Four Job Qualifications You Don't Really Need

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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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  •  Kris C.
    Kris C.
    Karen S. is completely right; I was thinking the same thing!
  • Laura B
    Laura B
    I agree that teamwork is overrated.  I work very well independently, and every time I've had to get involved in a group assignment, it complicates things.  People get confused as to who is handling which task, the meetings take time that could be spent doing the work independently.  Plus, you have to work with people that you may not enjoy working with, at least not that intimately.  Hardworking is just another way of saying they expect you to work your tail off for no extra money.  I'd rather apply to a position that mentions efficiency, not the amount of time required.  Multitasking is a buzz word that caught on that is hopefully on its way out!  I'm not exactly what people mean by that, and I don't think they know either.  If it means being capable of handling varying tasks, then OK; it it means doing several things at once, I don't think that's possible.  I do agree that talent lends a helping hand.  If you are tying to do something that doesn't come somewhat naturally to you, it will be an uphill battle.  I'm a CPA, and I feel that you either are good with numbers and enjoy the work, or you are in the wrong field.  I could never be in the medical field - not interested and can't pronounce 10 syllable words!!
  • Paulette S
    Paulette S
    I think I would add to the lazy person idea, yes, maybe lazy finds a easier way..maybe..a diligent mind can and often does the same, a lazy person tends to have other bad habbits such as what they eat and lack of exercise not to mention sometimes they have "more attitude" I say the hard worker in general gets my vote, at some point they will figure out the easier way and actually do it the lazy person might figure it out but will leave it for someone else to do it, also the integrity of a lazy person in my opinion is not as honest and sincere as the hard worker, the hard worker is more conscience minded. the more I think about it, the more good I can find to better hire the hard worker.
  • Mark C
    Mark C
    we have lost jobs to other countries because we don't work hard or have the talent or willing to do what it takes to put food on your table for your family. I think we have what it takes to do any job that is out there, just keep them here. We have the talented the hard worker the multitasker the team player. We need to let these CEO's know that we can do the job, JUST DO IT... and stop sending our jobs to other countries. I myself am heading back to college at 56...
  • Gwendolyn D
    Gwendolyn D
    This was a good article. I usually put this in my cover letter or in an interview. Will have to think of new things to say. You try to say what the employer is looking for.
  • Jay P
    Jay P
    If hiring managers were more tuned to an applicants past performance a bit more than "can this applicant come into the organization with the required knowledge," we would all be better off (and employed).
  • Warren W
    Warren W
    Especially "multitasking"'s a PC buzzword!
    This vital information needs to be in the hands of all who are responsible for the interviewing and hiring process. I am entering the job market after relocating to another state. I feel overwhelmed with the many changes of today's job market. But this was a great source of wisdom for this ever-changing work force. Thank you for sharing.
  • John K
    John K
    if HR likes you the company should avoid you. HR selects for mediocrity.
  • Tania L
    Tania L
    Isnt it strange as professional caregivers it would be ethically wrong to "blacklist" people in these very roles that are doing it to us when they become patients of ours and need US so badly. I am very familiar with being blacklisted and since you didnt mention it just how do you find out how and why ones been blacklisted and just how to "pay" to get off of such a list.
  • Elly M
    Elly M
    I like the article and just before a career change and job interview
  • John F S
    John F S
    This article nailed it. I just wish Employers knew this.
    It is true in a lot of cases. I find it disturbing that a lot of recruiters are asking what year you graduated from college. That's an indirect way to find out your age. And it's legal!!Unless an actual manager interviews you, you don't have much of a chance to get a job, even at minimum wage. I've been in the market since 2009 and can't even get a bite... at least a 1000 jobs applied out there...all saved in my yahoo box and printed files. Such a sad world....
  • Victoria A
    Victoria A
    I totally agree but employers still look for these"qualities". Which sometimes we have to lie about our qualities, which we shouldn't. They should understand we all work differently like we all learn differently, and there is still success afterwards
  • Peggy P
    Peggy P
    I really appreciate the comments regarding teamwork, a word I have disliked because I feel it hinders you from going outside the consensus of a group.  Teamwork does not mean the same in actuality that it did years ago. Team -work meant that you would cooperate with fellow workers to get a job done.  Today you are hampered by the opinion of the majority.  So when I apply for a job, I have to try to show that I am not uncooperative without using that  exact word, because I do not agree with what teamwork has come to  mean in the work world.Multitasking is another word that I had never heard of.  To me, what they call multitasking today is not being unreasonable about taking care of tasks.  What it meant to me int the past is getting done many things in a day by knowing how to prioritize and get the most important things out first.  I do believe in working hard but to me that includes working smart.  What will save time?  What will be the most efficient way?  Is there an effective short cut?In my opinion, the business world and I dare say  the world in general is too "Monkey see, Monkey do" and lacks much common sense and initiative.
  • Carol Z
    Carol Z
    Whether you agree with these as being valued traits or not, the fact is that companies are seeking individuals who possess these skills. I've been asked many times in interviews if I'm good at multitasking, a team player, etc. Usually what they mean by that is that they want to know if you can get along with other people. I leave things like "talent" off my cover letters; my talent (or lack thereof) is not something I can judge for myself. If that were the case, almost everyone would claim to be talented.
  •  Teresa T
    Teresa T
    Yes I do think these are basic buzz words and they are overrated. The truth of the matter is even having a degree in certain areas is overrated. There are many qualified people for different type positions who have all the above listed buzz words and a degree and still have no common sense. I think that should be a requirement.
    I have to agree with the quote by Gates.  There is a saying about meetings from TED Talks that if you want to make your employees unproductive...have a meeting.  This viewpoint, and the quote by Gates, are a testament to teamwork not necessarily being overrated but over-valued.
  • RobertC
    Melissa,  This post just drives it home for me.  I have 21 years experience in the military from the shop floor to project management and another 5 years in general aviation.  I always try to get my contemporaries to adopt this view with little success.  I am one who works hard, however I am constantly looking for ways to be more efficient because I AM LAZY!  I always say "work smarter not harder" and my employers have benefitted from this  Again, great article.Robert
  • Matthew R
    Matthew R
    Get this to hiring managers, especially for jobs in nursing/LTC facilities!
  • Renata S
    Renata S
    On a little different subject. My talented and very independent son, who is a student at the local college never misses classes and is always well prepared He absolutely hates the "group projects", where half of the students don't show up and half are not prepared. Somehow it is a common practice at the schools nowadays.
  • Loretta T
    Loretta T
    This is an excellent article. The hardest part about getting an interview is actually meeting someone to interview with. Almost all jobs are internet based and your resume, transcripts, outstanding abilities are just floating in the cloud somewhere. I wish applying for jobs would go back to when you actually went in and talked to someone before applying for a job.
  • Karen S
    Karen S
    Almost Every employer uses the word "multi tasking in their ads. I really want to eliminate that word from our vocabulary.  To me it means "can do the job of two or more people with no expectations of a reward or recognition"
  •  James R
    James R
    I think many HR departments just use the same old list of qualifications job after job.However, to a certain extent we must play the game.
  • John H
    John H
    Excellent article...Now I don't feel guilty about not being a team player!I have always performed my best, personally and professionally,  on an independent basis.

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