Employee Traits That Employers Look For, Part 1
There are two different sets of skills that candidates must possess if they want to be among the ones that employers consider for job openings. The category often referred to as "hard skills" includes the college degree, other educational attainments, general communications abilities and those precisely defined job-related skills that define the specialty.
There is a second, increasingly important category of qualities that employers wish to examine, and they often examine these just as closely as the hard skills. Known as "soft skills," these are such personal values, critical thinking tools and character traits as you will need for success in the specified career. Some may be innate abilities while other soft skills can actually be cultivated and refined throughout a lifetime.
Numerous studies and years of business questionnaires have identified the leading soft skills that top employers seek in an employee. You should honestly assess your own strengths and weaknesses in these areas. Clearly, the more of these essential characteristics an employer sees in you, and reads about in your resume, the better your chances of landing the job you want.
The very first "personal asset" listed by the majority of employers today is "communications skills." An employee able to listen attentively, speak precisely, read fast and write well is highly valued in every line of business these days, as communications skills seem to have eroded in the last several generations. Hard lessons were learned about this basic skill set when it began disappearing, for a time, from our nation's college graduates.
Based on the notion, once popular in the 1970s and 1980s, that high-tech workers didn't need English grammar if they knew the C++ and Java programming languages, the trend toward "focused training" as opposed to "general education" held sway with professional educators for a mercifully short time. The notion that language skills were expendable was debunked long ago. If anything, basic language skills support the acquisition and retention of other complex "languages" used for programming and computer security.
Without clear communication, no aspect of a business enterpriser will work effectively, not sales or service, certainly not advertising or management. If you are an "exceptional listener and communicator who clearly, effectively conveys verbal and written information," then you should say so, in a similarly succinct fashion, on your resumes and applications.
As far as general high-tech skills are concerned, even fast food restaurants require employees to have at least basic computer skills and enough technical aptitude to learn an in-house system. Just about every white-collar office position requires a degree of computer hardware and software familiarity, too, particularly with word processing, database, Internet browser and email applications.
Flexibility and insight
There is a lot more managing going on in companies, both large and small, than can be handled by people with "manager" in their titles. Employees at all levels are now responsible for managing multiple tasks, adjusting to changing work conditions, setting priorities, coordinating team efforts and targeting (and retargeting) a constantly shifting set of goals. What employers are looking for, at all levels of responsibility, are natural-born, decisive leaders who can quickly assess a situation, figure out what to do and when to do it, juggle simultaneous tasks and do so, day in and day out, without undue stress.
While employers certainly want workers who can use their heads on technical issues, they also want people who can analyze situations, assemble the information necessary for making "people" decisions and target key matters that need priority attention. This skill also manifests in an employee's ability to see the simple, straightforward steps that may be obscured by overly complicated procedures and processes.
Interpersonal and leadership skills
The catchall term, "interpersonal skills," describes the manner in which you relate to people, resolve conflicts and, if you are a supervisor or manager, encourage, motivate and lead others. Companies of every kind benefit from having "relationship builders" who can help achieve consensus and deal with abrasive personalities in a firm but sensitive manner.
Some say that leadership is a quality you are born with, while others make a good case that it is a set of learned habits. If you are able to take charge in confusing and critical situations, and have always found a way to bring squabbling co-workers together again, then you were born with it - or learned it along the way! Who can say?
What one can say is that goal-driven leaders create and maintain environments of productivity. If you can motivate, mobilize and mentor others in the pursuit and attainment of high performance standards, then you are a leader, whether born or bred. If you have the important traits, that somewhat mysterious mix of experiences and insight, you will be in great demand from the growing number of companies that are learning to hire "attitudes and aptitudes" instead of merely "resumes and references."
Part 2 of this article discusses the work ethic, and a way to embrace it with both passion and professionalism.
After founding his first security firm in 1990, Scott McQuarrie built several security-related companies into regional and national powerhouses over the ensuing years. Since 2000 he has focused his sales and marketing efforts on the Internet, which opened up a virtually unlimited, international market for his flagship product line, EZWatch Pro.
The EZWatch Pro brand has come to stand for world-class expertise in electronic security, video surveillance and the myriad technologies involved in both fields. From small houses to gigantic international airports, there is an EZWatch Pro solution to meet any and every residential, business, commercial and government security challenge.