Business Perspectives

What employers value most in job candidates

Want a job in today’s economy? You may need to think, talk and write better.

Hirers say communication and reasoning skills are sadly lacking in too many applicants. And, because it costs them time and money when they make hiring mistakes, employers increasingly are giving skills and personality tests before extending an offer of a job.

At a recent meeting of Kansas City area job recruiters and hirers, I heard several members emphasize the basic abilities they look for when they evaluate job candidates. Attitude and communication, along with a basic work-ready appearance, topped their wish lists.

Advisers at Johnson County Community College’s Career Development Center — who want to prepare students to be hireable — said the comments from recruiters and hirers dovetailed with survey findings from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

In the association’s new top-10 list of qualities sought in employees, technical knowledge and software proficiency were ranked all the way down at No. 7 and No. 8.

In top-to-bottom order, the other sought-after qualities all fell in either the communication or “soft skill” categories.

They were:

• Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization

• Ability to work in a team structure

• Ability to make decisions and solve problems

• Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work

• Ability to obtain and process information

• Ability to analyze quantitative data

• Ability to create and/or edit written reports

• Ability to sell or influence others.

These are the same skills that separate A and B students from the rest of the pack. Top performers in the classroom “get” the assignment and do it better than just OK. Top performers in the work world are expected to react equally well to assignments but also to be smart, self-starting jugglers of their time and duties, communicate clearly, and get along with co-workers and customers.