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5 Qualities of a Good Employee that I Want to See in an Applicant

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By Anna Grady

Imagine yourself climbing to the top of a splendid mountain and there sits a wise guru. You get one question, and you ask: “Oh, wise guru, I am in search of a good job and need to know what qualities employers look for so that I might get that job.” OK, so it’s not asking for world peace, but the answer nonetheless can be very helpful to a hard-working job hunter aiming to find their next great opportunity.

Job hunting is arguably one of the most difficult, challenging, confounding times of one’s life. For most, it is no fun, and it can be demoralizing at times. I have been there, many times. How do you know what employers are looking for? How do you prepare and present yourself during an interview? How do you win the job?

Unfortunately, the answers to these questions are subjective. The New York Times runs a Sunday column called “The Corner Office” in which top CEOs are asked what they look for in applicants. Responses vary every week. The whole process requires apt timing, knowing what you want, and strong delivery (oral and written).

If I can offer any encouragement, it is to present my own list of the qualities of a good employee that I look for in an applicant. Perhaps some will resonate.

Enthusiasm – Speak enthusiastically about what you care about.

Everyone cares about something, whether it’s politics, the environment, serving others, owning a business, or selling ice cream. Caring translates into passion, and passionate employees drive successful organizations. Their infectious energy permeates a work environment and generates higher productivity and a greater positive culture. They are perhaps some of our best change agents.

Confidence – Advocate for yourself in an articulate way.

Being able to write and speak succinctly is important. An employer’s first knowledge of you is often through your job application. A strong cover letter and clear resume is step one. Keep it simple, nothing fancy. Have a few trusted friends give honest feedback before submitting, and please, proofread. A poor resume, spelling and grammar mistakes, and a weak cover letter indicate that you don’t care and are not serious about finding a job.

Honesty – Tell your story with heart.

Be genuine and honest about who you are and what you can bring. Employers want to hear what you have to say and they want to get to know the real you. Don’t worry about gaps in your work history — be ready to explain life’s bumps or diversions — it is OK to share that you spent a year being a ski bum or dedicated time to raising a family, for example.

Knowledge – Do your homework.

In our high-paced, high-tech, highly-connected world, companies and jobs come and go far more fluidly. Investing time and energy into scouring a company’s website will pay off. Dig into an organization’s products, services, customers, vision and mission statements, and so forth. Read the “About Us” section commonly found on homepages. The abundance of references and resources available today leaves no excuse for not educating yourself. Employers seek interested and interesting individuals to join their teams.

Tenacity and Initiative – Be Bold.

Initiative speaks volumes. Employers know you are nervous, but if you want the job, you have to stretch your comfort zone and be persistent. Speak up and seize the moment to offer every reason why you would be the best candidate!

Let me end with a short, real-life story. We recently hired a college student studying computer science to work for us this summer. In May, this young man entered the wrong door of our building and came into my office looking for directions to the human resources department. I told him it was his lucky day, and that he was in the right place. With his resume tucked under his arm, I invited him into my office and asked him a litany of questions.

He did not wow me with a wealth of experience or skills or a fancy resume, but he presented himself in an earnest, confident, and genuine way. He clearly expressed a strong interest in our company and showed initiative by showing up in person. One week later, he sent an email reiterating his interest in working for our company, in whatever capacity. His email was well written and demonstrated excellent follow through. We ended up hiring him and it has been a great fit.

Add the above qualities to your toolkit, and you should be well positioned for making an excellent impression. Good luck!

Anna-Grady-NRGAnna Grady is Director for Human Resources for Renewable NRG Systems. She serves on the board of advisers for the UVM Sustainable Entrepreneurship MBA program (SEMBA).