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What Employers Are Looking for in Employees

What are employers looking for in their employees?

 

STEMpathy!

 

Coined by author and journalist Tom Friedman, STEMpathy is “a combination of science, technology, engineering, and math with human empathy, the ability to connect with another human being.” This is what employers are looking for in their employees; people who not only have technical expertise, but soft skills and character.

At the 2017 Gateway Conference hosted by The Municipality of York in October, I was privileged to sit on a panel of HR professionals discussing What Employers are Looking For in Employees. The other panellists were Moderator, Mary Duncan, Chief Human Resources Officer at CAA, Shelley Khosla, Director, Human Resources at Weber Shandwick, and Sonya Whyte, Associate Vice President, Talent Acquisition at TD Bank.

As the discussion progressed, Shelley told the audience that she looks for people “who demonstrate passion, curiosity, resiliency, and creativity, and who are able to work collaboratively in teams.” She also said that employers look for employees who align values with principles, embrace and celebrate differences, work in the same direction, and contribute to an irresistible culture.

Sonya remarked that she looks for employees with passion, diversity of thought and people, and inclusion. During interviews, she looks for people who show depth, who are able to demonstrate what separates them from others, and who are able to talk confidently about their background. That’s one of the reasons she listens carefully to people when they answer the “tell me about yourself” question as it gives her an idea of the person’s thought process. She also looks for employees who “think like a customer and act like an owner.”

Mary said she looks for people who demonstrate competency, creativity and cultural fit, and who display enthusiasm about the company.

For my part, I focused on the interpersonal or people skills. These soft skills are harder to observe, quantify and measure. They are akin to character skills and are very important in and outside the workplace. They complement the technical skills and are required for everyday interactions.

It is very important to hone your soft skills. While your technical know-how may get your foot in the door, it’s your people skills that will open more doors for you; it’s these skills that will determine success or failure in one’s career. Faizolhardi Zubairy, Head of Digital Media at PETRONAS Dagangan Berhad, said, “Your work ethic, attitude, communication skills, negotiation skills, emotional intelligence and leadership are the soft skills that are crucial for career success. (Stretch Beyond Your Comfort Zone for Career Growth).

The bottom line is that employers are looking for employees who have a good blend of technical capability and soft skills. They look for people who can communicate well; who are positive, respectful, reliable and honest, and have integrity. They look for people who are able to function in cross-cultural environments, appreciate differences, fit in with the corporate family (culture), and contribute to a team. They also look for people who demonstrate the five elements of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

In making a decision between two candidates, Kevin Sheridan, Employee Engagement and Management Expert, and contributor to HR Daily Advisor blog, said I would take the person with the right character any day of the week.  Character is ingrained in a person’s core being and dictates how he or she will behave.  It encompasses one’s ethics, values, dedication, motivation, and outlook.  It is nearly impossible to alter a person’s character, for better or for worse. Skills are things that are learned.” (Culture is Merriam-Webster Word of the Year – For Good Reason).

It makes sense, therefore, that anyone who is in a job search or a career transition, should assess their STEMpathy skills. You may have the  technical expertise (STEM), but lack character and soft skills, so pay attention to both. You will also need to assess your emotional intelligence skills, becoming aware of your strengths and weaknesses, how to control your emotions, demonstrate empathy, exhibit professionalism and strong interpersonal skills, manage disputes and build and maintain relationships.

Apart from discussing the skills that employers look for in employees, members of the Panel also offered additional job search advice:

  1. Weave stories into your resume and during interviews.
  2. Create your resume with the most important and relevant information up front.
  3. Make sure the content of your resume aligns with the job posting if you want to get the attention of the HR manager.
  4. Keyword matching is essential; make sure your resume contains keywords from the job posting. It should also have lots of white spaces to make it easy to read.
  5. Customize your resume for each position instead of sending the same version to every company. It’s easy to tell if you are mass mailing.
  6. Your resume should be short – a maximum of two pages
  7. Create a good LinkedIn Profile. “Social is critical to employers”, said Sonya Whyte. “I sometimes share LinkedIn Profiles with my team.”
  8. During interviews, speak about your unique successes and stellar results
  9. Follow-up after the interview and send a Thank-you note. Common courtesy goes a long way in today’s busy workplace.
  10. Demonstrate that you understand, and have the skills required for the job
  11. Articulate why you are qualified in your resume and at the interview. Draw the alignment between your skills, experience and job requirements.
  12. Describe how your transferrable skills match the position
  13. Send a concise cover letter. While some recruiters do not want to see cover letters, some on the panel believe they serve a purpose. They help you stand out in the selection process, so use it to share what it is you bring that others may not.

Armed with the above skills, you will fit the mold of what employers are looking for in employees.

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