accomplish specific goals. But candidates that come to the table with the above traits will present a compelling case for employment at any company, regardless of their background.