When you've been job-hunting for a while, it's easy to become frustrated and wonder what on earth employers are looking for.
In this economy, with more job-seekers than available jobs, it's not enough to just have the basic qualifications. Employers are flooded with resumes, and so they're narrowing the applicant pool down by looking for traits that go well beyond the basics.
Here are 10 things that interviewers are seeking to find out about candidates:
1. You've had experience doing the job's key tasks, but how well did you do them? It's not enough just to mention that you were responsible for a particular task; employers want to know that you excelled at it. Did you do the minimum needed, or did you surpass expectations? Did you bring something new to the work that was different than what was being done before? Did you make improvements to existing processes? What kind of results did you achieve?
2. What would your previous managers and coworkers say about you? Would people who've worked with you in the past just say that your work was fine, or would they rave about you? Do they sound genuinely regretful that you left and like they'd love to have you back again? Or did you not make much of an impression?
3. Do you get along with others? Are you easy to work with, or do interpersonal problems tend to follow you? Employers want to hire people who aren't going to be difficult to work with—who aren't high maintenance, jerks, or adversarial.
4. Do you pay attention to the little things? Do you arrive on time, follow up when you say you will, send that document you said you were going to send, and so forth? Paying attention even to small details says that you care about your work and how you come across to people—and not paying attention often says the opposite.
5. Do you have integrity? Are you ethical? Do you keep commitments? Do you bad-mouth previous employers or exercise discretion? Are you looking for purely what you can get from an employer, or do you want to make a fair contribution as well?
6. What's your work ethic like? Employers want to hire people who care about getting things done, and who are motivated by seeing things happen. The most attractive candidates bring their own excitement, energy, and ideas to the position—from an administrative assistant who thinks about a better way to organize financial files, to a communications director who obsesses about creative ways to get a message into the news.
7. Are you resourceful? Employers are looking for candidates who are resourceful, get excited rather than discouraged when something is a challenge, and who have a sense of possibility rather than of limitations (and yet of course who are still grounded in reality).
8. Do you know how to get things done? There's nothing more annoying than someone with lofty ideas who has no clue how to implement them. You need to show that you understand the nitty-gritty of what it takes to make things happen.
9. Are you self-aware? Do you know what you do well and where you're weaker, or do you think you're fantastic at everything? People who have a realistic understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses tend to be better at what they do, and are certainly easier to work with.
10. Do you want the job? Employers want to hire someone who wants the job—someone who is going to be excited to get an offer, would enjoy coming to work, and isn't going to leave in six months.
These are the people who employers are still rushing to hire. 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.