The 5 Qualities I Look for in an Employee

The key to a good business is finding the right people.


When you have the right people in your team, you can rest easier knowing that your business is in good hands.

That’s the advantage of my parents-in-law’s 20-year business: They can take a vacation. Leave the country for 2 weeks, and come back still having their business intact.

Last year, we didn’t really focus on our business, and yet, we still managed to make more money in 2014 than in 2013,” says my father-in-law. “The business runs in auto-mode.”

I personally think that this is because his team are made up of veterans who’s been with them with an average of 18 years.

I look at my own team: My oldest veteran is an area supervisor who’s been with me for a little over a year. Everyone else is still new. I just regularized my second employee a month ago.

Big sigh — still a long way to go before we can leave the country in peace and not worry about our business. In fact, there is no such thing as a relaxing vacation.

Case in point, when we went to Balesin last weekend, I was still calling, texting and emailing my people just to ensure that we’re on top of things.

Up till the time I find veterans of our own, the company will be a revolving door of people. Just yesterday, I fired our sales coordinator for gross and habitual lates and absences, an offense serious enough because we just hired her the beginning of February!

You have to find better people, Bonita!” my father-in-law once chided me. “You have to be better in the interview process!”

Here’s the problem dad,” my mother-in-law countered in defense. “You’ll never really know what type of people you’ll hire unless they’ve started working.”

I found the latter statement to be true.

While experience teaches you to be better in filtering people during the interview, there is no better way to see if people are good or not than actually having them start working for you.


The worst case I’ve had so far was an area supervisor who came for a one-day training then left citing personal reasons! That was really bad. See my entire rant here in my entry, “Disappointed with the Philippine workforce.

After awhile of managing a business here in the Philippines, I’ve now grown immune to people crying, asking for pity and begging. You never know if it’s a truth or a lie!

I’d like to think I get better when interviewing as time goes on. Now, I no longer accept every Tom, Dick and Harry who walks in the door. I used to, with disastrous results.

Anyway, to make life easier, here are the five (5) qualities I look for when I interview an employee:

  1. Available: The employee must be willing to show up at the times you need them.

    My business is in retail. That means, when the mall is open, we are open. The only days we are closed in Maundy Thursday and New Year’s. Seriously.

    Hence, whereas construction companies enjoy long vacations especially during Christmas, our office is still open up till 4pm on Christmas eve. Then we take one day off on Christmas day and then resume work on December 26 onwards.

    On regular days, we are open from Mondays to Saturdays, 9am till 7pm. And my people don’t go home until they finish their work.

    The first requirement is that potential job candidates have to accept the long-hours and our tedious schedule. If they want a 9:00am-5:00pm job, or they want to take long vacations on Christmas, they are knocking at the wrong door.

    We might be a great company, but we’re not a good company for their needs. NEXT!

  2. Competence: The employee must be able to do the job at the deadline you require.

    This is an important question to ask yourself when interviewing: Can this person do this job?

    So many employers are swayed because they “like” a person during an interview.

    “I can always train him,” you tell yourself.

    Or “He’s a friend and he needs a job. Why should I not take him on?”


    I don’t care if the person is nice, or if I like his personality.

    But if the person cannot do the job, I will not hire him.

    What’s more, I personally prefer employees who are already competent and can do the job. If the candidate requires training, at least, the training would be minimal and they can more or less do the work I require right off the bat.

    Anyway, I didn’t hire this person to train him/her. I hired him/her to work. That’s what I am paying them for.

    Competence is very important.

    Competent employees make managing a business a lot easier.

    You hire people who can help you because they can lighten up your load. 

    On the other hand, hiring a person who is incompetent adds to this load.

    Case in point, one of our staff who is family is like that.

    He is always the first to come and the last to leave. And yet, because he often forgets things and does tasks inefficiently, which always pisses off my mother-in-law.

    Now, because he is family, we have to tolerate him. We can’t really fire him.

    But instead of helping out in the office, he makes it harder for us to manage the business. Most afternoons for example are filled with my mother-in-law sermoning him once again due to a boo-boo.

  3. Trustworthiness and integrity: The employee is someone who you can trust, who live their lives with integrity, and are actually good people in words and in deeds.

    Ever heard of the saying, “When the cat is away, the mouse will play?”


    Most people are like that. Many employees work only when their boss checks up on them. But turn away, and they do things you dislike.

    For example, yesterday, we did a surprise visit to our stores. We do this at least once or twice a month when we have time.

    Imagine our surprise when our store in Pasig was found unmanned! We found the sales staff in another store, sitting on the floor and texting.

    Big sigh.

    Nope, we don’t like employees who are like that. They require constant supervision, and cannot be left alone.

    These are employees whom you are always playing cat and mouse games with. You have to install CCTVs to monitor them while you’re away. You need to call them constantly because you don’t trust that they are where they should be.

    I didn’t build a business to serve my employees. I did not hire them so I will be stressed about what they are doing.

    So if I find employees who violate my trust — and do things that they shouldn’t do — no matter how much I like them, I cannot keep them. Somehow, somewhere, I would have to get rid of them.

    In short, we have zero tolerance for those who are not trustworthy.

    We built out business so it can be filled with people who are good people. Those who do not lie, cheat and steal. It makes working and building a business more fun, don’t you think?

  4. Has initiative and is trainable: In Filipino, we call it, “Hindi namimili ng trabaho.” This means that the candidate is flexible and does not pick and choose tasks assigned to him.

    I once argued with an employee because she refused to pick up an item for the office. The item was a medium-sized easel used for promotions and was situated in a location 10 minutes away by foot.

