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What Employers Most Look For in an Interview

Job seekers typically go to job interviews expecting the employer to be focused on their experience, education and skills. You may be surprised to know that what employers are usually most interested in learning about you isn’t even in the job listing.

Below are the qualities that employers generally look for in an interview through observing your demeanor, personality, and attitude as well as processing your answers to their questions. You want to make sure you convey, as well as possess these qualities when preparing for your next interview.

Understand the company and what it does. This will be a very important factor to the employer. Make sure to research the company as part of your job interview preparation (you should have done this when you prepared your customized resume and cover letter to submit to them, as well). You want to show the employer that you have a real interest in working for them and are not just looking to get a job.

Come prepared to be interviewed. Learn the types of questions that are generally posed in job interviews and think about what specific questions the interviewer might ask you. If an HR manager or recruiter is setting up the interview, they might be able to shed some light. You want to show the interviewer that you are fully prepared by having your answers already thought out and ready to be delivered (without sounding rehearsed).

Listen and answer questions thoroughly. It’s easy to find yourself thinking ahead in an interview, but the interviewer may be able to tell you are not listening or fully engaged. Try to stay in the moment and really listen to the interviewer’s questions and what they are saying. Don’t divert the interviewer from a question you are not comfortable answering; just do your best to answer it and find a related thought or situation you can shift to. This ties back to being prepared.

Possess career goals and direction. Know your career "roadmap" and be able to describe the path you‘ve taken to where you are now and where you hope that path will lead.

Exhibit ambition and passion. You should show you have the drive to realize your career goals and express enthusiasm about making the most out of your journey.

Understand your strengths. Know what you are really best at, whether it be working with the public, crunching numbers or using a particular application.

Know what accomplishments you’ve made on the job or in your personal life. You want to be able to share stories about the successes you’ve had, whether they were in previous jobs (consistently meeting or exceeding sales quotas), in school (getting on the Dean’s List or lettering in a sport), or in your personal life (becoming an Eagle Scout or finishing a road race with a personal-best time).

Convey your soft skills. Employers want to see you have those personal attributes that will add to your effectiveness as an employee, such as the ability to work in a team, problem-solving skills, and being dependable, organized, proactive, flexible, and resourceful.

Be open to learning new things. Hiring managers like to know that you won't be resistant to change in the way you may have done things before, such as using a new technical tool, software application or process. They also want to see that you proactively explore what’s new in the industry and are always trying to learn new things through reading and coursework.

Demonstrate leadership abilities. Show that you have the ability to take charge by mentioning situations in which you have taken the initiative, volunteered for an assignment, assumed responsibility for achieving goals or results, led a group or team of people or delegated well.

Be likeable. Obviously, you want to present your best self in the interview by being polite and not doing things like interrupting the interviewer or being sarcastic. Employers want to see that you are warm, friendly, easygoing and cooperative with others. You want to show that you are the right fit and have the right attitude for both the job and the company.

Display confidence about who you are and what you bring to the table. The interviewer will expect you to be nervous, but based on your demeanor and your responses to their questions, they will still want to see that you are confident (but not arrogant). If you believe in yourself and your ability to do the job, then the interviewer will as well.

Be aware of your body language. Sit up straight but try to relax. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer, avoid fidgeting and don’t forget to smile! Of course, it goes without saying that you should make sure your overall physical appearance is neat, clean and appropriately attired based on the job and the company.

Know what YOU are looking for and have questions of your own. Here are five “must-have” questions that you should consider posing to the hiring manager in an interview:

1. What created the need to fill this position?
2. What do you feel are the key skills required to succeed in this job?
3. What are the three biggest challenges I would face in the first six months?
4. What has to happen in the first six months to convince you that you’ve hired the right person?
5. How does this position relate to the achievement of the company's (or department’s, or boss’s) goals?

These questions are focused on the needs of the company and the position, and will show the interviewer that you are genuinely interested in the opportunity and what you can bring to the table. The answers to these questions will help you determine if the job and the company are right for you.

Lastly, above all, be yourself. Relax and enjoy the conversation. Whether or not an interview leads to a job offer, it is valuable experience and a learning opportunity for the next interview.

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