Are You a Hiring Manager's Dream Employee? Part 4

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In this series of articles, I have been discussing managers' thoughts on the qualities that make for a "dream employee." So far we've looked at dedication, attitude and intelligence, communication skills and authenticity and the need to be well-rounded and add value. In this final post in the series, I'll talk about the ability to be forward thinking and the importance of cultural fit.


Being forward thinking

Some managers call this being proactive, but it's more than that. Good employees are quick to fix something when there is a problem. Dream employees anticipate hurdles or potential opportunities and dive in before others even see them.

For example, consider this employee at a public relations firm. As the company has evolved, it's online presence has had to grow too. And the company's technologist has been out in front pushing every boundary. The CEO explains, "As we take our web presence to the next level, he keeps coming up with ideas to make it better as he's building it. If he sees an example of a company doing something right, he sends it to me with ideas on implementing it for us." She goes on to say that he sometimes is so far ahead of where they are, she almost has to slow him down. However, she believes she would much rather rein in an enthusiastic employee than have to keep asking when something is going to be finished.

In an interview for a new job or promotion, think of examples of your own that illustrate how you step beyond the here-and-now. You want to convey that your skills and knowledge are always on the cutting edge of your subject-matter expertise or industry trends. This is another trait that is best illustrated with results, not just situations.


Cultural Fit

Cultural fit is one of the hardest things to address in an interview. There aren't any clear requirements for it in a job description and even if there were, you can't change who you are. As one quality manager shared, "We are always looking for someone who fits our company culture, but you can't prepare for that. Either you do or you don't."

Culture boils down to the way people interact and behave in the office. It should be equally important to both the employee and the manager. After all, you don't want to work in an environment that's not suited to you. You need to ask the right questions or talk to people who work there to understand what the culture is. Is this a company where people are competitive and politics drive the dynamic, or do people routinely work collaboratively and share credit? Is the environment fast-paced? Is there a lot of structure and formal processes to follow or is there a definite lack of structure and hierarchy?

Most managers want to find employees they can easily manage. Personality has a lot to do with this. One marketing manager told me he's looking for people who "love to win." At the same time, he said he hires people who are, " very grounded and down to earth." His rule of thumb? He asks himself, Is this someone who you would like to sit next to on a 14-hour flight to Asia.

It's important for you to have an idea of what kind of environment you prefer, what kind of people you want to work with, and what constitutes a deal-breaker. When you interview, keep an eye out as you tour the facility. What do you see that appeals to you, or turns you off? And don't be afraid to ask the hiring manager what he values most in an employee's personality. As one CIO told me half-jokingly, "Laughing a bit too loud at my jokes is a must."


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