Four Job Qualifications You Don't Really Need

Posted by in Career Advice

Whether you're a job seeker looking for a great job, or an employer looking for the best employees, the odds are good that you have a list of skills and abilities that are important. Employers might interview applicants in order to determine if they have these skills and applicants are likely to try to play up these same skills. But, what if I told you that many of these qualities are overrated and are not actually as important as we've all been taught to believe?


Common wisdom says that a great employee is someone who is hard working, dependable and a good team player, and who also possesses the ability to multitask. However, actual research shows that these skills don't actually mean that someone will be successful at a particular job.


Here are four job qualification everyone thinks are important, and why they aren't:


Teamwork – Many companies want to find out if an applicant is able to work well with a team. For some reason, teamwork has become a buzzword and if someone isn't a team player, it's likely to be a serious black mark on their candidacy. The problem is that most research shows that teamwork is not an accurate measure of an employees ability and there are many, extremely skilled, people who do their best work independently. What's more, in most cases teamwork isn't the best way to get things done.


Talent – Take a quick look through a couple of pages of job listings, and you'll see that an overwhelming majority of the job descriptions are looking for talented employees – even the entry level job postings. The problem is that talent doesn't really have much to do with success. In the book, “Talent is Overrated”, the author, Geoff Colvin states that what makes the difference is determination and practice. He says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice for anyone to become an expert at something. Sure, talent might help you stick with the practice, but it's the actual work of doing something that makes you the best at it.


Multitasking – Many job listings ask for applicants who are able to multitask many different types of responsibilities. Personally, I think that the word has become a form of shorthand to mean that the responsibilities of the job will be varied and rapidly changing. However, there is still a common belief that multitaskers are more productive and harder working than those who do one task as at a time. Recent research shows that multitasking is bad for our brains and doesn't actually improve productivity. The employees who do one thing at a time tend to be far more focused and productive than those who attempt to do several at once.


Hard work – Everyone wants to hire someone who isn't afraid of working hard. In fact, most job seekers start their elevator pitch with the claim of being a hard worker. Even though the old saying claims that it's better to “work smarter, not harder,” many of us still don't believe it. A person who is willing to work long hours may not be the same person who will look at a task and try to find the most efficient way of getting it done. Bill Gates has been quoted as saying, “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will always find an easy way to do it.” When you think about it, most of the progress humans have made, from the wheel to the remote control to the modern smart phone, was a direct result of a lazy person trying to find an easier way to get things done.


There are many skills that make an applicant a good fit for the job. Instead of getting hung up on these overrated qualities, why not come up with a new list that more accurately describes the ideal candidate?


Have you ever looked for or claimed to have one of these skills? Do you think they are overrated? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


