Dear Song: I’ve recently been laid off from a job I’ve been at for the past decade. Now that I’m unemployed, I have this daunting task of finding a job. I’m nervous about the interview process. I haven’t had to interview for a long time. I’m confident about my experience and technical skills but I understand that there are other things employers look at besides experience. What do you think are the most important things that employers look for other than work experience? —Darren in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Dear Darren: You are absolutely right. Your work experience and technical skills are only a part of the equation in terms of the hiring process. That is what we like to call “hard” skills. However, when the final hiring decision is made, it usually comes down to the “soft” skills that determine equally qualified candidates. But that is the dilemma. Soft skills are very subjective from employer to employer. Some companies may value certain traits more than others. It can even change from position to position even within the same company. Traits that are valued in a sales role may not be as valued in the accounting department. So you first have to figure out what traits are valued with respect to the job you are interviewing for. Nevertheless, from my experience dealing with executives, these are the five traits that they look for the most:
1. A strong work ethic—Who doesn’t want to hire someone that works hard? Companies want to hire people who will go the extra mile and do whatever it takes to get the job done, not someone who watches the clock anxious to leave at 5p.m. on the dot.
2. A positive attitude—Have you ever worked with someone that was always upset about something and had a gloomy disposition? Not much fun to be around is it? Every company wants to create a positive corporate culture. You can only do that with positive people.
3. Strong interpersonal skills—In this day and age no one works in a vacuum. The ability to communicate effectively with others is an asset. Not only is that important from a work collaboration standpoint but every employee is a walking advertisement for the company.
4. High integrity—What happens to morale if you can’t trust one another at work? When you work with a group of people with values and morals there is naturally a strong bond formed knowing that everyone is out for the best interest of each other and the company.
5. The ability to overcome obstacles—Anyone can be successful if the road is smooth and easy. However, the reality is, in business you are going to face obstacles and challenges constantly. If you have a knack for working well under pressure and demonstrate the ability to deal with challenges well, you will be high in demand.
Obviously, we all want to make a great impression during an interview. But if you want to gain an edge, illustrate these points as clearly as possible. During the course of an interview various questions will be asked by the interviewer to see if you possess these positive traits. Be prepared to give concrete examples from your previous jobs that demonstrate your attributes.
For example, early in my career there was an important deadline that my manager had to meet. I was asked if I could work longer than usual to help him out. It wasn’t mandatory but I agreed to it not really knowing how much longer, just long enough to complete the project. By the time the project was finished, I had worked from 9a.m. Monday to 11a.m. Tuesday, straight. So whenever someone asks me a question about my work ethic during an interview, I give them this example to illustrate this particular trait. As my old high school writing teacher would tell me, “show not tell.” Show the interviewer these traits with situational examples, don’t just tell them.
(reposted from The Epoch Times Career Corner column 12/01/11 issue):