Having been in the search business for many years, I’m often asked what employers really want. While the demand for certain skills often change, there are a number of key personal attributes which never go out of demand. Today we focus on five:
1. Good Common Sense: Yes, you read that correctly: good common sense. I can’t tell you the number of times a client has specified that a job candidate “have a good head on his/her shoulders”. Sounds like something your parents or grandparents would say, doesn’t it? Well, they were spot on. I haven’t met an employer yet who wasn’t looking for it and that’s not going to change anytime soon.
2. Ability to play well with others: Organizations are doing lots more with way less. This is where the ability to play well with others comes in. Employers tell us that they simply don’t have the time nor inclination to iron out conflicts, turf wars or just deal with plain old immaturity. So even if you can’t stand that co-worker of yours one more minute, do your best to ignore it, rise above it and demonstrate your ability to work well with individuals at all levels in the organization.
3. Strong social skills: This may seem strange at first but given we are in a service economy, the ability to build relationships and market is a key skill. Lawyers, doctors, bankers…they are all expected to market to and develop prospective clients. Employers are even evaluating new grads on social skills. So while once upon time it was all about grades and class rank, employers today view proven social skills as a prerequisite to long-term success.
4. The ability to “Manage Up”: Roseanne Badoski, former executive assistant to Jack Welch, coined this phrase in her book aptly named Managing Up. It’s a brilliant concept. In essence, she believes that to truly succeed , you need to go above and beyond the tasks assigned to you so that you can enhance your manager’s work. In other words, it is your job to anticipate your manager’s needs and make him/her shine, not the other way around. It’ s your job to present possible solutions and not just problems to your boss. By Managing Up, you not only make your employer look good but also become indispensible. Not bad, eh?
5. Dependability: In this economy, I am always shocked to hear that employers struggle with this issue. Webster’s dictionary defines “to depend “as placing reliance or trust in another. Employers often describe it a little more bluntly: “Doing what you say you will do”. In other words, if you accepted a job, your employer is depending on you to show up on time. If your employer assigned a project to you, that means you will get it done in a timely fashion. If your employer….well, you get the idea.
So, let’s say you have some or even each and every one of these traits. How do you convey them to a prospective employer without sounding obnoxious? One very effective way is to have your references convey this on your behalf. Typically references struggle with what to say anyway; so a little coaching on the above goes a long way. Another way is to convey them in a behavioral interview setting or bring them up yourself as some of the strengths you possess. Last but not least, you can work them into your cover letter instead of typical boiler plate language.
Always Remember…You’re Never Stuck ,
Patty Comeford Adams