[published in Manila Bulletin, April 2012]
HR Club Philippines, in cooperation with Businessmaker Academy, conducted an informal survey of 100 HR officers and business owners in Metro Manila on what traits and skills they look for when they are recruiting potential employees for their company.
The results are in and l would like to share them with you, dear job hunters, so that you may gain insight on what employers are looking for and what you can aspire to improve to get the job that you want.
So here are the Top 7 Traits we noted from our survey respondents:
1. COMMUNICATION SKILLS
According to the survey, Communication Skills ranks as the highest quality that employers want. This came out in 85% of the responses.
Tips and Commentary: When we talk about communication skills, most applicants immediately think that it’s about English Proficiency. This is mostly true as English is the preferred language in the field of business and the corporate world. Many companies look for people who can read, write and speak English very well, especially if they have international clients.
However, let’s dig deeper and find out what Communication Skills is really about. Communication Skills is not just about writing and speaking English well. It encompasses reading, listening, writing and speaking ability. It is about how well you can understand and interpret what you hear and read, as well as how good you are at getting your message across in such a way that other people can understand you.
To improve your Communication Skills, I suggest reading as much books, newspapers and articles as you can. Discuss these with others so that you can test yourself if you truly understood the message, while you practice getting your message across. If English proficiency is your weakness, use the English language more often. If it’s another language, do the same. Practice, practice, practice! The only way you can improve your communication skills is for you to, well, communicate.
2. ATTITUDE, VALUES & PERSONALITY
The second most common characteristics that our respondents look for is attitude, values or personality. This came out in 72% of the responses.
Tips and Commentary: When we talk about attitude, values and personality, we are talking about a person’s principles, moral standards, ethics and even disposition that affect his or her behaviour in the workplace. Evaluating a person on these is not an exact science. Although there are measurements that can be used, most recruitment officers rely on their intuition, gut feel and judgement to determine if the applicant is fit for the prevailing culture of their company.
You have to understand that values and cultures may greatly differ from one company to another. Some companies put more importance to teamwork, other companies prefer individual achievements while others are very competitive in nature. Some companies encourage employees to be proactive with lean set ups, while some companies have bureaucratic environments.
To improve in this area, it is best to go with positivity since practically all companies want positive people in their company. You would also want to determine your identity as a person and your principles in life. When you know who you are, it will be easier for you to see if you will fit in a particular company. I do not suggest changing yourself drastically and giving up your principles to fit in, but rather, it is more important to find a work environment and culture that suits your personality and values.
3. INTERPERSONAL SKILLS
The third most common trait that our respondents mentioned is Interpersonal Skills. This came out in 53% of the responses
Tips and Commentary: When we talk about interpersonal skills, we are basically referring to people skills---your ability to interact socially with others. Most people mix this up with communication skills because both are part of the realms of communication.
However, let’s draw the distinction between the two. Communication Skills is the general umbrella where interpersonal skills would fall under. The basic requirement of Communication Skills is your ability to read, listen, write and speak a language well. People Skills, on the other hand, consists of being basically good at communicating but it is more than that. It reflects how well you are able to relate and work with people, which is highly important in any organization. This is where non-verbal communication such as facial expression and emotions come in.
To improve your Interpersonal Skills, learn how to smile. This may sound very simple, but it nevertheless is very important in the workplace. When I interview job applicants, even before I ask questions, the first thing I look at is the applicant’s facial expression. I’ve interviewed so many applicants in my lifetime and you would be surprised that there are many who have very limited smiles. Interestingly, when I talk to other managers who make the second interviews, they would tell me that the reason why they rejected a person is that he or she isn’t too smiley or not very pleasant. Other things you can do to improve interpersonal skills is go back and learn the basics---etiquette, good manners, respect, politeness, courtesy, ‘pakisama’ and ‘pagunawa sa kapwa’.
4. TECHNICAL SKILLS / JOB KNOWLEDGE
The fourth most common trait that our respondents mentioned is Technical Skills and Job Knowledge. This came out in 49% of the responses
Tips and Commentary: When we talk about technical skills or job knowledge, we are referring to the competencies required for the particular job that you are applying for. Each job position requires your ability to do tasks and functions. For instance, if you are applying as a Customer Service Representative, the employer may include customer focus, problem solving, product and process knowledge as part of the competencies required. If you are applying as an Office Secretary, the employer may include computer literacy, typing speed, filing and documentation as competencies required for the Job.
