Career Management

What Are Employers Looking For?


“Dear Pete: I feel like I have no idea what employers really want.  What are employers looking for?”


It’s actually really easy to figure out what employers are looking for.  No matter what your dream job might be, every employer is looking for the same 4 variables from potential employees:

  1. Belief: Employers want to hire people who believe in themselves and people who believe in the mission of their organization.  First of all, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?  During your job search, you want to be perceived as confident without being seen as cocky.  You also want employers to know that you believe in their organization.  If employers are unsure if you will be committed to them (i.e. that you could bolt for another job soon), you won’t be hired in the first place.  One of the questions you will be asked in any interview (directly or indirectly) is “Why do you want this job?”  If you don’t have a great answer to that question, you should be looking elsewhere.
  2. Excellence:  This is a broad term I use to encapsulate desirable values such as integrity, hard work, and professionalism.  It doesn’t matter what your GPA was or how talented you are if you look like a slob or if your integrity or work ethic is perceived as questionable.  Most people will brush this off as common sense, but it’s really easy to come across as lazy during your job search.  For example, I had someone who was referred to me for career advice last year who didn’t even know that I have a company called Dream Job Academy or that I wrote a book on how to get your dream job!  A simple google search on my name before our call would have taken him 1 minute and shown him my background.  What do you think it says about him if he didn’t even take the time to spend a few minutes before our call to research me?  How motivated do you think I was to introduce him to other people I trust, given the lackluster way he approached his call with me?  Do your homework before any informational interview, networking situation, or job interview, and have a list of 3-5 intelligent questions you plan to ask.  Your preparation (or lack of preparation) will be very obvious to anyone you meet or speak with, and it will be used as evidence of the way you would approach your work as an employee as well.  Professionalism is huge as well.  I get emails all the time with all sorts of typos, spelling errors, and grammatical blunders.  A poorly written email can kill your first impression.  Excellence is very rare, and it’s incredibly easy to spot among potential employees. 
  3. People/communication skills:  No matter where you want to work and no matter what type of work you want to do, you will have a boss and colleagues, and your organization will serve or work with other people, whether they are clients, patients, donors, voters, subscribers, investors, students, etc.  You must show employers that you can get along well with other people and that you can communicate clearly and effectively (in writing and in-person).  You can demonstrate your written communication skills through a professional resume and a well-written cover letter that has been customized for the job you want.  You can demonstrate your in-person communication skills by being well-prepared for interviews, by being friendly with everyone you interact with during your job search (no matter what their title is), by asking great questions while networking and interviewing, by sending thank you notes after people meet with you or give you career advice, and so on.  Again, this sounds really obvious, but very few people actually do it.
  4. Results: Employers ultimately hire people for one reason: to solve problems.  Period.  The desired results will be different based on the employer and the job you are applying for.  However, every employer is looking for someone who makes other people or other organizations better.  When you can prove that you have delivered results in the past (especially if your prior results are relevant to the results desired in the job you are applying for), you will stand out immensely from your competition.

In summary, it’s really easy to figure out what employers are looking for.  They want people who demonstrate belief, excellence, people/communication skills, and results.  Last point.  Remember that actions speak much louder than words.  For example, there is a huge difference between saying you work hard (or writing it in a cover letter) and actually behaving in a way during your job search that shows that you work hard.

P.S. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!  Please “like” and “share” this article as well.

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