I recently hosted a dinner at a restaurant for a group of business associates. The server was exceptional. So, I was pleased to give them a significant tip.

On my drive home, the server called to let me know that while they appreciated the tip, a gratuity had already been added to the check and they would gladly remove my tip if I hadn’t been aware of the built-in gratuity. I responded that I hadn’t noticed that the gratuity was included but absolutely wanted to keep it intact. I explained to the person they earned it for providing great service and especially for calling me as soon as they noticed the tip to ask if I in fact meant to leave an extra gratuity.

Around that same time, I became aware of someone who was also clearly highly competent at their job. This person, however, handled a situation — involving a potential career opportunity — in a markedly different way.

After going through an extensive interview process, the candidate realized they were about to be offered the position. At that point, they stated that they would only accept if it was entirely remote and if the salary was significantly more than had been discussed. Both of these requirements came up late in the game, despite the fact that it was made clear multiple times that the position was hybrid and that the salary range was firm. The candidate ended up not getting an offer.

The contrasting responses in these instances from two people who are very good at what they do reminded me how important it is for companies to establish the must-have characteristics they look for in their people. This is especially true today as the labor market continues to make it difficult to find good employees.

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In fact, some might say that it’s okay for employers to make compromises regarding certain expectations so they can hire for particular roles. However, the short-term benefit of filling a position with someone who you know isn’t a completely good fit isn’t worth the potential drawbacks it could create among clients, colleagues and, ultimately, your corporate reputation.

Must-have characteristics are different from the skills, qualifications and competencies that are necessary to carry out the functions and responsibilities of a particular job. Instead, they are more typically comprised of attitudes, behaviors and mindsets that align with a company’s values. At our firm, for example, we seek people with a demonstrated passion for success, who think like an owner and are action oriented.

Once you’ve identified and shared the values-based features that are essential to success at your company, you can draw on them to make sure you have the right people in the right positions. During the interview process, you can ask prospective employees to talk about how they’ve brought these must-have characteristics to life previously and how they would continue to do so at your company. You can also include these characteristics as criteria in performance reviews or provide spot bonuses for actions that exemplify them.

With today’s challenging business conditions and ever-changing talent market, determining and not wavering from the must-have characteristics you need from each member of your team can be the key to helping your company grow and succeed.

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