What Employers Really Want (And How to Interview for It)


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This is one of a series of posts based on LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions’ Guide: 30 Behavioral Interview Questions to Identify High-Potential Candidates.

Finding a new hire that’s the right fit for a team is a manager’s most important job. But as LinkedIn’s guide to Behavioral Interviewing says: “screening candidates for potential is the toughest part of an interview. Oftentimes you assess someone’s potential by looking at their soft skills and unique perspectives. Yet in a 30 minute conversation, it’s really difficult to fully understand the person behind the profile.”

LinkedIn has survey employers to find the most important qualities they look for in an employee. Then asked over 1,300 managers for their best questions to help interviewers determine if a candidate has the quality and knows how to bring it to the workplace.

Here’s the list of the qualities managers value:

  1. Adaptability
  2. Culture add
  3. Collaboration
  4. Leadership
  5. Growth potential
  6. Prioritization

Adaptability is the number one asset businesses want in an employee (with 69% of hiring managers saying it is the most important soft skill they screen for.) It’s not surprising. Technology, markets and business practices are changing rapidly on a daily basis, and companies need people who are willing to adapt. Ideally, you’ll find one that is not only open to change, but can thrive.

Of course, flexibility is one of the most important attributes of someone adaptable. So is the ability to tolerate ambiguity. If a worker is fixated on THE RIGHT WAY to do things, she will hate the idea that what worked yesterday doesn’t apply today. It might shake her self-image to realize that everyone’s an amateur under a new system. It’s not everyone’s idea of fun.

Adaptable people also need to be more generalist than specialist. One of the measures of intelligence is the ability to see patterns and use previous knowledge to respond to a new problem. This reminds me of that, so I’ll try what worked in another situation, even if they don’t seem to be related. That’s the adaptable mindset.

Adaptable people react to their environment, rather than staying on course no matter what signals they’re receiving. We admire grit and determination, until they send us deep into hostile territory. We should have seen it coming, but we were too focused on what we said we were going to do.

Here are some of the Behavioral Interview questions managers use to uncover these traits:

  • Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you had never done before. How did you react? What did you learn?
  • Recall a time when you were assigned a task outside of your job description. How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to adjust to a colleague’s working style in order to complete a project or achieve your objectives

I would add this one: Tell me about how you approach a brand new task – something you’ve never done before.  What steps do you take to organize your thinking? How do you decide what to do first?

And maybe this: How do you know when something’s not working? How does that make you feel? How do you usually handle it?

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been asked these questions (or used them in an interview.) Leave a comment if you have.

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2 thoughts on “What Employers Really Want (And How to Interview for It)

  1. Pingback: What Employers Really Want: Collaboration | @work: a career blog

  2. Pingback: What Employers Really Want: Leadership | @work: a career blog

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