In a tight job market, with employers able to be pickier and pickier about who they hire, it's easy for job seekers to start wondering what it takes to get a job. In a sea of qualified candidates, what are employers looking for in the people they choose to interview?
Here are eight key things that employers are looking for when they review job applicants:
1. First and foremost, can you do the job? This isn't about whether you think you can do the job; employers are looking for concrete evidence in your past that shows that you can. This doesn't mean that you need to have done this particular job with this particular title before, but it does mean that you need to have a track record of success in the skills that the position requires.
2. Are you going to be reasonably easy to work with? No matter how skilled you are, most employers don't want to hire someone who's high maintenance, rude, negative, volatile, or overly sensitive.
3. Will you be satisfied with the job or will you be looking to leave within six months? Most employers want to hire people who will stick around for a solid block of time (usually at least two years, and more for senior-level positions). They also want to hire people who will be happy with the job, because unhappy people tend to be less productive and a drain on other employees' morale.
4. Are you reasonably likeable? You don't need to be a charmer on the level of George Clooney, but you do need to be someone your interviewer can envision working with every day without feeling stomach pains.
5. Do you seem like you can put up with whatever the negatives of the job are? Every job has downsides, whether it's a difficult boss or a long commute or an office culture that makes it hard for new ideas to blossom. Employers want to make sure that you're going to have at least a reasonable "immunity" level to whatever the more difficult elements of the job will be.
6. Will you fit in with the company culture? Do you seem like you'd easily embrace the culture, or do you seem like you'd struggle to assimilate? Company culture matters because it's the invisible force that controls "how we do things here."
7. Do you have a strong work ethic? It's not enough to just show up at work every day and do the minimum required. Employers are looking for candidates who care about getting things done and who don't start distracting the receptionist or open up Facebook or Gmail the moment the boss leaves for lunch.
8. How enthusiastic are you about the job? Is this just one job of hundreds you're applying to, or do you have a special interest in this one? Employers would rather hire someone who will be excited to come to work than someone who sees it as "just a job."
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager'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.