In this economy, with more job seekers than available jobs, it's not enough to just have the basic qualifications for the job. Hiring managers are flooded with applicants who have those basic qualifications, and they're narrowing that pool down by looking for traits that go well beyond. And believe me when I say that doesn't mean gimmicks to "stand out" like using high quality resume paper or a flashy video resume. It means displaying traits that are much more fundamental to what you'll be like in the job.
Here's what I want when I'm hiring:
I want someone who wants the job—someone who's going to be excited to get an offer, who would enjoy coming to work, who isn't going to leave in a year.
I want someone with a work ethic, who cares about getting things done, and who's motivated by seeing things happen.
I want someone who's not going to be a pain in the butt—high maintenance, or a jerk, or adversarial.
I want someone resourceful who gets excited rather than discouraged when something's a challenge, who has a sense of possibility rather than of limitations—and yet who is still practical and realistic.
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I want someone who is self-aware, who knows what they're good at and where they're weaker.
I want someone who knows things I don't and who will make me think differently.
I want someone who lives in the real world and understands how to get things done.
I want someone who will bring excitement and energy and ideas of their own to the position -- from an administrative assistant who's thinking about a better way to organize financial files to a communications director who obsesses about creative ways to get a message into the news.
These are the people who I'm rushing to hire and who I'm bending over backwards to retain. Find a way to demonstrate these qualities to a hiring manager, and you'll go right to the top of their list.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.