Employees who are grateful are generally more productive and satisfied than employees who are not.  They’re also nicer to be around.  Here’s how to find them.

Gratitude in job applicants is not easily quantifiable, but it can be assessed.

Because there are many nuances associated with this character trait, we’ll take a different evaluative approach from those earlier in the series by considering two interview scenarios. Helen is the chief compliance officer at a financial services company, and Adriana and Mirabel are two women applying for a compliance position.  Looking closely at these conversations will help us discern small but significant differences in how grateful Adriana and Mirabel are in their professional lives.


Helen: Adriana, I see you’ve been in compliance for a long time.

Adriana: Yes, I started before Twitter, YouTube, and Google! (laughs)

Helen: And you’ve spoken at several regional and national SCCE conferences. What made you want to do that?

Adriana: When I was starting out in compliance, I attended a regional conference, and everyone I met welcomed me to the group and even reached out to me afterwards to see how I was doing.  No one in the previous jobs I’d had ever did that, and it made me want to get more involved.  I started contributing posts to the SCCE blog and attending regional conferences, and eventually someone suggested that I apply to speak at one. I was concerned about the time commitment, but it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. Several of the people who came to my talks ended up becoming good friends, and we’ve supported each other over the years.  I remembered how I grateful I was when my new SCCE colleagues helped me feel like a part of the group, and I wanted to do the same thing for others.

Helen: What are you proudest of having accomplished as a compliance officer?

Adriana: That’s a tough one. I’d have to say that the programs we put on for our compliance and ethics week were a high point, and although I can’t claim full credit for that, I will say that I invested a lot of time looking for ways of making the week engaging for everyone.  We had contests, gave away branded t-shirts and smartphone accessories, and made sure that the presenters we brought in delivered their material in an engaging way.  Let’s face it: compliance and ethics sessions can be pretty dry, but one of the newer members of the department had a background in marketing, and that really helped us make our programs more effective.


Helen: Mirabel, you have an impressive résumé.

Mirabel: Thank you. I’ve worked really hard in every job I’ve ever had.

Helen: What achievement are you proudest of?

Mirabel: That’s hard to say. A lot of people liked an article I wrote for my previous employer’s newsletter on the dos and don’ts of using social media. In fact, I still get emails from people saying that they printed it out and saved it!

Helen: What prompted you to write that article?

Mirabel: Well, I’m just surprised by how often people put things on Facebook and Instagram that could embarrass their employers and that don’t do their own reputations much good. I’m on a mission to make this a top issue in compliance, and I’ve got my work cut out for me. I’ve had accounts with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn since before most people had ever heard of them, and I know the potential downsides better than anyone I know. I keep up with the changes, so I’m pretty much the go-to person for social media.

Helen: You’re really passionate, I can tell! What do you like so much about compliance?

Mirabel:.  I’ve had other jobs, but I never felt I was really making a difference until I got into compliance.  It’s nice to finally be recognized for what I know and can do. I mean, I was the nerd in high school who was always playing video games and designing websites. I was kind of an outsider back then, but the things that made me a geek at the time are now in high demand.

Helen: Do you consider yourself a team player?

Mirabel: Yes, but I find that too many people lack a strong work ethic. I expect a lot of the people I work with, just as I expect a lot of myself. Too often I end up doing most of the tasks no one else wants to do. But I enjoy working with others, and I’d like to think they enjoy working with me.

*    *    *

On the face of it, both Adriana and Mirabel seem like they’d be good additions to a compliance department. They’re accomplished, knowledgeable, and passionate. There are subtle but important differences, however, that are worth noting. Adriana lets Helen know that other people have played an important role in her success, and her ego doesn’t get in the way of giving them credit. Although she used the word grateful only once, it’s clear that gratitude plays a strong role in her life.

Mirabel also refers to other people, but only in critical terms. You don’t get the sense from Mirabel that her achievements had anything to do with anyone but herself. Even self-described nerds like Mirabel owe at least some of their technical expertise to others. Of course, Mirabel wants to impress Helen with her accomplishments, but because those accomplishments were made possible by the contributions of other people, a truly impressive candidate would note that with a grateful heart. There are no self-made women or men.

It’s troubling to hear Mirabel disparage her teammates. She may indeed have had the misfortune of working with a few slackers, but surely she has also had colleagues who have helped her, just as she helped them. Why, then, doesn’t she mention them?

Evaluating a job applicant’s practice of gratitude requires going beyond the interview and looking for things like the way an applicant treats the person at the front desk and others who aren’t directly involved in the interviewing process, and whether he or she sends a thank-you note after the interview. Assessing gratitude in someone you don’t know is trickier than assessing things like sales performance and professionalism, but it’s a worthwhile pursuit.

This essay, adapted from my latest book, The Good Ones: Ten Crucial Qualities of High-Character Employees, is the sixth in a series of blog posts on how to hire high-character people.  (Scroll down to read the earlier posts.) Next time, we’ll look at what it means to be a humble person and how to evaluate this quality in job applicants and current employees.