10 Qualities that Will Make You Stand out in a Crowd

Stand out for the right reasons.

Reviewed by Hayley Ramsey

The person with the best qualities in the crowd of people

Higher education credentials, professional qualifications, experience: while these are all extremely sought-after by employers, there’s one more thing they expect to see when reviewing applications. It’s not something you have to study for or pay for, but rather something you already possess: personality.

As Southwest Airlines cofounder Herb Kelleher (who also happened to be a lawyer, CEO, and billionaire) once said: “Hire for attitude, train for skill.” That’s how much value he placed in people’s character and the various qualities that well-rounded individuals bring to the table.

In this article, we’ll be looking at the top 10 qualities that can help you stand out in a crowd, both in your personal life and your career. After all, displaying authentic qualities is an essential component in building satisfying relationships, whether that’s with close friends or new colleagues.

1. Honesty

While white lies are common, there’s something refreshing about people who can speak the truth. So long as they’re not brutal about it, that is.

The ability to answer difficult questions with tact is one that can influence the amount of trust people place in you. Hearing one thing from you and then finding out your real opinion from someone else isn’t going to reflect well on you.

2. Empathy

Have you ever shared a bad experience with someone only to have them brush it off or turn it into a competition of who has it worse?

Telling people to “suck it up” or attempting to one-up them when they’re struggling is a hurtful thing to do. Listening carefully, validating them, and suggesting solutions (at the right time) are far more helpful and can determine how highly others think of you and your opinion.

One thing to remember when you start practicing empathy more intentionally is that it needs to go beyond words. Your body language has to be receptive, too.

3. Reliability

Going that extra mile and coming through for someone when they’ve asked you for help does wonders in building trust — and trust is fundamental in nurturing meaningful relationships.

In the workplace, reliability will set you apart as a good team player, which is a highly valued attribute. This is because good collaboration between employees can enhance overall productivity and efficiency.

Being dependable in terms of both your individual tasks and within a team, therefore, is something your supervisors will take notice of.

4. Optimism

When an unexpected error or event occurs, treating it as a challenge rather than a hindrance can predict the outcome. Nipping catastrophizing thoughts in the bud helps you think logically and solve problems more easily, both in your personal life and at the office. That’s why a positive outlook can make others gravitate towards you, so long as it’s not forced or overbearing.

Unlike what some people think, optimism isn’t about viewing the world through rose-colored glasses and brushing errors aside. Rather, it refers to the ability to learn from mistakes instead of buckling under the weight of self-defeating thoughts.

And don’t worry if finding the silver lining in any situation doesn’t come instinctively to you — it’s a way of thinking can be developed through practice.

5. Determination

Besides functioning as a driving force for you, dedication to achieving your goals can also become an inspiration to others. A commitment to your goals can help you work consistently, cultivating your creative thinking to devise workarounds when needed.

While it’s important to keep your aspirations close to heart, the lines between being determined and being strong-headed can easily become blurred. The moment you start becoming ruthless or unapproachable is the moment you’ll end up sacrificing your relationships.

6. Independence

Independence is less about “not needing anyone” and more about confidence and self-reliance. While the first interpretation can lead to poor interpersonal relationships and isolation, the latter can uplift you and those around you.

Working independently means trusting your gut and having faith in your ability, something your employers and teammates will value. It also requires knowing when to ask for advice and being open to admitting that there are some things you don’t know.

7. Confidence

Someone with a track record of putting themselves down is less likely to be taken seriously or given a chance, at least in a professional setting. Put them in a highly competitive environment and they’ll possibly get taken advantage of, too: frequent overtime, a bigger workload, unfair pay — all because they can’t say no or won’t negotiate.

Having confidence means knowing your worth. It means being able to establish boundaries and speak up for yourself when you need to. This is not to be confused with being arrogant, however, which manifests itself in the undermining of other people’s worth.

Consequently, people exuding confidence are always a delight to be around. They’re also likelier to be better leaders than those who lack faith in themselves or put others down.

8. Passion

Have you ever watched a friend speak about their new favorite book or a hobby they just started and seen their eyes light up? When people are passionate about something, it can’t be concealed. Their excitement is entrancing!

In a work setting, enjoying what you do increases your productivity and engagement, which, of course, employers love. It also means you won’t consistently show up in the morning with a frown on your face — unless something else is making you unhappy, like a micromanaging boss or a gossiping colleague.

In positions that entail working closely with people, such as teaching or fitness instruction, being the passionate candidate will certainly make you stand out.

9. Integrity

Integrity can be a little tricky to define. If we take it as having to do with strong moral values, then we may find ourselves delving into an unresolvable “good” versus “bad” debate — and who’s to decide on a universal definition of virtue when we can’t even agree on whether Ross and Rachel were on a break?

Instead, it helps to think of this quality in terms of loyalty, honesty, and fairness, which are a little more black-or-white when viewed in a specific context.

Though integrity is an important quality to have regardless of seniority, it’s crucial for the people holding the reins in a team. It doesn’t matter how extensive your management skills and experience are; if you’re not transparent and just, you will find yourself gambling away the support of your colleagues.

10. Humor

Ups and downs, highs and lows: that’s real life, and people who can maintain a playful attitude towards the bad can overcome obstacles faster. Indeed, having a sense of humor can help preserve your happiness and motivate you to carry on rather than withdraw and take everything to heart.

In addition, laughing is also the most widely available stress reliever out there: besides boosting your mood, it can benefit the immune system and lessen the intensity of pain. And, since happiness is contagious, that’s what makes individuals with this quality real people magnets.

Final thoughts

Learning specialist Guy Boulet has once said the following: “Knowledge is theoretical and skills are practical”. In other words, possessing knowledge doesn’t necessarily make you skilled in applying it — and recruiters know this.

With every corporate job opening in the US attracting 250 résumés on average, there will be other candidates who can match your knowledge, skills, and abilities. That’s where your personal qualities can save the day, by helping you stand out from the crowd.

So, next time you forward your résumé and a personalized message to a prospective employer, you may want to emphasize your soft skills and attributes as much as your technical expertise.

Originally published July 8, 2015.