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Andrew Arkley

The Top 5 Qualities Employers are Looking for in Candidates

qualities employers are looking

Being the right fit for a job isn’t just about having the right qualifications and experience. Employers are also looking for candidates with the right personality traits.

Hard skills, like the ability to use a certain computer programme, are undoubtedly important. But employers also value less tangible skills, like a positive attitude and the ability to empathise.

recent survey by US jobs website CareerBuilder confirmed this: of 2,138 employers surveyed, 77% said soft skills were just as important as hard skills when evaluating a candidate for a job. 16% said soft skills were more important.

Further research by Stockholm-based employer branding firm Universum investigated the qualities employers are looking for in candidates, and narrowed down the data to five top traits.

These were: professionalism (86% of employers indicated they consider it critical in the hiring process); energy (78%); confidence (61%); independence (58%) and intellectual curiosity (57%).

Here we look at how to adjust your interview tactics to demonstrate these qualities.


Unsurprisingly, professionalism tops the list. You can have the most impressive CV in the world, but if you act unprofessionally in an interview you’re unlikely to go any further.

Appearing professional starts with dressing professionally. Research the company before your interview to get a feel for its culture, and dress accordingly. If in doubt, too smart is better than not smart enough.

Arrive on time, or ideally five to ten minutes before your interview is due to start. Leave yourself longer than you need to get there – turning up sweaty and out of breath doesn’t exactly scream professionalism.

Be polite and friendly to everyone you meet, but avoid being over-familiar. This extends to email correspondence, which should be formal and respectful.


An energetic first impression will show employers you’re passionate and excited about the prospect of working with them.

An interviewer will form an impression of you within 30 seconds of you walking into the interview room. Make sure it’s a good one by getting your body language right.

Stand or sit up straight, and keep your shoulders back. Leaning forward in your seat a little will give the impression you’re engaged and interested.
Make plenty of eye contact, and smile. You want to exude enthusiasm and energy, so try to do this with your facial expression.


Confidence, or the lack of it, is often a major contributing factor to whether or not an employer hires a candidate.

It’s normal to feel nervous before and during an interview. Luckily, there are ways to appear confident even if you don’t feel it.

Prepare as much as possible before your interview. Read up on the company and practice answers to likely questions. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel and appear.

Introduce yourself to everyone you meet, and be the first to offer your hand for a handshake. Again, eye contact will work wonders in giving an impression of self-assuredness.

Fidgeting is a tell-tale sign you’re feeling nervous, so try to sit still. If it helps, keep your hands clasped in your lap. Don’t rush – take deep breaths, think about your answers and speak calmly. Avoid saying ‘um’ and ‘ah’.


The ability to self-monitor is highly prized among employers. They’re looking for candidates who can use their initiative to solve problems and won’t need spoon-feeding.

To demonstrate this quality in an interview, think about times you’ve excelled in previous roles without direct guidance.

Prepare a few anecdotes about achievements that came about as a result of you working independently.

Try to illustrate your achievements with concrete results or figures, and link those results directly to your ability to self-motivate.

Intellectual curiosity

Employers like candidates who are passionate about their job and industry and keen to learn more.

Workplaces and companies are constantly changing, and employers want employees who are eager to evolve, adapt and grow with them.

Show your willingness to learn by asking insightful questions about the company. Prepare these in advance by researching the company carefully, as well as its context in the wider industry.

You could ask something like, ‘is the company facing any particular challenges at the moment?’ This will show an interest in the future of the company, and suggest a dedication to finding solutions to problems.

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