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  • Kimberly Jones
    Kimberly Jones
    I learn something important, I did not know
  • Ron Penland
    Ron Penland
    I agree with this article. Employers pay too much attention to "Tradition" and let a lot of good employees slip by them. That's probably why there are so many companies in trouble in this country. I have found very few Recruiters who have the ability to "Read Between The Lines". For Instance, if you have an app from someone who has worked for the same company on more than one occasion, but has several years total with that employer, it should tell the recruiter a few things 1. That person Obviously makes the company money or they wouldn't keep hiring them, 2. If they have several years with that employer, then obviously, they know what they are doing, 3. It cant always be the employer's way or no way. Its just like a marriage, there has to be give and take.(You work with me and I work with you and we both make money). and 4. The employee obviously likes the company or they would keep going back to work for them but they just feel the employer is unwilling to see their side of things. If you don't value the job I do and have no intention of listening to my suggestions and concerns, then don't hire me because I wont stay. Its about Respect. If you don't respect me, then I don't see how I can respect you? Last job I had where I actually felt like I was accomplishing anything was a minimum wage job in the 90's but, unfortunately at the time, I could not survive on minimum wage. That's the only job I can say for sure that I truly loved working at since 1989.
  • George Bricker
    George Bricker
    Interesting article. However, until employers change their hiring criteria, job seekers will continue to design their resumes to fit the employers' stated requirements. Otherwise, it would take way too much space on a resume to convince an employer that one is excellent producer when left to their own devices. Which would be a waste of time anyway because the 'auto pre-screening' will kick out the resume because it did not include the keyword "team player."
  •  Jeff K
    Jeff K
    I think its all hog wash.  It becomes a way to do business for those who are in the business.  Why can't we get back to the basics and leave the mind games out of it.  But then again, we all have to justify our jobs.
  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks for sharing!Fidel - you're right. Many times the list of qualifications employers want is outrageous, especially given the little pay they are offering. However, in this job market, they can pretty much find whatever they want!
  • Rebecca G
    Rebecca G
    Thoroughly enjoyed the quote from Bill Gates.  But I still believe that teamwork and hard word are still vital qualities.
  • Fidel A
    Fidel A
    Many of the posted jobs are looking for a superman. They seem unrealistic. I wonder if there is that one person possessing all those qualifications. Whoever drew up those qualification requirements must be out of touch himself/herself.
  • Mark S
    Mark S
    I disagree with you on the teamwork and talent comments, but agree with you on the multitasking and hard work comments.  So far as #2 is concerned, the talent has to be there in the first place for any amount of practice to be a benefit.
  • Becky L
    Becky L
    This is good because it shows how to highlight ADHD attributes that make you more marketable, esp. "Ability to hyper-focus allows me to accomplish difficult tasks more quickly."
  • Steve H
    Steve H
    I teach Career Development (doing resumes & interviews) at a college. This is an Excellent article however I also teach “Personalities Plus” ( to my students. Which means some of the strengths and weakness is part of the personality which you may have to overcome in yourself.
  • Theresa C
    Theresa C
    Good to know
  • Melissa K
    Melissa K
    Thanks for all of the great comments! @joe, you're right, sometimes the best team effort is everyone doing their job. Just because someone isn't good at working in groups doesn't mean they aren't good at their job. @Theresa, so true! There is always that one person who doesn't really do much, but the smile at all the right times and always are the first ones to explain to the boss what they're doing, which makes it look as though they are the main person on the team. It's silly and not the best way to measure employee performance. @Allen, everything you said is true, but I think you've missed my point. It's great to be a team player and to be talented, but when you're marketing yourself to an employer, those words don't mean much. Instead, talk about how you are super focused, have experience doing a certain thing, how passionate you are about it (instead of saying talented) and how you always are results-oriented and look for the most efficient way of doing a task (which sounds so much better than "I'm a hard worker") What I was trying to say was that too many people use these words to describe their skills, and employers use the same words to describe the type of person they are looking for. In order to really stand out, don't use these phrases that don't have any real meaning. Instead, dig deeper and find your real skills and what you have to  offer that is different that other applicants.@Kenneth, yes! Exactly! Even if you are good at managing several tasks, it's better to focus on how you are able to complete tasks efficiently, rather than saying you are good at multi-tasking.
  • JoeG
    It seems to me teamwork is each person doing their job.  Sometimes there are slackers  and some other "team members" do the slackers job.     
  • Daveda T
    Daveda T
    I have claimed teamwork because that is what                                                                                              I am used to working in fastfood and retail so much, but I do think it is overrated I'd much rather work alone and on one thing at a time.                                                                                                                                                             
  • Theresa S
    Theresa S
    I agree with everything in this article.  In fact, I would rather work alone.  In a team, you always get someone who doesn;t contribute anything but yet he/she can get part of the credit.  I also rather work on one task at a time and do a good job on it than try to do several tasks at once and maybe do a poor job.  I only wash employers felt that way.
  • Allen w.
    Allen w.
    To me teamwork is another way of saying "How well do you get along with others?". If you don't get along with your fellow workers that will cause tension and worker production will go down, which costs your employer money and other problems. You don't necessarily have to be a part of a team to be a good team player or to be the cause of tensions in the work place. Very few jobs don't require you to interact with others at some point.I agree that talent doesn't guaranty success, even talented folk need to practice to become perfect. However, someone with a particular talent, that an employer is looking for, will grasp that subject much faster than others without that particular nact, which will save your employer money. We all have talents for one thing or another, some have more talents than others, and I advise you to get to know what yours are and develop them. Along with talent, and especially if you don't have it, comes determination and practice as you have stated. I will add to that list, dedication to your work and loyalty to your employer.I agree with what you said about multitasking. I am definately not a multitasker, at times becoming what I call "hyper focused". I believe that any time you split your focus to do more than one thing each different thing will suffer from the split. Unfortunately, more and more, we are asked to do just that in the work place.I like to look at myself as a hard worker who is constantly trying to find an easier or faster way to get the job done. I think there needs to be a balance between the two, however, because if I spend all of my time trying to figure out the best way to do a job then the job will never get done. Then, of course, you may not be as creative or have as much experience as the last person who found the current way of doing things. I suggest harder work until experience and  inspiration show you a better way, which means you need to look for it while you are working.I hope that this is of benefit to someone.
  • Robert T
    Robert T
    Very accurate
  • Kenneth Y
    Kenneth Y
    Unless one is a short order cook or chef, multitasking is over rated. I have seen and been acquainted with multi taskers. They always seemed stressed out and out of breath.A sign of a good worker is one who accomplishes his/her tasks in an orderly and efficient manner. That comes from learning time management.
  • Andres J
    Andres J
    I appreciate your article
  • Robert F
    Robert F
    Great read... And if you need to say that you have these things, its like ok who doesnt? If you mention these its taking away from what you could be responding to in terms of their requirements. Its like saying i play football because i like the equipment! Well you better like the equipment because your gonna have to wear it. Even if you didnt like the equipment there are so many other things that are worthwhile.
  • YURY P
    YURY P
    It is all too individual for each HR and position requirements. it depends on too many factors. even on the mood of a hiring manager. I would not ignore it at all. As per Melissa it is just a buzzword nowadays and not taking too much space on a resume. You know better who you are and what you are.
  • Cecilia R
    Cecilia R
    I think the article highlights the misconceptions that surround the whole job search. We are individuals first and each person is unique. What we bring to that job situation is also unique. Team work is needed sometimes, but as an artist, only my vision and imagination should be given credit. I enjoy many different job assignments, so I never minded multi-tasking, but today you can be doing a different job everyday for the same organization or company. If you work for yourself, you wear many hats. So it's good to be versatile and yet be able to specialize too. The key is getting paid for your ideas and service.
  • Elizabeth T
    Elizabeth T
    I am a single mom who just graduated with my first BS, so I am very eager to find a job ASAP.I always hated the team projects at college. no one could ever get their schedules to work together. I agree with everything you are saying, but since the hiring people are still using them, if we want to get a job, we need to deal with it.
    I wish employers would read this, also.  There are a lot of people out there looking for work, and get dismissed, because they don't seem up to the task.  Given a chance, the job seeker could show them what they know.
  • Robert E
    Robert E
    I agree with this article, but all of these characteristics are emphasized in job descriptions even though the requirements are for specific tools and techniques that the candidate must have recent years of experience with.  How can you determine what is really important for obtaining actual attention from an employer?

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