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What Employers Really Want

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

What do employers look for in their employees when they are hiring and once you have joined?

By Simon Read

Managing Director at Financial Careers Ltd

I have always applied the following simple mantra when looking at candidates for our clients and when hiring myself in the past:

Can you do the job? – skills, knowledge and experience

Will you do the job? – motivation, drive and desire

Will you fit in? – Personality, team fit and company culture

Breaking that down into more detail, I think the following key things apply almost universally. When you think about applying for a role, think about the things below and how you can steal a march on other candidates.

If you are a job seeker, benchmarking yourself against these competencies will dramatically improve your successful applications and interviews..

Be a Great Communicator

The ability to communicate well across many mediums: by email, verbally, with lists and phone messages, on the phone and with positive body language. Communication is of course a two-way street and also includes listening skills, the ability to follow instructions and provide feedback on the work done.

A Strong Work Ethic

Employers notice those who are always on time, ideally early! Do what role you were recruited to do. Make sure you meet your targets and deadlines and work to the best of your ability. If an employer can see you are trier and motivated, they will be far more inclined to support you.

Be Flexible

Employers want employees who can react quickly to change. They want employees who will embrace change, not moaners who refuse to try new things or adapt. Be prepared to be flexible and if that means early starts or late finishes to get the job done, so be it. The people who allow themselves to be flexible will always stand out.

The Minimum Technical Competencies to do the job

Most roles require certain minimum skills to be able to do the job. If you are hired to perform certain tasks then you should have the skills, however in a competitive market, those candidates who can prove that they are continuing to learn and get better, will be highly sought after.

Show that you have the right attitude and perhaps if you miss one of the skills needed, but you may have other more valuable skills, the missing one might not be a deal-breaker.

Be willing and motivated to grow professionally and personally

It is often not the most qualified or experienced candidate who will get the job but the one who can show that want to learn and improve the most. Maybe it will be the books you read, the online courses you do and further qualifications you want to achieve. Be able to demonstrate you are looking to grow as a person.

As businesses evolve, employers need people who can find out new information, develop their knowledge and discover new ways to compete.


Tell the truth, not what you think people want to hear. Employers must have the accurate and correct information regarding their business and their employees. Do not be afraid to speak your mind in the right way and through the right channels. If you think something is wrong, say so. If you have made a mistake own up! Do not tell lies or try to cover it up, admit it, own it and learn not to do it again. A good employer will value honesty and integrity above almost everything else.

Guts, Determination and Persistence

Managers will always set employee's challenging targets and goals. The key thing is to be able to keep working hard, and if needed, work even harder to reach the target. Do not be put off by setbacks or other people's negativity, nothing worth achieving comes easily. Employers want to see people who have resilience and determination.

Ability to fit in with Co-Workers

Employers want to have people who can fit into their team, get along with their colleagues and who can work well with others. Perhaps not always in harmony, but someone who can put the business and it's needs ahead of personal relationships. Equally, they want to have a balance of opinions and characters in the business. Consider how and where you fit?

Be a Great Problem-Solver!

Companies are looking for people who are motivated to take on challenges with little direction. They look for employees who can see when something is wrong and then find a solution.

Loyalty and Integrity

Employers need to be able to trust their employees to work professionally and to represent their organisation well. Employers do not want to hire people who need constant management or who cannot be trusted to represent the company in public.

How can you let an employer know that you have these qualities when applying or during the interview:

  • Include keywords and phrases in your CV that highlight the above qualities and give examples.

  • Do send a cover letter with your CV to explain that you understand the skills needed for the job and why you are applying. Sometimes a CV no matter how good might not convey a certain skill or quality. Provide examples.

  • Use references and have personal and professional referees who will say good, appropriate things about you on inquiry. Ideally, someone who has managed you directly to provide a reference.

  • Include any great references from a previous employer with your application or show them at the interview.

  • Demonstrate those good communication skills, on your CV, on the telephone and in the job interview.

Remember the employer just wants to know:

  • Can you do the job?

  • Will you do the job?

  • Will you fit in.

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