15 Personal Qualities and Skills that Employers Look For

Employers look for candidates who possess a specific set of skills and abilities. Here, we discuss the most important and sought-after personal qualities for your career advancement.

Personal Qualities and Skills

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In today’s workplace, soft skills are equally important to technical skills.

When it comes down to searching for a job and workplace success, your attitude and personality traits play a significant role as they will define your success at a new company.

So, apart from the basic professional skills that you need to possess (communication, teamwork, decision making and organisation) there are some other more personal qualities that employers seek in new candidates.

Below, we will walk you through these essential qualities and skills that will help you achieve job advancement.

1. Stress tolerance

The ability to manage stress effectively is key to workplace success. Employers are looking for people who can work well under pressure and perform their duties diligently. Keeping emotions that arise due to stress such as frustration, worry, nervousness and anger under control is vital, especially in high-paced environment.

Negative emotions can quickly spread across an entire team and cannot only ruin work performance but also affect the dynamic. So, if you want to maintain good relationships with others and stay productive, you need to learn how to cope with stress in a healthy manner. The goal is to not let anything affect you more than it should. This is the attitude to success.

Maintaining peace and harmony in the workplace will require some effort and this should start with you. Here are a few ways that will help you deal with stress:

  • Take deep breaths, relax and find something positive about the situation.
  • Avoiding people and reject behaviours that make you feel overwhelmed.
  • Write down your worries in a notebook to get unwanted thoughts out of your mind.
  • Picture yourself angry - nobody likes it when they get mad, red-faced and out of control.
  • Don’t forget that in life, some events will inevitably turn out the way you don’t want them to.
  • Remind yourself that you are only human and you can’t control everything.
  • Set new goals to look forward to.

2. Integrity

Having integrity means being reliable and accountable for the actions that you take. According to Marcel Schwantes, integrity translates to ‘doing the right thing even when no one is looking, and especially when the choice isn’t easy’.

This quality is important in the workplace for three main reasons, the first being self-confidence – doing what’s right to you and not questioning yourself, the second one being gaining the trust and respect of others and, finally, becoming a good leader.

Honesty and professionalism are important components of integrity, and if you are being considerate to others, you can learn how to develop this at work.   

If you want to measure your integrity, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you leave work early when there is no possibility of anyone finding out?
  • Do you accept full responsibility (or your share) when things don’t go well?
  • Do you share the credit when things go right?
  • Do you confront wrongdoing, even if it means facing a supervisor?

Checking yourself every step of the way can help you stay professional in everything you do and ensure that you are on good terms with your employer.

3. Independence

Nobody likes being told what to do all the time and some degree of independence is always needed in any work environment. But being independent doesn’t mean doing whatever you want. In fact, it’s quite the contrary.

Being independent means being able to take care of your needs while taking responsibility for your own decisions and paying attention to the people and the environment around you.

When you learn how to work independently you have the freedom to explore your skills and talents. This could also make your employer want to see more of your capabilities and ideas.

4. Diversity sensitivity

In today’s workplace, cultural sensitivity and the ability to build rapport with other people in a multicultural work environment is highly valued by employers.

Diversity, which encompasses race, gender, ethnicity, age, cognitive style, education and more, has become a central point of discussion especially in business settings, where companies are aiming to be as inclusive as possible.

Being able to show respect, treat others equally and come up with constructive ways to work through cultural and social barriers or any conflicts that may arise, are key elements to success.

To demonstrate this skill on your résumé, make sure to demonstrate your volunteering, projects you completed, or university work that involved working closely with people from different backgrounds.

5. Drive

Self-motivation is one of the most important qualities that reinforces continuous learning and success, as it helps you realise your goals and facilitate progress.

Without drive, or motivation, it’s impossible to advance in your career. Employers value workers who are driven by their career goals.

The first step to developing your self-motivation, is to pick a job or career that you love. It’s important to keep yourself happy and productive, but also satisfied with what you do for a living.

6. Initiative

No employer or manager wants to have to tell you what to do all the time – they are busy people too. Their responsibility is to teach you the basics and the unwritten rules of the company culture. But, from that point on you don’t have to rely on them for every decision you make.

Taking initiative means coming up with creative solutions on your own, testing them out and finding out what works and what doesn’t. This is all about trusting your instinct and not being afraid to make mistakes. If you have ever been a volunteer, you must have an idea of what taking initiative means.

7. Self-awareness

Getting to know yourself is the first step to identifying your life’s purpose. This is the reason many career experts encourage students to take a psychometric test. Such tests, and more specifically, personality tests, can tell you what your strengths and weaknesses are, where your talents and ambitions lie and can help you make a well-informed decision about your career.

Becoming more self-aware is crucial because if you can’t recognise your own strengths, neither can employers. Self-awareness goes hand in hand with emotional intelligence, a quality that is essential in the modern workplace.

8. Confidence

Everything starts with confidence, and if you want to make others believe in you, you first need to believe in yourself. This applies to every job interview you go to, presentation you deliver, meeting you participate in and project you are lead.

