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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  • Sharon F
    Sharon F
    I totally agree these terms are over-rated (Teamwork, Talented, Multi-tasking, Hard working)  but as you said... employers want them, or think they do, and so we keep saying them.  it's a viscious cycle that only the employer can stop.
  • Jeanie B
    Jeanie B
    I think that Melissa Kennedy makes a lot of sense. As someone who been both the employer and employee my employees must have was not so much that they be able to have the teamwork mentality but the ability to get along with each other.  They needed a sports attitude - sales people compete most of the time - who sells the most or who does assigned tasks the quickest.Also multi-tasking is not high on the list of qualities instead they need to be able to know the order of importance of tasks.  Please take that list of tasks and get them done one at a time.and on timeOn the other hand as an employee I had to be careful when it came to finding good shortcuts that I didn't step on toes.
  • Roy G
    Roy G
    I'm not sure what kind of research showed these results, but these are attributes that virtually all employers are asking for; better to say yay than nay
  • John W
    John W
    It's been a number of years since I was involved in hiring people and I looked for the antithesis of the buzzwords mentioned above. Now that I'm looking for a new position I find myself trying to comply with them. The Gates' quote is spot on.
  • Joel F
    Joel F
    Melissa, You get a failing grade of 50% right for this piece. "Teamwork" often means the ability to work easily with others without being an asshole. I'll choose the "team player" over the asshole every time. "Talent" is obviously a concept that you do not understand. Yes, even a talented person needs to work very hard to master their art. But when they do, no number of "untalented" people can replace them. I agree on "multitasking": the ability to do several things poorly at the same time. And yes Bill Gates is right, really smart "lazy" people figure out how to do things in the most efficient manner. Okay, I'll give you a D minus for effort.
  • Eloise H
    Eloise H
    I think that a feeling of loyalty and personal commitment to a company can lead an individual to more success than other characteristics.  Loyalty causes a person to go above and beyond the usual "duties" and give more time and effort.
  • Vickie D
    Vickie D
    I think multi-tasking is overrated.  It makes perfect sense that one cannot do a good, thorough job if they are doing too many things at once.  I agree with that.  I don't see how they can be fully focused on doing several thing st one time and they are far more likely to make mistakes.
  • Daulton C
    Daulton C
    I both agree and disagree. I don't want lazy people. That's overthinking. I want hard working people that are smart. I am a hard worker and a smart worker. As a production supervisor, I have to multitask. I am good at it and I teach people how to multi-task. The key is to get to stopping point of one task, preferably the longer task, and finish the shorter task. I've seen people work on a 3 hour task and finish it before finishing a 10 minute task because the 3 hour task was started first.
  • Gary P
    Gary P
    Apparently, you have never had a "JOB" out in the real world!
  • Nina Z
    Nina Z
    Teamwork sometimes presents more problems than it solves.  Everyone wants it their way reqardless if it is the most effective way to get things done.  In my experience teams tend to spend too much time trying to make a decision.
  • Juan Martinez C
    Juan Martinez C
    I liked the article. I always thought that some approaches and qualifications are very old now. About the hard worker I think that can be considered in different perspective. Are you a hard worker because you take more time to perform or finish a task and don't get up until you finish? Or the type of hard worker that you want to put the extra effort to do more tasks and get ahead on the job so you can really relax on the free days
  • Pat Q
    Pat Q
    I agree with the article.  I've been around a while, and hear these buzzwords being used in the workplace.  Most people say them, but have no idea what they really mean, or how much real value they have.
  • Alfred N
    Alfred N
    you are absolutely correct on the qualifications people think is good.  Actually, only experience should prevail.
  • Cynthia P
    Cynthia P
    I agree that these buzz words are over rated.  Employers should also consider a person's life skills.  Maybe you didn't get a degree in accounting but you have excellent credit; wouldn't that be evidence that you can handle a budget?  There are so many attributes people have that qualifies them for promotion or the actual vacant position that employers refuse to recognize.  This the results are high unemployment across the country.
  • Zaharat S
    Zaharat S
    I do not agree with many statements.
  • stephen r
    stephen r
    reply to Job description per then use above as needed.
  • Vincent A
    Vincent A
    Well put! Especially the "Hard Worker" issue. I am one of those who are always looking for a better way to do things.
  • Elaine C
    Elaine C
    I believe a person who works smarter not harder is a valuable asset to an employer as long as they do not reinvent the wheel when it should not be reinvented.  Smarter is not change for changes sake it must actually improve the process.
  • Courtney M.
    Courtney M.
    Interesting and helpful.
  • sujana p
    sujana p
    EXCELLENT!  i think nonprofits or really, really creative and innovative companies who define work ethic and what makes a good employer would appreciate unique and no bs qualities.  unfortunately, the world is robotic.  i hate working with other people and i have to find some experience where i work with the team.  this is by far the most useful article i have received in a long time.  thanks, and keep them coming!
  • Mary C
    Mary C
    love it----so sick of buzz words
  • Deborah P
    Deborah P
    Resumes are an exercise in torture. A person who is looking for a new employee uses them to sort out people he doesn't want to talk to. I believe that another type of applicaiton process is in order. Resumes are used to charm an employer but rarely show the real person.
  • Colette H
    Colette H
    I completely agree that teamwork is not always best. I always find that I can finish a job and move on before the team has finished discussing it.
  • Toni A
    Toni A
    I agree with all 4 of these. These also don't give you an identity or brand as you wrote a previous article about. I know people who put double the hours I did but I always seemed to be much further ahead or prepared than them.
  • Wayne W
    Wayne W
    good article, finally

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