The U.S. Department of Labor’s January jobs report showed that the unemployment rate rose by one-tenth of a percent to 7.9 percent, which leaves numerous people out of work and competing for a limited number of available positions.
Modest employment growth signals that hiring managers may have an abundant supply of applications on their desks. Deciphering which candidate is the best fit can be a challenge when there’s a surge of available talent. Some companies are trying to help both applicants and hiring managers become more efficient in streamlining new talent.
CBS’ new reality show “The Job” — which premiered just last week but has already been canceled — gave candidates a chance to land permanent positions at companies such as The Palm Restaurant Group, Cosmopolitan, Epic Records and Major League Soccer. In each episode, a different company scouts for candidates, who must compete in a variety of challenges. A panel consisting of executives and representatives within each industry judges the five candidates.
Bruce Bozzi Jr., executive vice president of Palm Restaurant Group, said that contestants in the show’s first episode were evaluated through their resume, job history, a Skype interview and personality. Regardless of a candidate’s paper resume, however, Bozzi said it’s important to “bring humor into the conversation and warmth so the interviewer can learn about you. … Be professional and have your appearance reflect that commitment,” he said.
Although some jobs demand employees with very specific skill sets, there are certain universal traits that hiring managers look for during an interview that may land a candidate a position, said Terri Lee Ryan, a Chicago-based headhunter and career coach with Human Capital Solutions Inc.
Here are five universal traits Ryan said hiring managers should take note of when looking for new talent:
Ability to listen and take direction. This is a skill that hiring managers notice when interviewing candidates. Does the candidate answer the question asked? A potential hire must be able to take direction and listen to what’s asked.
“During an interview, candidates get nervous, or they roll over the question and don't answer it or never listen to the question being asked, which makes it difficult to properly evaluate them for a job,” Ryan said.
Bozzi said The Palm Restaurant looks for the ability to listen and answer the question asked. He said he likes to see candidates who are direct, use eye contact and are confident when answering a question.
Assurance but not arrogance. A candidate who’s self-assured in an interview attracts attention. Ryan said hiring managers should keep a lookout for anyone who can speak confidently, but isn’t arrogant. “They are personable but you have a feeling that they have control over subject matter,” she said.
Enthusiasm. Candidates who are excited about what they do and what kind of contribution they can make to a company. This sought-after trait is relevant across industries. “Being upbeat and attentive is a real plus,” Bozzi said.
Team player. “This isn’t a ‘go alone’ type of market. This is a coveted aspect within many organizations,” Ryan said. A valuable hire can easily assimilate within the current culture of the company with little effort. This means less training for a company.
Knowledge within your industry. Finding a thought leader is important. Identify someone who is up to speed on the market, perhaps with a blog.
“These types of people are coming up with original thought content and ideas and developing their own brand by being a thought leader,” Ryan said. “That helps a company promote their employees and it offers great value for a candidate.”
Jennifer Kahn is an editorial intern at Talent Management magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.