    Ma’m, I can’t do it because it’s too far and I cannot carry the item myself,” she said. “I need a taxi just to bring it back.”

    I got pissed: “If I am only not busy, I would get it myself. Bakit ka namimili ng trabaho?” (Why are you picking and choosing your job).

    My employees know that one of the things that pisses me off is someone who says, “I’m sorry. That is not part of my job description.”

    As I myself wear many hats — for example, I am the one who manages the finances, the merchandising, and the sales of our company — I thoroughly dislike people who like to limit themselves to a single role.

    I’m sorry – There is no work divas in my office.

    I like surrounding myself with people like me. People who like and take initiative to learn. People who are willing to take on new challenges even if it is not part of their job description.

    For example, our company’s messenger boy.

    While he is just our messenger boy, he has managed to take on additional roles such as applying for our company’s business/mayor’s permit, and repairing and engraving items.

    This makes him very valuable. It shows he is not satisfied in just being a messenger boy, and is happy to prove to us that he is worth more than his salary.

    I look forward to the day we promote him and give him a bonus. 🙂

  5. Loyalty and staying power: When people believe in and are loyal to the company, they will help you. When they are loyal to you, your company will survive through thick and thin.

    A company is only as good as its people.

    If you have people who are loyal to you, then your company has a good chance of making it. That is by the way what my parents in law enjoy in their two-decade old business.

    Admittedly, I am envious of their team. I personally am still picking and choosing my own team. Truth be told, it’s not easy to find good people.Many candidates are only there because it is what is available at that time. Long-term wise, they have no plans to stay.

    Come a higher offer and they jump ship.

    At the first sign of trouble, they leave you at a critical time.

    Personally, while times are good, I am looking for employees who can stay a long time.

    Low staff turnover can only be good for the company. I like dealing with people I know I can count on. It keeps employees who already have the experience to do their jobs well, and already have a shared history with the company.

    That’s why I also reward people not only for their performance and competence, but also for their tenure and loyalty.

    It’s hard to find good people, and even harder to find people who believe in and are loyal to you.

There we go — the five qualities I look for in an employee. Do you agree or have anything more to add?

As usual, comments appreciated below.

Have a great week ahead!

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2 thoughts on “The 5 Qualities I Look for in an Employee

  1. Wow. A lot of complaints here. Though not unusual for a new manager.

    Instead of just thinking about what you want, think about what you’re offering to employees. Think about your past jobs and what you wanted from your manager and employer. Or think about your own bad job experiences and why your past managers had made it that way. Wouldn’t you want to be different and treat your employees better than your past bad managers had treated you?

    RE #1: Potential job candidates have to accept the long-hours and our tedious schedule.

    I won’t pretend to know the work culture of the Philippines, but a quick Google search shows that working 9AM-7PM is longer than the typical 8 hour work day there. Immediately you’re not going to get the best job applicants if you’re expecting them to work 10 hour days + unpaid overtime. What would be the employee’s benefit here?

    RE #2: The employee must be able to do the job at the deadline you require.

    Part of a *good* manager’s job is to train, coach and develop the employees. If an employee isn’t meeting expectations then you should be there to figure out why and to help that person reach the goals set out for them. If that becomes frustrating then you should ask yourself why you’re a manager if you can’t manage people to get the best performance from them.

    RE #3: We built out business so it can be filled with people who are good people.

    No company gets good people just like that. It requires development and trust just like any relationship. A manager needs to work for their employees the same as employees work for their manager. If a manager doesn’t support their employees then the employees aren’t going to give their best performance.

    RE #4: Has initiative and is trainable.

    Employees taking the initiative are likely to expect something from their employer in return. What do you offer your employees that would make them continue to be great employees?

    RE #5: Loyalty.

    What do you offer your employees, that no one else can, that would make them loyal to you and the company?

    Alternatively, maybe think about your interviewing and hiring practices if you think that you’re always hiring the wrong people. Then again, there are managers who use the excuse of employee performance for firing people rather than admitting that it’s a difference in personality. Some managers want employees who are just like them and will do whatever they say without question. Many managers won’t admit this.

    1. You are absolutely right Smashing2! A lot of very good points. This is one of the reason why it’s good to air out grievances – we get good reactions from readers like you.

      To answer your question on what we offer employees, because of our higher demands, we do pay our people above minimum rates which covers more than the additional overtime. In other words, our pay is initially either at market rate, at least in the beginning, and even exceed market rates for people who have proven their worth and loyalty over time. For example, our administrative officer has received a huge pay bump received after her probationary period because she is worth more than what we’ve initially negotiated on. She has proven that she is an asset to the company. We are generally generous to those who deserve it.

      What’s more, in addition to government mandated benefits, we also provide our employees security and help when they do need it. This has concrete effects. Our employees know that they can count on us. While we don’t give specific promises, time has proven just how much support, both financial and non-financial, we give to our loyal staff. Case in point, when one of our people’s children passed away, we were there. When they had a serious family problem, we were there. When they needed to buy a house or a car, we offered assistance more than what is government mandated. My husband’s assistant now has a new car due to his assistance. The list goes on.

      When we hire employees, we don’t just think what they can do for us. We also consider if we can support their livelihood for years. That means, we can pay for their current and future salary, and support them if needed be. As they are there when we need them, we are also there for them when they need us, provided that they genuinely need help.

      In short – our staff who last – are not just our employees. Instead, they become part of the family. Like you said, it’s always a give and take. That is why, despite our high demands, we do find good employees. Many have stayed with us for 4, 8, 10, 15 and even 18 years and counting. And we do our darnest to keep them happy, just as they have offered to give us good service through the years.

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