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What Employers Look For: Attitude and Communication Skills

What Employers Are Really Looking For: Insights from the 2014 DeVry University Employer Survey

By Madeleine Slutsky, VP of Career & Student Services at DeVry University

Ever wish you could read a potential employer’s mind? Figure out what that inscrutable human being across the desk from you is really  thinking?

Well, we did the next best thing. We asked.

This past winter, the Career Services Department of DeVry University conducted an online survey of people with direct hiring influence from DeVry’s database of employers. Among other things, we wanted to know employers’ biggest needs when seeking new hires, and their biggest hiring challenges. The results may surprise you.

We asked: What are the most important qualities and skills in a potential job candidate?

You might think that education and work experience would be the first two things mentioned. Having a strong, real-world education and relevant work experience are important, but today you need both those qualifications just to be considered by most employers. No, the top two qualities mentioned were: communication skills and attitude.

 

1. Communication skills
This was no surprise here in DeVry University’s Career Services Department. Our goal is to help students become career-ready and successful in landing a job in their chosen field. We’ve been teaching our students for years that job candidates are often judged on their “soft skills”; things like: being friendly and personable, making eye contact, writing an error-free cover letter, and sending a follow up note expressing interest and appreciation for the opportunity. All of these steps are critical forms of interpersonal communication that show a potential employer you have a positive attitude and you care about doing the job well.

The truth is communication is absolutely and fundamentally important in any job. What’s the point of being brilliant at what you do if you can’t get along with your coworkers or your boss? What’s the value in knowing how to do a task well if you can’t explain it patiently and thoroughly to someone - like a client? Texting, email, social media have opened up new and convenient forms of communication – but they have not made us better communicators. It usually takes more than 140 characters to get an important idea across. Demonstrating that you understand how to work on a team, collaborate with others, explain things well and display common courtesy during an interview can make the difference between moving on to the next level or being dropped onto the “no” pile.

 

2. Attitude
Here are a few of the answers we received when we asked the second question: What are your biggest challenges in hiring new employees?

“Finding employees who are dedicated to the job and who put forth effort.”

“Finding people who can self manage time and projects.”

“Finding people with a strong work ethic and commitment.”

And my personal favorite…

"Finding employees that are eager to work and not text their friends.”

Wow. That last one sums it up, doesn’t it? Imagine the gall of an employer actually wanting someone to work during work hours – while they’re being paid. Shocking! Of course, I’m kidding. Would you hire someone who comes to work late, talks or texts all day, and doesn’t seem to care how this behavior is affecting the rest of the team? Of course not! You would hire someone on whom you can depend to help you get the job done.

So, the next time you are in an interview, wondering what the person across the desk is thinking, remember: He or she is looking for someone with a strong education and relevant experience, but more important, someone who is easy to work with, excited about the job, eager to do it well, and willing to go above and beyond to do it right the first time. Prove to them that you have the communication skills and attitude to be a smart, responsible employee. Demonstrating these “hidden” skills might just be the key to a new and exciting career.


  Madeleine Slutsky, Vice President of Career & Student Services at DeVry University, has spent many years on the other side of the desk as a human resources professional and even more years helping students and graduates get into the workforce. DeVry University Career Services is dedicated to providing on-going career assistance to all DeVry University students.