Which Three Traits Does Warren Buffet Hire for in Sales?

Posted March 6, 2017

In several speeches he has given over the years, finance icon Warren Buffett has cited three traits that he looks for when hiring people: intelligence, initiative and integrity.

Of those three, Buffett says integrity is the most important, because without it - "the first two will kill you, because if you’re going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb."

If these qualities are a top priority for the world’s most successful investor, then perhaps your company should make them a priority when looking at job applicants.


Having integrity is difficult: It takes a long time to develop and just a second to lose.

A different way to think about integrity is that it is not produced in a crisis. Instead, a crisis exposes whether or not a person or organization has integrity. That being said, an organization can't truly have integrity. It's the people inside the organization who either have or don't have integrity.

While you can't see, feel or touch integrity, you can assess it. Integrity is seen in how someone handles themselves in a difficult situation. It's also seen in how people respond and act collectively. When a company acts badly, it's caused by a collective lack of integrity, which everyone contributes a little bit to as individuals.

Fortunately, you can decide to have integrity. When considered with intelligence and initiative, it's the quality you have the most control over.

If you are looking to hire someone with integrity, ask them about a recent crisis they encountered and the decisions they made? Were they part of a group? Did they agree with the decision the group made as a whole? The answers to these questions can give you a window into candidates' integrity.


It's true: You can't control how naturally smart you are. Furthermore, your natural intelligence often becomes apparent through your academic records.

However, Buffett has pointed out there are a lot of smart people around, but those who are the most successful are not necessarily those who got the highest grades in school. For instance, Buffett says, to be successful in finance, "you don’t need to be a rocket scientist."

Of course, you want to hire people who have gotten high grades in school, but aiming to only hire class valedictorians isn't a winning strategy.


While you can choose to be energetic and take initiative whenever possible, this quality is also dependent upon personality.

When screening candidates for initiative and energy, you shouldn't be focusing solely on people who come bounding into the interview room talking 100 miles per hour about all of their achievements. You should be looking for someone who has a track record of steady progression throughout their career and taken a few risks - some of which should have paid off.

At Ambassador Personnel, we screen job applicants based on the qualities that are laid out by each individual client. If you are looking to outsource your applicant screening process, please contact our team today to work with a top full-service staffing agency.