What Do Employers REALLY Want?

What do Employers WantJob seekers remain irritated with would-be employers – and the job market in general.

The consensus is employers don’t know what they want anymore; that they’re unwilling to take chances and refuse to pull the trigger. There is also growing dissatisfaction around “changing of the rules”, without telling the people playing the game. For instance: employers no longer seem to recognize academic performance as a primary indicator of employability.

So, from the candidate perspective, the questions – and frustration – get more intense:

  • What DO employers REALLY want?
  • What will make them stand up and take a chance on young talent?
  • What does it take to get them to pull the trigger on a job offer?

First, let’s clear the air by saying something we all have to adjust to; a new reality:

Your GPA and relevant coursework no longer matter. In many cases your major doesn’t matter. Whether or not you can, on paper, do the actual job no longer matters. Jobs are filled differently. Candidates are chosen differently.

That’s right… academic competence and technical skills gained in college – attributes that used to be all that mattered – now take a back seat. In our new economy, the real drivers are what we rarely talked about even a decade ago; issues like culture, soft/professional skills and embracing company missions.

In other words, what employers really want to know about you is:

  • Are you a good fit?
  • How market-ready you are – right now?
  • Will you go “all in” to help their existing team further their common mission?

Let’s look at each one of these critical components… and learn more about what employers really want.

Are You a Good Fit?

When examining whether or not you are a good fit for their organization, employers look at critical attributes such as:


Do you understand the level of professionalism we expect in our company? Can you demonstrate the character and work ethic we expect? Does your unique value proposition demonstrate that you can do this job well and you are right for us?

Obtained Skill Set

Do you know, and can you demonstrate, the professional, soft and technical skills required to succeed here? Are you a problem-solver, a communicator and a strategic thinker? Are you able to self-learn critical skills? Are you coachable?

Knowledge of the Company

Do you get – really get – our business model and the world we inhabit? Can you put yourself in our customers’ shoes? How will what you know – and have experienced to date – help you succeed in this role? Most important, are you passionate about our organization’s mission… and can you help us move that mission forward?

Once you pass that test (and you will just by thoroughly understanding the company mission and setting yourself up as a potential problem-solver with the organization) you’re ready for the next step.

Determining Your Market Readiness

Put another way: despite your lack of experience (and – frankly – your age) are you ready to contribute? Do you have the emotional intelligence to survive a bad day, an angry customer or a project that isn’t going well? And can you support your team members when they struggle with similar situations?

When making their determination of your readiness in their workplace, here are the traits employers will look for:

Positive Attitude

Enthusiasm and a “can do” attitude come from your personality, choosing your attitude and enjoying your role. Be accountable, take initiative and empathize with others.


Employers want active team members willing to take responsibility; they choose to hire self-starters who are assertive, resilient, balanced, reliable and able to juggle tasks without panic. They will expect you to be committed to – and accountable for – your own development.


You must show you know what good teamwork looks like – and, based on your strengths, how you can best contribute. Cooperating, leading and following are all critical and in-demand skills. So are knowing when to follow… and when to lead.

Communication Skills

You must show your ability to listen well – and confidently ask good questions. You should be able to build rapport and trust. Perhaps most important, you must show you can verbally articulate your views in a coherent manner and produce structured written work.

Technologically Savvy

In today’s marketplace, it is expected that a young careerist will have a thorough understanding of information, social and digital communication tools. From MS Office Suite to mobiles apps, search engines and the Internet… you must be savvy.

Analytical Thinking

The ability to analyze facts and situations – as well as the creative thinking necessary to work through problems and develop solutions in a collaborative manner is critical; creative problem solving – applying your imagination – is a top demand of most employers.

With these skills mastered – or by showing during the interview process that you’re actively working on improving these skills – shows the employer you’re market-ready. You’ve passed the second hurdle.

Now you must pass the final test…

Do They Believe You’ll Go All in to Support the Company Mission?

Here’s what they’ll be looking for:

Professional and Customer Relationships

A fundamental component of choosing new team members – and extending job offers – is how well you manage relationships with colleagues, partners, vendors and especially customers. To impress, align your mindset with the positive behavior observed throughout the culture of the company. Again, how can you make this task – this company – better?


Collaborators build relationships through trust; they’re comfortable with interdependence, crossing boundaries, self-disclosure and all sorts of feedback – positive and negative. They value other’s opinions and have a win-win mentality, excellent networking skills and that “all hands on deck” mindset. Be identified as a gifted collaborator – and you’re much closer to the prize.

Industry, Global and Cultural Awareness

Our global economy makes cross-cultural awareness a sought-after attribute; expected, even. Being able to work effectively in different linguistic or cultural settings – and in groups of different generations and team members of varied skills, working styles and values – is more than marketable. This skill also allows you to grow personally as the company grows, which is often followed by “living and breathing” the company mission.

The next time you apply for an internship or a job, forget everything you’ve been taught about touting your GPA, relevant coursework and major. Because… nobody cares.

Instead – to get the job offer – be prepared to show the employer what they really want:

  • An excellent fit within the team and culture
  • A market-ready young professional prepared to contribute
  • A team member who will go “all in” to further the company mission





Mark BabbittAbout the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial mentor who has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and Under30CEO.com regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post, Switch and Shift, The Daily Muse and Under30CEO.

Mark has been honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors” and was recently featured on HR Examiner’s “Top 25 Trendspotters in HR” and several top blogger lists, including JobMob’s “Top Career Bloggers of 2012”. Contact Mark via email or on Twitter!

Portions of this post can be found in “21st Century Internships: How to Get a Job Before Graduation” by Mark and David Shindler. Download your free copy now!



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