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Which Traits Predict Peak Job Performance?

Healthcare organizations want to hire job candidates who will go above and beyond in their roles to reach individual and shared objectives for the success of care providers and patients alike. Job candidates, meanwhile, want to be hired by the best healthcare organizations, and most want opportunities to move up their career ladders and achieve goals within the healthcare space. Both employers and employees benefit from recognizing the traits most likely to lead to high job performance — but identifying these traits is easier said than done.

For decades, psychologists have attempted to match professional performance with personality using the “Big Five” personality traits: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and openness to new experiences. However, psychologists have discovered that job context is exceedingly important in determining which of the Big Five traits a job candidate should have to be most effective in their role.

Though many hiring managers pay the most attention to intelligence, research shows that many of the most important traits related to job performance have nothing to do with a job candidate’s brainpower. Instead, healthcare leaders should look for the following predictors of high performance in candidates for any role within their organization:


No employee is an island. Workers within a healthcare organization always need to be able to cooperate with providers, patients, administrators and other peers to complete projects and achieve goals. Cooperation can look different for different roles, but communication is always a vital factor in effective cooperation. In addition to finding candidates who are competent communicators, healthcare leaders should look for familiarity with digital collaborative tools, especially if an employee will work remotely. Meanwhile, candidates should improve their collaborative skill by investing in their emotional intelligence, seeking out different perspectives and practicing active listening.


Healthcare organizations establish rules and procedures for a reason: They allow the system to complete tasks and accomplish goals on time, on budget and with minimal conflict. Organizations need most of their employees to abide by the set rules and procedures to ensure the patients are treated properly and fairly. Though there are some positions that benefit from a bit more freedom to innovate, the majority of conventional jobs thrive from employee obedience. Healthcare leaders might inquire about rule-breaking behaviors from employees, and prospective employees should familiarize themselves with company rules and guidelines before their first day on the job.


One of the most famous TED Talks of all time concerns the quality of grit, which is a combination of passion and perseverance that drives an individual to develop and achieve long-term goals. Grit is one of the best predictors of job performance; individuals with high levels of grit have been shown to maintain determination over long periods of time despite challenges and failures. Grit is a difficult quality to identify, as it often reveals itself over time, but healthcare leaders can recognize grit in candidates who demonstrate determination, humility, enthusiasm and thoughtfulness. Likewise, grit tends to be a difficult quality to improve, but healthcare workers can develop their grit by identifying their professional interests, clarifying their career goals, practicing deliberateness — perhaps in online short courses related to their field — and committing to optimism.


The best healthcare businesses build their brand and corporate culture on a solid foundation of values, which give providers, administrators and patients more insight about how the company will behave. In healthcare, common company values include integrity, accountability, passion, diversity and courage. It is vital that organizational values and individual values align, so employees feel engaged with their work and eager to contribute to the shared cause. Healthcare leaders should be transparent about the values driving their company to success. Job candidates can ask prospective employers about their values, and candidates should think critically about the values they hold dear and how those values might apply to their work.


Finally, studies have found that employees who volunteer in their free time tend to be some of the best employees an organization can hire. Though some healthcare leaders might be nervous that avid volunteers will become distracted by their good works and contribute less to their company, the truth is that volunteering gives workers a sense of purpose that can fuel their efforts within their professional role. Fortunately, volunteering is a practice that any job candidate can easily pick up, and healthcare leaders can encourage volunteering in their existing workforce with community service programs, bonuses and the like.

High-performing employees are valuable to healthcare organizations, so both job candidates and hiring teams need to know what traits and practices lead to high performance.  Cooperation, obedience, grit, shared values and volunteering are excellent indications that a worker will be an excellent new member of the healthcare team.