While different employers have vastly different needs in functional areas, there are many employer qualities which virtually every employer wants, regardless of the job the employee will perform. One employer needs an engineer with special training in strength of materials. Another needs a psychology major with a solid background in social work. A third is looking for a financial analyst who's a whiz with statistics. But all three are looking for candidates who will become highly motivated, responsible employees.
They want people who have drive, energy, confidence, integrity, pride and dedication. People who know how to listen, who understand the importance of turning a profit, who can follow instructions meticulously, and who know how to save time and money. Above all they choose candidates for their enthusiasm and their strength of character. If you truly shine in both of these areas, most employers will be willing to forgive many weaknesses in background, education or experience. Enthusiasm: An eagerness for the challenge at hand. A positive view of the world.
The perception of problems as opportunities for gain and improvement. The belief that the work will be exciting and rewarding, and that the organization will certainly achieve its goals. Strength of character: Stability. Dependability. Commitment to do what's right. Avoidance of what's trivial and petty.
Willingness to get the job done, whatever effort is required. Concern for maintaining reputation. High standards. Leadership stature.
This isn't a sermon. It's simply a description of what impresses most employers. It's also important to note that employers are conservative. Whatever their politics and personal values, employers are rather predictably conservative when it comes to their businesses. In their heart of hearts, they really want rock-solid, squeaky clean people joining their staffs.
That doesn't mean there are no openings for off-the-wall personalities, free spirits or outspoken reformers. There are. But they're not the easiest jobs to find, because there aren't that many bosses willing to gamble their businesses on employees others might find offensive -- or odd. When the chips are down, most employers can be counted upon to play it safe. If you want to be a contender for the biggest portion of the best available jobs, don't stray too far from the conservative path. Think "enthusiasm" and "strength of character" as you talk to a prospective employer, and you'll never be very far off the mark.
You want him or her to look at you and think, "That's a person I can trust to get the job done." No, that doesn't mean be a stiff. It just means be solid.
Bruce J. Bloom is a respected writer on job-hunting and career opportunities. He is a contributor to the hard-hitting career strategy website "Fast Track For Women," http://www.winyourcareer.com. His career manual "Fast Track To The Best Job" was published by Blazer Books.