20 Personal Qualities and Skills that Employers Look For

The perfect formula for the perfect employee.

Personal Qualities and Skills employers look for

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

When it comes 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 and decision making, for example), there are some other more personal qualities that employers seek in new candidates.

Below, we’ll walk you through these essential qualities and skills that will help you progress your career and earn both your manager’s and colleagues’ respect.

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 under control is vital, especially in fast-paced environments.

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.
  • Avoid people and reject behaviors 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’re only human and can’t control everything.
  • Set new goals to work towards and stay focused.

2. Integrity

Having integrity means being reliable and accountable for the actions that you take. According to leadership coach 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’re 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’re 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 demonstrate solid interpersonal skills by showing respect, treating others fairly and coming up with constructive ways to work through cultural and social barriers or any conflicts that may arise are key elements to success.

To show 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 reinforce continuous learning and success, as it helps you realize your goals and facilitate progress.

Without drive or motivation, it’s impossible to advance 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’re 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 in identifying your life’s purpose. This is the reason many career experts encourage students to take a psychometric test. Such tests can tell you what your strengths and weaknesses are and 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 recognize your own strengths, neither can employers. Self-awareness goes hand in hand with emotional intelligence, a quality that’s also 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, each presentation you deliver, every meeting you participate in, and any project you lead.

Confidence is all about knowing what you’re good at and recognizing the value you can bring to a team. Not only that, but confidence inspires trust and loyalty, too, and on a personal 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 recognizing aspects of yourself that you would like to improve on and then take action; join the gym, refresh your wardrobe, practice 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’re trying to impress employers or you 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’re seeing and feel what you’re 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 uncertainties and embracing change. This skill includes inventing, growing, taking risks, breaking the rules, making mistakes and having fun while you’re 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 emphasizes the individual’s long-term commitment to the position, no matter how challenging 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, execute any task or take constructive criticism seriously.

Of course, you need to show that you’re ambitious, not only talk about it. 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’s easier said than done, you should maintain a level of excitement about your career, even if some days you need to put on somewhat of a show.

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

  • Celebrate accomplishments at your job, no matter how small 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 organized, responsible, reliable and punctual.

Is this an inherent trait, or can this be an acquired skill? If you don’t think you’re conscientious enough at work, then you can start by setting realistic goals for your career, creating relationships with colleagues who share your objectives and reframing your mindset. Small changes like arriving to work 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’re 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 time. However, there can be so much more to this, including getting your work done on time and being prepared for assignments and 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 and using a timer to complete tasks can certainly help. That said, make sure to give yourself enough time, whether it’s getting to work or finishing a task.

15. Loyalty

Many of today’s workers feel as if companies are disloyal to their employees. Skeptics would assert that a business is ready to hand out pink slips to lower-level employees while ensuring executives and management are safe and secure.

This may have been true a few years ago, but in today’s economy, the worker possesses quite a bit of power, too. That said, being a loyal worker can pay dividends in more ways than one; plus, it is great karma.

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

16. Trustworthiness

There are many ways to demonstrate trustworthiness in the workplace, like showing up on time to work and meetings, sharing your honest opinions (mindfully), and consistently following through on your commitments.

When you show that you take your work seriously and that you respect the people on your team (even the ones you secretly dislike), you inspire others in your work environment, including your boss, to depend on you and seek out your advice.

Another important thing to remember when trying to build up your trustworthiness is that in order to gain people’s trust, you’ll often have to place your trust in others, too.

17. Resilience

This soft skill is among the top skills employers will look for in job candidates. They’ll look for hints of it in cover letters and interviews, so try to highlight your perseverance and commitment when discussing your previous work experience.

The reason is that other vital skills, like problem-solving skills and time management, will depend on your resilience in times of stress or conflict. If you tend to view mistakes or failure as a dead end instead of opportunities to learn, for example, then you’ll be likelier to procrastinate, become unproductive due to your pessimism or throw in the towel altogether.

18. Emotional maturity

When someone is emotionally immature, they’re likelier to become defensive or dismissive during conflict, and be unable to handle critical feedback well. Both of these are undesirable in the workplace, where your own career advancement and the team’s efficiency will depend on mutual support, collaboration and effective communication.

Besides benefitting your communication skills, emotional maturity will make it easier for you to admit to making mistakes and apologizing, keep conflict to a minimum, and handle stress more effectively. The latter being important, of course, as it will preserve your productivity and your ability to meet deadlines under pressure!

19. Honesty

You can’t have a good work ethic without honesty. As such, this personal quality is among the top soft skills that employers seek.

If you’re able to be honest with yourself first and foremost about errors in your judgment, unconscious prejudices or unhelpful habits, then it becomes a little easier to be honest with the rest of your team, too.

To enhance this soft skill, it’s important to adopt a growth mindset both around your productivity and interpersonal relationships, and to step away from any black-or-white thinking. You can be a great employee and still make mistakes; you can be patient overall but still lose your temper. None of these things make you a bad person, at the end of the day; they just make you a person.

20. Curiosity

Employers want to onboard team members who are curious. When you approach things with an open mind and genuine interest, whether that’s learning things or taking on challenges, you allow yourself to experiment and arrive at results that a more rigid mindset wouldn’t allow you to.

Curiosity can enhance the way you solve problems, speed up your career progression as you’ll thrive in your lifelong learning, and let you connect with people from various backgrounds, exposing yourself to new ideas and ways of thinking.

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.

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

Originally published on June 23, 2017. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.