Another interesting question on Quora: What are the skills required to become an outstanding employee among others to get a job? for which I decided to share my answer with you as I believe it could be useful.
It really depends on the job, doesn’t it? If you are applying for a finance position, your potential employers would look for numbers aptitude, analytical thinking, and problem solving. If you are applying for a sales job, the recruiters and hiring managers would look for good presentation skills, ability and willingness to communicate with different people, and maybe knowledge of the product or service you are about to sell.
Job specifics aside, there are a few skills/attributes that (almost) every employer is fond of:
1. Initiative – this one is on top of my list when I hire and naturally is at the top of my coaching list when I prepare clients for job interviews. One of my managers and mentors always said – don’t come to me with problems, come with solutions, and this is what this skill boils down to. If you encounter a slow process, you don’t complain to your manager about it, instead – you research and analyze, brainstorm and discuss, and go to her with a few options on how to fix it. Preferably, backed up by numbers. Initiative also means you don’t need micromanagement. You are given a goal, you create a plan, and you achieve it. If you need resources or other help, only then you ask. If there were irreplaceable employees, they would be the initiators.
2. Loyalty – most employers have at least one story of an employee they hired, trained, invested in, and soon after that – the employee decided to leave. This is a major waste of time, resources – financial and human, energy, and good spirits. Nobody would like to be in that situation and that’s why recruiters and hiring managers would probe to see whether you are likely to stay and contribute for as long as you have good relationship with the company. If you have a few jobs and stayed long on them – 5+ years, that’s usually a good indicator of your loyalty. If you don’t, you would have to convince your future employers you are in for the long run with them.
3. Trust – when you hire someone, you need to know you would be able to trust them with:
- Achieving targets, so you can both get your bonuses.
- Getting along your team, so you don’t have to get into personal drama and fire drills.
- Servicing well your clients and partners, which are the reason you are in business.
Verifying the person you are interviewing is trustworthy is difficult, especially if you only have an hour. That’s why some companies might invite potential candidates to meet their future teams, get you to respond to different scenarios and case studies, and ask tricky questions to see your reaction.
4. Willingness to learn and develop – this skill is crucial both for the employer – who would like to make sure her workforce is always on top of the latest trends in the field – and for you, the employee – the more you learn, the more satisfied you are with your job, and the better you are performing at it. So, it’s a win-win and win situation. Questions to check whether you are a curious person and a natural learner would evolve around what are the latest news in the field you are in, what professional literature have you read recently, what types of books are your favorite, etc.
5. Who are you when things get rough – there are many situations in business, which don’t go according to plan and future employers would like to make sure they can count on you in difficult times. As a software project manager, I’ve had situations with 13 project plan baselines! Be prepared to answer questions related to failures – recruiters and hiring managers are checking your attitude and skill set for when there are angry clients, half of the team is on sick leave, or the ad agency is late with a week with a critical path deliverable.