12 Important Qualities All Executive Hires Should Have

Know what to look for when interviewing executives. 

By the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC)

You bring executive hires on board to help you run your business at its highest level. They shouldn't have to learn the basics; they should already be ready to go full steam ahead from day one.

When you seek out the right people for these high-level positions, you need to keep in mind certain professional and personal qualities. That's why we asked 12 entrepreneurs: What do you look for first in executive hires and why?

Marcela DeVivo1. Mental Agility

Unlike most people, I don't consider experience the most valuable asset for an executive. I believe that mental agility, acuity, flexibility and willingness to learn and adapt is key to a successful executive. Experience is great, but if the candidate is not able to adapt to the new work environment and quick to learn, that person's ability to succeed is limited. – Marcela DeVivoNational Debt Relief

Nicole Munoz2. Similar Working Styles

My business is my lifeline. If I'm going to work with a partner/executive, I need to see that our philosophies on life, management and hard work are aligned. I also want to know they can logically discuss their view points without getting overly emotional or taking opinions personally. Intellectual capacity to react quickly in a startup environment is a given. –Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now

Natalie MacNeil3. A Track Record of Results

I look for someone who has worked at a company that is a few steps ahead of us, and therefore knows what it takes to help us get to the next level. I focus on the results the candidate has achieved in other roles and ensure those results are aligned with what our company wants to achieve as we move forward.

– Natalie MacNeilShe Takes on the World

suzanne smith4. Balance Between a High IQ and EQ

It is easy to find smart people who care, but it is hard to find people who are talented at building trust, telling a story, dealing with conflict and managing change. To work for us, we need both skills sets and someone who knows which tool to use and when.

– Suzanne SmithSocial Impact Architects

Kim Walls5. A Good Culture Fit

When hiring for startups and rapid growth companies, assuming the essential work history/recommendations are there, I hire for cultural fit first, then self motivation and street smarts. We can teach people skills at work, but only if they are inspired to learn through mutual respect and a hard-driving desire to succeed. Perhaps the best lesson from one of my mentors: "Hire slow and fire fast." – Kim Walls, Best Ever Baby

Martina Welke6. Ability to Take Critical Feedback

We've worked very diligently to build a culture that is open to respectful feedback at all levels. So whenever we are bringing in a new leader, it's crucial that he or she can accept constructive criticism or pushback without becoming defensive. I constantly want our entire team to be learning and growing, which can only happen if we're challenging our assumptions. – Martina WelkeZealyst

Brooke Bergman7. Logic

Someone who approaches every task with logic is much more likely to get it right the first time. They won't act on a whim, they'll think things through clearly and reasonably and they'll improve the company's processes to be more efficient along the way.

– Brooke BergmanAllied Business Network Inc.

Alexandra Levit8. Executive Presence

Executive presence is critical because it ensures a woman will be taken seriously and will be able to accomplish key business objectives while commanding the respect of her people and other leaders. This trait includes the ability to project confidence, poise under pressure, assertiveness and decisiveness.

– Alexandra LevitInspiration at Work

Jayna Cooke9. Kindness and Resourcefulness

We look for these qualities in all of our hires and executives are no different. We want the executives to set examples and be role models for the employees so this is very important to have. Next, we look for experience and knowledge, which is a no brainer.

– Jayna CookeEVENTup

Nanxi Liu10. Grit

When interviewing potential executive hires, I want to know that they are hands-on. We pick executives who can get into the nitty-gritty as much as building big-picture strategies. They must be a team player and never feel like they're too good to do a task. They recognize the importance of and prioritize mentoring the teammates they lead. – Nanxi LiuEnplug

Shalyn Dever11. A Lifelong Student

The digital marketing industry is constantly changing with new technology and updates. In order to keep my company competitive, the ability to quickly absorb new information and stay on top of trends is key. I’ll look for someone who’s naturally curious and able to admit they don’t know everything and seek out the latest information.

– Shalyn DeverChatter Buzz Media

Elle Kaplan12. Character

Many people make the mistake of focusing on the skills a candidate already knows and ignoring their character. However, I’ve come to realize that while new skills can be learned, attitude and motivation usually never change. The first thing I look for in new hires is a willingness to share my company’s vision and morals, and someone who is bright, enthusiastic and wants to learn. – Elle KaplanLexION Capital


The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.