Every month Prairie Business asks several regional business leaders a question or two about a relevant business topic. July's question: "What’s the most important factor you consider when hiring a new employee?" Below is how four regional leaders replied:

Tena Lawrence, executive vice president of University of Jamestown, Jamestown, N.D.

Tena Lawrence
Tena Lawrence

One question I always ask when considering hiring an individual is, “Can this person lead?” Regardless of the position that is being filled or what the responsibilities of that position are, if you find leadership characteristics in your candidate you can check off a whole list of desired attributes. Leaders are not always the person in charge, they are the people who can unite a group and create dedication to your mission.

Being a big fan of servant leadership, I find looking for leadership traits such as honesty, empathy, commitment, ethics, and resilience will identify a candidate who is worth investing in. Skills can be learned; if you find a candidate that has the personal traits of leadership you will find someone you can trust to work to achieve your organization’s mission.

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Asking questions about how the individual uses personal time to support the community, how do they define leadership, and what characteristics they value in coworkers, can help identify leadership traits. I feel looking past the resume, into personal values, will identify a long-term, committed employee.

Matt Dunlevy, owner of SkySkopes, Grand Forks, N.D.

Matt Dunlevy
Matt Dunlevy

Usually when we are looking for pilots, we are expecting to see experience and qualifications. The experience can come in the metrics of flight time on manned and unmanned aircraft. We also like to see the number of missions or flight operations a pilot has successfully executed because there is a significant difference there in the drone world versus the manned aviation industry.

The qualifications can come in the form of a bachelor’s or master’s degree in UAS from one of the top schools, safety audits, or ratings for aircraft in the defense sector as many of our pilots are ex-military. We really prefer pilots from the University of North Dakota, Kansas State University, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University if they are not veterans.

These credentials will get a candidate in the door for us and we then really look to see in our interviews if the individual is a team player and would fit the professional culture of our organization while being an asset in the attainment of SkySkopes' vision and mission.

Nancy Bjorndahl, business manager of Dakota Carrier Network, Fargo, N.D.

Nancy Bjorndahl
Nancy Bjorndahl

At Dakota Carrier Network, our focus is to hire new employees that are willing to embrace our three core values: responsiveness, reliability and valuing long-term relationships. We all know that hiring can be a time-consuming process and training new employees is an investment. So, while it is important to find people with the right skills for a job, being a good fit for the organization is just as important if they are going to stay.

For a business to succeed, everyone must be working toward the same goal with the same set of values.

To help us identify potential employees that understand and will live out these values, DCN has utilized People Analyzer to help us ask the right questions during our interview process. This has lessened the subjectivity of an interview and assisted with more clearly identifying if someone is a fit for the seat we are looking to fill and our organization’s culture. After all, we value long-term relationships with both our customers and our employees.

Tom Shorma, CEO and president of WCCO Belting Inc, Wahpeton, N.D.

Tom Shorma
Tom Shorma

We believe that anyone can build a rewarding career in manufacturing, and you don't need experience in our industry to find success. What a candidate does require, however, is a willingness to learn. WCCO Belting’s products and processes are extremely unique, that's why we've invested in a robust internal training program. Employees start on a level playing field and train side-by-side regardless of past experience, age, gender or first language, which improves their assimilation into our culture.

Since we train job-specific hard skills, WCCO’s recruitment strategy is focused on identifying candidates with soft skills. To be willing to learn they must also have the ability to listen, communicate – ask questions, collaborate, and carry a positive attitude. Our Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is, “Loving where you work begins with the people you work with,” so we encourage and financially reward employees for referring candidates they know and trust. I’ve always told the team, “I’d rather pay you to recruit family and friends than pay to place an ad.” We’re fortunate that strategy continues to bring in great people with the willingness to learn and soft skills we are looking for.