Looking to land your dream job? Before you can truly interview well, you have to understand what hiring managers are looking for and how that aligns with your job skills and experience.
After all, when they ask you about your strengths or fit, you want to wow them by describing the strengths that they most want and need in a candidate.
Every job requires different technical knowledge and abilities, but beyond that, there is a set of essential job skills and competencies that will increase your value with just about any employer.
Employers want to hire people who are able to communicate effectively with those inside and outside of the organization.
It's not enough to be well-spoken. In most roles, you must be able to tailor your communications for different audiences. You have to be able to provide the big picture to senior executives and then get down into the detailed instructions for the technical experts.
Strong communication skills make you more productive and more effective. When you communicate well the first time, you save a lot of time that would otherwise be wasted on clarifying, answering questions, correcting wrong perceptions, chasing people down, and fixing mistakes.
Great communication skills can set an employee apart. At the very least, they can mean the difference between the potential for advancement and a stagnant career.
Once you're in the job, your ability to communicate reflects, for good or ill, upon the entire organization.
Many times, poor performance can be traced back to poor communication skills.
Effective communication may be one of your strengths if you:
• Served as the spokesperson for your group in college classes (and got A's on all of your papers)
• Shine when making presentations at work
• Receive positive feedback on written reports
• Handle unhappy customers (or colleagues) with ease
• Facilitate discussions and bring people to agreement
Be sure to mention examples like this on your resume and in your interview as they serve as indicators that you are, in fact, an outstanding communicator.
Teamwork/Ability to Work Collaboratively
Working well as a member of a team requires a combination of qualities — communication skills, being open to collaboration, a generally positive attitude, and the ability to deal with different personalities (especially the "demanding" ones).
We've all worked with people who didn't "play well with others"— and it can really have a negative effect on both productivity and morale.
A team player is able to work with different personalities, can work through disagreements productively, and makes his or her individual preferences secondary to achieving the goals of the team.
Employers like to see evidence of your ability to work in teams when reading through your resume and cover letter or listening to your answers in interviews. For a new graduate or junior-level candidate, it's important to show that you'll be able to get along in the office environment.
If you haven't yet had much opportunity to work on a team in a work setting, be prepared to talk about academic group projects or extracurricular team experiences. You want to show that you can jump right in and get along with your co-workers and clients.
What Makes a Good Team Player?
Here are a few qualities that make someone easy to work with as a member of a group:
• Focus on results, not who gets credit
• Ability to listen
• Respect for all group members
• Appreciation of the perspectives of others
• Communication skills (see above)
• Ability to take constructive feedback
• Reliability and work ethic
Teamwork may be one of your strengths if:
• Coworkers are constantly asking to run ideas by you
• People frequently ask you to join their projects
• You're often invited to lunch with coworkers to talk shop
• You are regularly called upon to provide an objective opinion or mediate disagreements
• You can find a way to connect with just about anybody
Sample Teamwork Interview Questions:
• Tell me about a time when you worked as part of a team.
• Tell me about a time you had to work with a difficult person.
• Share an example of a group you've worked well with (or not so well with).
• Have you ever had a conflict with a coworker?
• Tell me about constructive feedback you've received.
Note: For more information on answering teamwork interview questions, be sure to check out Big Interview's Answering Behavioral Interview Questions:
Initiative is doing the right thing without being told. Employers want self-starters who are constantly looking for ways to contribute instead of sitting around waiting for assignments. The goal is to have employees who proactively seek out ways to propel the business forward.
Many employers also see initiative as the ability to take ideas and run with them, to persist in the face of difficulty and inertia, and see a project through to completion.
In today's competitive and fast-moving business environment, companies are always looking for an edge on the competition. To position yourself as an ideal hire, you need to show you will go above and beyond the job description and really contribute.
Initiative is attractive in any candidate, but it's particularly desirable for certain types of positions. For example, startups typically look for people who can wear multiple hats. Many teams within larger organizations also find themselves tasked with "doing more with less" and greatly appreciate a candidate who can contribute beyond their formal job description.
For employers, it's hard to know if a candidate has initiative through their resume alone. Smart hiring managers will use behavioral questions ("Tell me about a time…") to get a sense of how the candidate has approached work in the past and if he or she has a history of taking initiative on the job.
Initiative may be one of your strengths if you:
• Prefer to start projects early to ensure you'll have time to do a fantastic job
• Seek out new assignments, especially those outside your comfort zone
• Never say, "That's not my job."
• Rarely say, "What else do you need me to do?"
• Are known as someone who gets things done, even in the face of obstacles
• Volunteer for committees or special projects
• Look for training opportunities to help you contribute more
• Read up on industry trends in your spare time