25 Qualities Job Interviewers Look For

When you’re job hunting, you need the right skills, education, and experience. But that’s not all you need.


When you’re job hunting, you need the right skills, education, and experience. But that’s not all you need. Employers are also looking for a host of other qualities.

For some examples, take a look at the following list. Don’t be freaked out by the length. Read through it. Think about how you rate on each item and how you could improve. It could be the best thing you ever do for your job hunt.

[See 21 Secrets to Getting the Job.]

1. Energy. Humans are drawn to energetic people because energy is contagious and an upper. Job interviewers are human.

2. Good manners. Dressing appropriately, sitting erect, maintaining eye contact, waiting to sit until your interviewer is seated—these things all show respect for the person and the situation.

3. Maturity. Mature people know how to focus on the needs of others. Immature people are just wrapped up in themselves. Employers really prefer the first one.

4. Judgment. When interviewers start questions with “tell me about a time when you,” that’s your opening to bring up examples of when you showed excellent judgment.

5. Problem-solving skills. The “tell me about a time” question is also an opportunity to talk about how you effectively approach problems.

[See How to Tell When a Job Interview is Going Well.]

6. Loyalty. Employers seek candidates who can demonstrate loyalty to something—a cause, colleagues, a company, your profession.

7. Cheerful nature. A positive attitude, a smile, and an easygoing attitude tell an employer you will be a pleasure to have around. That’s important.

8. Good health. Employers need to believe that you can physically do the job. If you have visible health issues, you might consider preemptively addressing them.

9. Financial responsibility. Lots of jobs involve a credit check. So if you have a problem in this area, start working now to fix it!

10. Demonstration that you finish what you start. This is one reason many employers require a college degree. If you don’t have one, look for other examples of your stick-to-it-iveness.

11. Follow-through. Not quite the same as #10. Follow-through is a habit of mind highly valued at most companies. A good example is writing a thank-you note after the interview.

[See Why You Should Never Skip the Interview Thank-You Note.]

12. Demonstration of an ability to go above and beyond. Employers dream about these kinds of employees. Think of a time you’ve shown this quality and find a way to talk about it.

13. Ability to handle criticism. When interviewers ask about “your greatest weakness,” they want to see that you’re capable of recognizing you do have weaknesses, and that you’re willing to put in the work to correct them.

14. Ability to cooperate with others. Be nice to receptionists/assistants/colleagues. Show that you would be an asset to the team.

15. Intelligence. For example, in interviews, employers notice how well you appear to understand questions and whether you answer them clearly, in complete sentences, using reasonably good grammar.

[See more job advice at U.S. News Careers.]

16. Demonstration that you know something about the employer’s business. A no-brainer. At least it should be.

17. Have you reached a level commensurate with your age and qualifications? Don’t let the interviewer wonder. If this is an issue for you, tackle it head-on.

18. A career trajectory that makes sense. Learn to talk about your career in a way that shows you have a plan. Ideally, you’ll be able to show continuous improvement.

19. Long-term goals and objectives. What you want to do here is demonstrate that you are a thoughtful person with goals, and the smarts to pursue those goals. It ties in with #18.

20. Solid, thought-through reasons for leaving past jobs. Even if you’ve had 10 jobs in the past six years, it doesn’t have to hurt you if you can show good smart reasons for why.

21. Punctuality. The reason you need to be on time for interviews is that this is the employer’s first clue that you can meet a deadline.

22. Resilience. Can you still perform when the going gets tough? Think of examples from your personal and work life, and try to work them into the interview.

23. Attention to detail. Your resume is the classic platform for showing an employer that you can produce a meticulously accurate product.

24. Flexibility/adaptability. Interviewers sometimes ask an unexpected or even “crazy” question just to see how you react. This is a time to be at your most unflappable.

25. Some evidence of achievement and commitment in your personal life. Employers ask about your hobbies and passions as a way of getting to know you, and because they like to see some success here, too.

Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, recently released by Running Press. She blogs at www.karenburnsworkinggirl.com.


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