To improve your technical skills and job knowledge, you may want to go for additional training on your particular field of interest. Try to learn new skills that will help you be more competitive in the job market. We are not talking about just getting a certificate or a degree although that would help, but rather learning how to do things, understanding concepts and applying them on the job. However, if you do not have the time and resources to pursue formal training, the least you can do is study the job requirements and specifications and prepare well for the interview, preferably mentioning these to impress the recruitment officer. This will show that you did not randomly applying at just any company, but you are interested in the job you are applying for.
5. FLEXIBILITY / ADAPTABILITY / MULTI-TASKING ABILITY
The fifth most common trait that our respondents mentioned is flexibility, adaptability and multi-tasking ability. This came out in 42% of the responses.
Tips and Commentary: When we talk about flexibility, adaptability and multi-tasking ability, we are referring to a person’s willingness and ability to wear different hats and do different jobs, as well as work on different projects simultaneously.
As the business environment becomes more competitive and the needs of companies change rapidly, employers want people who can and are willing to adapt to change more readily. Employees who are more open to this set up will be favoured by employers better. On the other hand, employees who only want to do the tasks they signed up for and who are not willing to pitch in are usually frowned upon by their bosses. These people are what you would call “mabilang sa trabaho” which is a trait that employers hate.
To improve your flexibility, adaptability and multi-tasking ability, I suggest you learn good time management skills. There are tools and even software programs that can help you achieve this. More importantly, you have to be willing to adjust your work, job roles and even schedule so that you can be more useful and helpful for your company to succeed. During interviews, some recruitment officers watch out for people who are overly concerned with schedule, shifts, overtime pay and work-scope as telltale signs of problems in this regard.
6. EXPERIENCE / TRACK RECORD / PERFORMANCE
The sixth most common trait that our respondents mentioned is experience, track record and performance. This came out in 19% of the responses.
Tips and Commentary: When we talk about experience, track record and performance, we are referring to your achievements in your previous job. Experience plays a big role in how well you can do your job and how fast you can adjust to it. Employers know that less training is required for experienced people. That is why they put a premium to it. If you can show how much you have contributed to your previous company or what you were able to do and accomplish, so much the better.
Many employers put more value on experience rather than degree. In one of the jobs I previously held, the HR manager confided in me later on that the other people who were competing for the job I landed had MBAs and were asking for less salary. However, they instead chose me because of my experience and accomplishments in real life and the business world even if I was more expensive.
To improve in this area, get as much experience as you can that is related to the job and be sure to put them in your resume. If you have samples of your work, show it to your interviewer. Highlight the skills that you learned in your previous job to show that you can do it for your potential employer.
But what if you are a new graduate without any experience? I would suggest writing down your thesis, practicum and extra-curricular activities that you were active in and showing some of the projects that you have done in school or even outside of school. If you have done on the job training for other companies, include that as well.
7. DEPENDABILITY, RELIABILITY, HARDWORK
The seventh most common trait that our respondents mentioned is dependability, reliability and hardworking characteristics. This came out in 15% of the responses.
Tips and Commentary: When we talk about dependability, reliability and hardwork, we are referring to people who can project that they are responsible and credible to do the job and be able to prove it when they are already working for the company.
During interviews, it is very difficult to determine this quality as these things can only be seen and proven in the workplace, when the person is already in action. However, during the pre-employment stage, recruitment officers can already watch out for telltale signs of these traits such as if the job applicant has readily available copies of their resume, if the applicant is able to submit the required employment documents on the date given, if the applicant contacts them for updates.
To improve on this area, you may want to read my previous article on “The CRAFT of Impressing Your Boss” which will show that you are always on top of things to your employer. You can visit: http://worklifenow.blogspot.com/2009/10/craft-of-impressing-your-boss.html to read the article.
About the Survey Results
The above items are the most common traits that our respondents who belong to the HR field mentioned as the topmost things they look for in job applicants. Other traits were mentioned but for the purposes of this article, I only included the most popular ones.
May this information help job hunters in improving their skills and their lives. And may the Philippines develop a great workforce with the necessary qualities that are in demand by local and international companies and institutions.