5 Qualities Every Employer Wants in a Job Candidate

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By Arnie Fertig

Preparing for a job interview can be a time-consuming and nerve-wracking experience. Some people spend a ridiculous amount of energy trying to prepare and memorize answers for every imaginable interview question.

It may be better to spend time thinking about the job at hand with a larger lens by stepping back from the particular details and requirements. Ask yourself: "If I were the hiring manager, what would be the qualities I'd need to see in a person before I'd be willing to say, 'You're hired'?"

Work these qualities into your self-description, and prepare examples of stories from your experience that demonstrate you have them.1. Creativity. If everyone who claims to "think out of the box" really did so, there would be nobody left inside it. Like the other qualities discussed below, you need to demonstrate your creativity rather than just asserting that you have it.

Do you have stories to tell about how you conceived and implemented positive workplace change? Perhaps you have changed how your company's products or services are produced, packaged or marketed. Maybe you came up with ideas about how to shorten production time or eliminate or reduce administrative procedures and red tape. These are all examples of stories you can tell with a great takeaway message.

2. Subject-matter expertise. What employer doesn't want someone who is an expert in his or her field? Becoming a thought leader isn't as daunting as it might sound when you take the time to keep up-to-date. Read professional journals, or – better yet – contribute an article and get published. Make the effort to offer poster-board presentations, lead workshops or give talks at professional conferences.

It's easier than ever to demonstrate your expertise by publishing a blog, YouTube videos or examples of code you've written. You can also curate your creative content and put it online.

Depending on your field, one or another medium will be better or more appropriate, but when you describe yourself as a "published author" or can point to other intellectual achievements, you gain the credibility necessary to be seen as a leading professional worth wooing.

3. Pride in work. No one likes people who continually self-promote with statements like, "I'm the greatest at ..." And, at the other end of the spectrum, many people find it difficult to tell how great they really are.

But when you speak about the tasks you've performed and accomplishments you've achieved with a smile on your face and project enthusiasm with your voice, you show that you aren't the kind of worker who just logs hours and waits for a paycheck at the end of the week.

4. Adaptability to changing technology. Baby boomers have gone from records to eight tracks, cassettes, CDs and DVDs, to carrying around music on their phones or simply streaming it at will. Likewise, in the workplace, virtually nothing is done the way it used to be. The sound of the music may be the same, but the way you hear it continues to morph.

Employer demand for people who are a whizzes at Excel far surpasses the demand for people who excel with their slide rule! No matter what your generation, every employer wants to know that you're up-to-date with necessary technologies. Moreover, they expect you to be able to show how you will keep that way on an ongoing basis.

It's great when you can interject in an interview something like this: "I've gone from carbon paper to 'Ctrl C,' and I can't wait to see what's next!"

5. Willingness to go above and beyond. You might be surprised to hear someone say something like, "I've done everything my boss asked of me," and then be astonished to learn that this isn't as impressive a statement as they thought.

Telling a story about how you did whatever it took to get a project done on time and under budget gives you much greater cred. The person who relates, "I stayed an extra couple of hours at work to see [whatever] through to completion," shows the dedicated spirit that employers can't necessarily demand but nonetheless expect and love.

When you prepare stories that demonstrate your personal qualities, you'll be amazed at how appreciative and responsive your interviewers will become. By conveying your passion, expertise, adaptability, and "can-do, will-do" attitude, you'll be well on your way to making your next boss say to you, "You're hired!"

Happy hunting!

Arnie Fertig, MPA, is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic "I'll apply to anything" searches into focused hunts for "great fit" opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.
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