Screw experience: Four things employers actually give a shit about

4 Things Employers Actually Give A Shit About

//Photo Courtesy: Gallery Hip//

There’s a lot my father said growing up that stuck with me, but the one thing I’ll never forget was his advice about hiring the right people (I know, strange father-daughter conversation). But when he talked about candidates he would say, “Give me the scrappy passionate community college grad over the stuffy Harvard Business School student any day of the week.”

At first I didn’t get it. Why wouldn’t you want the smart qualified person with all the right credentials working for you?

Now as more companies begin to approach hiring talent like this, I realize my father was ahead of his time. And you know what?

I dig it.

Still it poses the question, is experience relevant when it comes to job searching and interviewing? Quite honestly, I don’t think it’s as simple as yes or no. But that’s also the point: it’s not simple.

As young professionals, we’re fixated on building up a resume that will hopefully impress the shit out of a hiring manager. Think about it, how often have you only taken a job to get “professional experience” or agreed to an internship or volunteer work because it’ll “look good on a resume”? You’re not necessarily doing anything wrong. In fact, you’ve probably been told to do exactly that by your college. But hiring trends have changed, and as job seekers we have to evolve with those changes.

Which means that your beautifully crafted job responsibility descriptions and lists of completed courses just ain’t cutting it.

Employers see the subtext: That some people’s laundry list of experience and degrees was just an exercise in checking off transferable skill boxes and adding a few bullet points to a resume.

All fine and dandy, but guess what? Companies want to hire a person, not a resume.

Frankly, my skill set and experience level has never really met the qualifications of the jobs I’ve gotten.  I’m sure my past experience was taken into account during the interview process, but I’ve actually had more employers tell me they felt best about hiring me because of things completely unrelated to work history. Things that never made it on my resume.

So what are these “things” suddenly giving experience a run for it’s money? Here are four I think are worth mentioning:

1. Grit.

Besides being an extremely sexy word, “grit” is likely going to set you apart from your peers. If you either don’t have, or can’t communicate a true drive for the job then you’re no different than the thousand other applicants with similar work histories. But grit can’t be taught. No amount of training, experiences, or degrees can teach you how to be passionate about your job. And if you can’t convince yourself that you’re passionate about something, good luck convincing an employer. Which is why it’s in your best interest to look for jobs or industries you find truly fulfilling. Trust me, employers will see right through you trying to talk yourself into a job.

2. The ability to take feedback.

Employers want someone who’s competent, but they’re not interested in hiring a know-it-all. If they sense you don’t respond well to constructive criticism, then suddenly you went from being qualified and experienced, to looking like more trouble than your worth. It’s not that employers want you to bow down to every little thing upper management says. They’re more concerned with your ability evolve and grow at their company, and that means being open to change and feedback.

3. The ability to collaborate…well.

“Collaboration” has become a big buzz word in corporations as many are transitioning to more agile workflows, where teamwork is absolutely necessary to keep a project moving. But it’s one thing to say you “love to collaborate” and to actually to be good it.

I’ve personally struggled with this, falsely believing that I could do a job better if I just did it myself. But it became clear to me that the office is not your favorite dive bar on Friday night. Meaning, it’s NOT the place to be a diva. When you view your job through a “collaborative” lens, you are more likely to focus on the greater good of the project and the company rather than your individual contribution. And that turns employers on more than shitty gold-plated corporate awards they can nail to the lobby wall.

4. High self-efficacy.

Companies (at least the good ones) aren’t looking for robots to simply execute on what their told to do and go home. Despite wanting employees to be collaborative and responsive as I noted above, they want to hire someone who is self-efficient. Self-efficacy influences how you will approach tasks and challenges in the workplace. For instance, someone with high self-efficacy will view difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered, rather than threats to be avoided. Highly self-sufficient people will recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments instead of immediately losing confidence in their abilities. These ways of approaching work is what sets the rockstar applicants apart during the hiring process.

Possessing all of these traits will set you up for success in your job search, but isn’t it ironic that none of them can really be identified on a resume? So the work is on you during the application and interview process. Don’t get discouraged if you feel like you lack experience. At the same time, don’t get cocky if you feel you’re over qualified. Think about the job beyond the bullet points, and most importantly, think about why you have to offer.

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