What employers want

What do employers want in an interview?

Why do recruiters often write one set of selection criteria, and then pick a candidate with completely different experience?

Have you ever had that experience when someone says one thing, but really means another?

We see it all the time in the hiring process. An employer places a position for a job with very specific criteria – then hires someone totally different.

So, how can you find out what employers want in an interview? As an applicant, you’re always told to tailor applications to the requirements of an employer, but when an employer doesn’t really know what they want, that can be really difficult – and incredibly frustrating.

A job ad is typically full of hard skill requirements: you need to be able to DO certain things. But most employers will hire a person not on what they can do but on who they are. That’s not a bad thing because it typically makes for a better culture fit! It’s better for them – as people who fit typically stay longer – and it’s better for you, because it means you should be a lot happier in the role.

More and more employers are realising that hiring on skills alone doesn’t get you the best result and that people who are hired on skills alone typically leave a job because there’s no culture fit.

Understanding the buzzwords

Recently, our team at WorkibleJOBS looked at the most common words and phrases used in Australian job ads. There was not one skill among them. Words and phrases that did make the list, however, were things like “forward thinking”, “team player”, “creative thinker”, “customer-focussed”, “strategic” and the like, showing that what employers want are people who can make a difference – not just do a job.

It’s really important to showcase skills like these in your resume or online profile, not just by mentioning them but by explaining how you’ve used them in previous roles or activities.

If you’re applying for your first job, or if your first step is into a graduate program, show how you’ve participated in extra-curricular activities, uni, community or school groups using and developing those traits.

Innovation is another skill that’s highly regarded at the moment, especially by larger organisations.  If innovation is your thing, if you’re a digital native or a gadget person, say it! There are plenty of organisations who are looking for tech-savvy and tech-interested people.

If you’ve managed to impress with your resume, you can be fairly certain that you’ve hit some of the right buttons. The next step is getting through the interview with messages that match what employers want from you.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Commonly, an interviewing panel is looking for two things: confirmation that you have the skills they need and, possibly more importantly, what sort of person you are.

While your degree may state that you have learned the skills, what employers want is for you to demonstrate you’ve applied them in a real world environment.

Here’s where internships, work experience, volunteering and the like really come into play so, if you’ve got these experiences under your belt, talk about them! Show them how you’ve used the skills they need in an actual workplace situation – a picture is worth a thousand words.

What employers want is a great match

Then it’s up to you to demonstrate that you’re the type of person they’re looking for. Read up on the company to ascertain their culture and check out company reviews from actual employees on sites like Glassdoor.

Do a search of their job ads and look for the words they regularly use to describe the type of people they’re looking for. If you know of people who work there, or can reach out to them, ask them for insights.

Lastly, remember the words we showed you at the beginning of this article. With innovation on the tip of everyone’s lips, companies are looking for self-starting, lateral and creative thinkers who can help them achieve their goals rather than people who’ll just do the job.

An interview is the chance for you to really shine. Don’t leave it thinking, “I wish I had…”. Tell them why you’re the best person for the job. Show you’ve done your homework and really sell the person you are – not just the skills you have. – Fiona Anson, WorkibleJOBS

“Most employers will hire a person not on what they can do, but on who they are.”

Read next: Writing a cover letter

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