Career 

The Surprising Truth About What Employers Really Want

As senior director for talent acquisition for the global healthcare company Roche Diagnostics in Indianapolis, Terra Doyle meets countless college job seekers each year, and also compares notes with her industry colleagues.

What do recruiters like to see in applicants? The usual rules apply, of course. Be professional in your presentation—even your email can speak volumes—and put your best foot forward, Doyle said.

Tech skills may be in demand, and if you’re in finance, you better have a handle on accounting. But surprisingly, there are other key qualities employers want that have nothing to do with skills. Instead, Doyle looks for evidence that a candidate displays:

Teamwork. “Showing that you can collaborate is a really big one,” Doyle said. Employers want to know if you’ve worked on projects with classmates or coworkers and that you work well within a group environment, she said.

“Similar skills are echoed in annual employer surveys from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), which show that employers want applicants to be able to demonstrate their ability to work in a team, problem-solve, have written and verbal communication skills, math and analytical skills and a strong work ethic, as well as leadership, initiative and flexibility.”

Willingness to take risks. Candidates shouldn’t hesitate to talk about projects or experiences that were not successful, and what they learned. “The term we use is ‘fail forward,’ Doyle said. “We learn from every opportunity, and sometimes we learn and become better for it.”

Agility. Roche, like many employers, is shifting away from the idea that each employee should have just one core competency or skill, Doyle said. Instead, there’s an increasingly strong emphasis on agility, which means that a candidate is open to learning new skills all the time and to take on new responsibilities, learning to be successful in whatever role is needed.

Similar skills are echoed in annual employer surveys from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), which show that employers want applicants to be able to demonstrate their ability to work in a team, problem-solve, have written and verbal communication skills, math and analytical skills and a strong work ethic, as well as leadership, initiative and flexibility.

How would you rate yourself in those categories? Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from peers, professors, and employers on how you can improve. Your goal isn’t just getting a job but keeping it and advancing your career.

Developing those skills on campus and through internships are important, according to Doyle. “We love to see people who show initiative, through extracurriculars, whether they are tied to their majors or in leadership positions on campus in student or social organizations,” she said. “Seeing that drive and ambition is a characteristic that all employers like.”

What do college students not necessarily have to worry about? “Sometimes students are given a hard time about needing a career direction, but that’s not necessarily the most important quality for a candidate,” according to Doyle. “It’s just as important to be open to new challenges and opportunities.”

Be yourself during interviews, Doyle advises, so that you are truly matching your skills, abilities and interests with the company culture. “It’s a conversation,” she said. “We don’t want to hire too many of the same kind of people, who have had the same kinds of experiences. Diversity in thought and experience makes an organization stronger and better.”

Tip: Get an Alarm Clock

“As you get into the swing of things at a job or internship, it might be tempting to relax your sense of urgency. You’re expected to arrive at 8:30, but your arrivals start turning into 8:32, then 8:35 . . . don’t let this happen!

“You might think that no one will care if you come in at 9:35 instead of 9:30, but tardiness has adverse effects. ‘If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you’re fired,’ was a popular saying with an old manager of mine. Plan to be a few minutes early. When an employer says they want you at work at a specific time, it doesn’t mean that should be the time you walk in the door. Be at your workspace, ready to start!

“Consistently showing up past your expected time signals one of two things to your superiors: you’re too lazy to care about moving quickly to get to work; or your planning skills are terrible. There’s a simple solution to always being late in the morning: get up earlier. When you refuse to do something that simple, your superiors will wonder what else you’ll slack off on. If you have a consistent problem arriving on time, talk to your supervisor about changing the time you’re expected to come in. It’s better than being tardy!”

—Caitlyn Beck, Program Assistant, Indiana INTERNnet

Related posts