How to spot an ace employee


  • Hiring ace employees can be a boon for your business.
  • Spotting a high-caliber employee requires looking at more than the skillset.
  • Topnotch employees display certain signs, including honesty.

Hiring isn’t easy. Someone may seem great on paper and even in the interview, but may not do quite so well on the job site.

So how can you spot an ace employee during a quick face-to-face or soon after the person begins working? What are some of the telltale signs that someone will become a productive, long-term member of your team?

In her specialty of asbestos and mold removal, Barbara Wasden hires a lot of people for her company, Complete Property Restoration.

“As with most construction companies, our hiring season occurs when winter starts fizzling out and the weather becomes friendlier,” says Wasden. “Our competitors also hire at that time, so we have to be efficient with our hiring process. I have some benchmarks that help me spot high-caliber employees.”

However, if you’re thinking that skill set, experience, and training top Wasden’s list, think again.

“Sure, having experience and being a whiz at something my company does make the new employee’s learning curve much easier. To ensure a long-term partnership, though, I’m more interested in work-ethic, character, and attitude,” she says. “Skills can be taught much more easily than trying to make someone an upstanding person.”

Here are the top signs that employees are likely to perform at an exceptional level.

What to look and listen for during the interview

They may be subtle, but there are signs you can look for that point to high-caliber employees.

  • Focused and attentive. If you feel like you need to wave a hand in front of the person’s face to make sure they are awake, this isn’t a good sign. The interviewee should be aware and alert, and obviously listening. Look for answers to questions and comments that are quick, thorough, and direct.
  • Praise for past employers. Listen to the warning bells if a potential hire speaks badly of past employers. Ace employees don’t diss companies they’ve worked for. While you don’t want them to gush and be insincere, you also don’t want to hear negative remarks. Chances are those same remarks could one day be made about your company. An ace employee will choose something positive about a prior employer to share and then move on with the interview.
  • Smart questions. Good employees are eager to do their best. In order to accomplish this, they should ask questions relevant to your company, including what it’s like on your job sites. If you find yourself in a conversation about the ins and outs of your business and your company standards and goals, that’s a good thing.

Signs you’ve hired an ace employee

If the interview process goes well and you hire a new employee, it doesn’t take long for their “spots” to show. Look for the following.

  • Honesty. Integrity is a must in the construction business for a wide variety of reasons. “It’s vital that employees hold themselves accountable when things go sideways,” says Wasden. “During the learning curve, I expect a certain level of hiccups and errors. When something goes wrong, the employee’s response is telling. l know I have ace employees on my team when they apologize for errors and ask for advice.”
  • A team player. “I don’t expect my employees to be certified experts in every offering we provide our clientele, but I do expect them to help the team if the need arises,” says Wasden. “The whole mindset of ‘not my job’ won’t fly in a team environment like ours, so I try my best to observe a person’s willingness to step up and jump in when we need them to.”
  • Ability to be proactive. You can’t always be on the job site, so you need employees who can temporarily take control of situations. “If I’m tied up at another job site, it’s a relief to know that my employees will take prudent steps to keep the job moving along until I can give more instruction,” says Wasden. “I also appreciate it when an employee points out a potential future problem that could affect a job.”

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