Confidence is all about knowing what you are good at and recognising the value you can bring to a team. Not only that, but confidence inspires trust, loyalty and on an individual level, it can help you cope with stress.

If you think you lack confidence, there are a couple of things you can do. Start by recognising aspects of yourself that you would like to improve on and then take action; join the gym, refresh your wardrobe, practise power poses and work on your conversation skills. Building on confidence is a process, but it’s well worth the effort and it could help you land your next job.

9. Persuasion

Whether you are trying to impress employers, or want to work in a career where persuasion is essential, you need to possess excellent communication and negotiation skills. Persuasion often refers to the ability to influence other people, make them believe in your ideas, encourage them to see what you are seeing and feel what you are feeling.  

Believing in your abilities and being emotionally intelligent is a prerequisite to becoming an effective persuader. Kurt Mortensen, one of America’s leading authorities on persuasion, negotiation and influence, says that successful persuaders often share some common characteristics that help them bond with other people emotionally. They keep promises and are reliable, sincere, and genuine; they appear to know their subject well and support their arguments fiercely.

10. Creativity

Without creativity, there can be no innovation. Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties and embracing change. This is all about inventing, growing, taking risks, breaking the rules, making mistakes and having fun while you are at it.

For employers, this is a skill that can lead to innovation in the workplace, making it a much-sought-after quality.

11. Ambition

Employers are always looking for workers who possess ambition. This is a characteristic that emphasises the individual's long-term commitment to the position, no matter how remedial it may be or what the hours are. Hiring managers are generally impressed by applicants who want to increase their human capital by being willing to accept any challenge, fulfil any task or take constructive criticism seriously.

Of course, you need to show that you are ambitious, not only talk about this attribute. Do you want to develop this invaluable quality? Here are a few tips:

  • Establish goals and ensure you meet them.
  • Surround yourself with other ambitious individuals.
  • Maintain positive thinking and attitude.
  • Compete with yourself by continually accepting and defeating challenges.

12. Enthusiasm

Let's be honest: it can be difficult to always be enthusiastic about your job. For many people, a position inevitably becomes mundane, leading to a loss of enthusiasm, which then hurts your job advancement opportunities. While it is easier said than done, you should maintain a level of excitement about your career, even if you need to put on somewhat of a show.

There are methods you can utilise to tap into your enthusiasm:

  • Celebrate accomplishments at your job, no matter how minuscule they might be.
  • Try to incorporate your passions into your daily duties.
  • Think of skills you want to attain, using your job as that apparatus.
  • Put yourself in a state of enthusiasm, by reading up on developments in your industry.
  • Always ask questions, even if you think they might be silly.

13. Conscientiousness

Is being conscientious a soft skill that many employees lack these days? Some hiring managers will argue that this is a quality in high demand, as it is one of many soft skills that are scarce in today's talent pool.

But what exactly is this professional characteristic anyway? A conscientious worker is someone who is organised, responsible, reliable, punctual and a planner.

Is this an inherent trait or can this be an acquired skill? If you don't think you are conscientious enough at work, then you can start by manufacture realistic goals for your career, creating relationships with colleagues who share your objectives and reframing your mindset. Small changes like arriving to your job early, accepting new responsibilities and having a to-do list, can make all the difference.

14. Punctuality

This ties into some of the previous personal qualities we mentioned, but punctuality is critical to a successful career, whether you are at the office or you work from the comfort of your home.

Moreover, we tend to only think that being punctual means arriving to the workplace at the designated times. However, this can be so much more, including being prepared and getting your work done on time and being ready for assignments or meetings.

Does this sound easy? Well, it doesn't have to be hard! And if you want to make yourself more punctual, then you will need to make it a priority of yours. Things like maintaining a daily agenda, using a timer to complete tasks can certainly help. That said, make sure to give yourself enough time, whether it is getting to work on time or finishing a task.

15. Loyalty

Many of today's workers feel as if companies are disloyal to their employees. Sceptics would assert that a business is ready to hand out pink slips to the lower-end employees while ensuring executives and management types are safe and secure. This may have been true a few years ago, but in today's economy, the worker is back in charge and possesses all the power. That said, being a loyal worker can pay dividends in more ways than one, plus, it is great karma.

But does being a loyal employee entail? For the most part, it is doing your job effectively, as well as showing appreciation for extra hours, pay raises and bonuses. It would also mean that your job is the top priority in your professional life.

Final thoughts

In today’s competitive job market, you need to possess a strong arsenal of soft skills. Indeed, the modern workplace requires professionals to be creative, inquisitive, and ready to take on any challenge that comes their way.

While going over this list, one thing is for certain; if you want to make the best of your life and career, you need to constantly challenge yourself. Don’t forget that nothing good comes without effort, and if you want to become an expert at what you do, you have to try your best to conquer these qualities.

Join the discussion! Which of these qualities have you conquered so far? Let us know in the comments section below!

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 23 June 2017 and contains contributions by Andrew Moran.