1. ResponsibilityThis is everything from consistently completing one’s work to taking responsibility for your own actions. Although we’re more likely to use this word when talking about teenage drivers and babysitters, responsibility is a quality every employer wants in an employee.
2. Positive attitudeThe late Randy Pausch, in his recent bestseller The Last Lecture, put it best when he said we all have the choice to be either positive, glass-half-full Winnie the Poohs or pessimistic, down-in-the-mouth Eeyores. Not only is life more fun for the Poohs, but they’re more productive employees and more inspiring leaders.
3. Strong work ethicEmployers aren’t slave drivers but they want to know that their workers are putting in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. If your employees are spending more time on Facebook than working, they are not a bargain under any circumstances.
4. ProfessionalismThis includes everything from dress and demeanor to language and behavior. An ideal job candidate is one who looks polished and can hold her own at cocktail parties and expensive restaurants, not one who tells off-color jokes around the office and makes a spectacle of himself at the office holiday party.
5. IntegrityDo you do what you say you’re going to do? Can you be trusted with confidential information? Are your expense reports truthful and reasonable? Employers want someone who can honestly answer questions like these with a resounding, “Yes.”
6. AdaptabilityAn ideal job candidate is one who can quickly shift gears and be resilient and thoughtful in the face of multiple shifting priorities and even crises.
7. LoyaltyEmployers want workers who will stand by them, even when times are tough. They want employees who don’t badmouth them or their co-workers, who believe in the company’s mission—whether it’s providing healthcare or building cars—and who bring that passion with them to the office every day.
8. Self-confidenceCall it poise, confidence, or charisma, but the ideal job candidates carry themselves with a certain something that inspires others to trust them. Granted, much of this comes from actually being good at your job. But even the most competent workers can be undercut by their own lack of confidence.
9. Self-starterCompanies are always on the hunt for workers who don’t need to be told what to do before they do it. In a tough economy in particular, employers want employees who see a need and fill it, who think “outside the box” and who don’t wait around for a problem to become a crisis before they act on it.
10. Hungry to learnAs any teacher will tell you, the best students are those who can’t wait to sink their teeth into something new. The ideal job candidates aren’t afraid to work outside their comfort zone. They are always looking for the next challenge and are anxious to dive into new projects and learn new things.
Although this is focused towards corporate life, these traits make for strong characters in a story.