What Makes the Ideal Job Candidate? Here Are 5 Attributes Companies Look For

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Searching for a new job can itself feel like a full-time occupation, which is why landing an interview is such a big deal—after all, you need a stellar resume that effectively presents your skills and utilizes all the right keywords to impress the hiring manager. Having sent out countless applications and cover letters, you want to make a strong first impression. You only get one chance to do that, and it can be the key factor in determining whether you get the job, so your interview technique truly matters. 

A successful interview won’t always result in a job (there are never any guarantees in a job search, even if you do everything right), but there’s no coming back from a bad interview, so you should be as prepared as possible before the big day. 

A lot goes into a job interview, so there are many ways you can—and should—prepare. Preparation includes things such as researching the company, rereading the job description, making sure you have a clear understanding of the field or market the company specializes in, picking out your outfit, devising how to get to the venue early, and doing a mock interview so you can rehearse your answers and adjust your body language. The key is to present yourself confidently and professionally, demonstrating not only skills and experience but also knowledge of and passion for the company’s goals.

Keep in mind that other candidates will be interviewing for the same job, so you should aim to stand out from the crowd. Assume your competitors are well-qualified and just as skilled as you—this mindset will push you to work harder on your interview skills. You want to be polite, attentive, honest, and confident, highlighting your knowledge, adaptability, and experience and proving why you are the right fit for the position. 

For that, you’ll have to be persuasive and give the interviewer a great first impression. To pull that off without coming across as cocky, you need to be sure of what you’re saying so you’re not scrambling for answers or getting tongue-tied, which is why dedicated practice is so critical.  

If you’re still not feeling entirely confident in your interview skills, set up a mock interview with our team of experts and get constructive feedback on how to improve your presence and your answers. It’s not just about the content of your responses—you also need to recognize what the interviewer is truly asking and reply smoothly, confidently, and professionally, which is why you need expert advice on all these elements.

So, what attributes make someone an ideal candidate in the eyes of an employer? 

1. The ideal candidate wants the job

This might sound obvious, but companies seek to hire people who truly want the job and are passionate—or, at the very least, excited—about working for them. A passionate candidate may even get an edge over a more qualified one because the employer expects they’ll put in more effort and will be less likely to quit. Therefore, make sure your enthusiasm shines through.

Your attitude on the day of the interview—whether the meeting is in person or online—will impact the way your potential employer gauges your enthusiasm for the role and the industry, so if you’re genuinely interested, let them know it! You can tell them directly that you’re passionate about what they’re doing, but be prepared to back it up with valid reasons, and make sure your enthusiasm is apparent in your body language, too. 

Interviewers are trained to spot the difference between candidates who apply simply because they need a job and those who apply because they want the job, and it’s not hard to understand why they would rather choose someone who’s eager to join their team instead of another candidate who is a bit more qualified.

2. The ideal candidate has the necessary skill set 

If you’re scheduled for an interview, that’s most likely because your resume proves you have the skills the company needs. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have invited you in for an interview. However, the information on your resume is all the interviewer has to work with, so on the day of the interview, they will be basing their assumptions about you as a candidate on the experiences you have included in your resume and will want to ask you about them. Make sure you feel confident answering questions such as why you left your last job or why there’s a gap in your employment history. Go over your resume and select anything an interviewer may ask about, then practice your answers to these hypothetical questions.

Your credentials need to stand out, so the way you phrase your employment history in your resume should paint your experience in a positive light (without stretching the truth, of course!). One tip is to write about your achievements and accomplishments rather than your job responsibilities—this shows the employer what you actually did rather than what you were expected to do. If you think your resume needs an overhaul, check out our resume writing and rewriting services

3. The ideal candidate asks the right questions

Responding to the interviewer’s questions honestly and thoughtfully is an ideal trait in a prospective employee, which is why it’s crucial that you practice your answers to common interview questions. Of course, you can never know the exact questions an interviewer will ask, but since all employers want the same basic information, you can expect similar types of questions. Practicing will help you recognize what a given question is really asking and how you can best answer it. 

Be prepared to field queries about your goals, employment history, and strengths and weaknesses, but also think about how to explain your key career moves, the motivation behind your decisions, and your work-life balance expectations, and consider how you might describe hypothetical situations to highlight your problem-solving abilities. 

It’s impossible to rehearse many of these questions since you can’t predict what you’ll be asked, but practicing your answers to commonly asked questions and reviewing your resume will make you feel more confident and ready for the more unexpected or creative questions you might face. Doing an effective job interview is a skill in and of itself—including knowing how to comport yourself and how to smoothly navigate surprising questions—and practice is key to success.

Equally as important as having the right answers is asking the interviewer the right questions. Too many candidates show up for a job interview without having done proper research on the company and draw a blank when asked if they have any questions, which is an instant red flag. A candidate with no questions is a candidate who’s likely unengaged and disinterested—you can showcase your passion with a few well-thought-out questions. Coming up with some relevant questions beforehand shows insightfulness and preparedness, and it’ll also help you determine whether or not this job is the right fit for you. 

4. The ideal candidate has the right personality

When talking about having “the right personality,” we have to make it clear that although likability is entirely subjective, there are certain traits an interviewer will look for to evaluate the compatibility of a potential candidate with their current staff. Employers want to make sure their people are intelligent problem-solvers who share the same goals and values, fit within the company culture, and are honest, resourceful, reasonable, inquisitive, and easy to work with. 

If you tick these boxes, the rest may be subjective, and the interviewer’s personality may also influence their overall impression of you. There’s nothing you can do about that, but it’s important to be conscious of your wording, tone, body language, and overall demeanor, which are key to supporting a healthy work environment. 

Of course, you should always be yourself during a job interview. If you adopt a persona that doesn’t reflect the real you, you likely won’t be able to keep up the act after you’re hired. You should really tap into the professional, confident, team-player side of yourself at your interview.

5. The ideal candidate is memorable

Job interviews are all about making a good first impression, which is why asking the right questions, offering clear and thoughtful answers, being transparent but positive, and showing your interest in the job can all help you stand out from the crowd. At the end of the day, you and your competitors are likely to have similar skill sets and experience, so it’s the way you behave during your interview and the impression you leave on the interviewer that will determine your fate. 

Let both your personality and your credentials shine, and prove why you’re the ideal candidate for the position. If you truly want the job, make sure to send a follow-up letter that reinforces your professionalism. In fact, some hiring managers will disqualify candidates who don’t send a thank-you note, so don’t skip this commonly overlooked step!

For professionally crafted thank-you letter templates you can personalize or for any assistance you may need during your job search, check out our expert services for job success

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