11 Attributes Every Job Hunter Must Possess To Get The Job

This is what employers are really looking for.

11 Attributes Every Job Hunter Must Possess To Get The Job
[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]

At this week’s Fast Company Innovation Festival, we asked some of the most creative minds in business what single attribute prospective employees must possess if they want to work for their companies:


1. Own It

“Our company is based on seven tenets, one of which is, ‘Own it’,” says 360 Live Media’s Liz Carlton. “That really embodies coming up with ideas–coming up with them, and executing them.”

Liz Carlton

Of course, we’ve all learned the hard way, at some point or another, that coming up with great ideas and actually turning them into reality isn’t always easy. Here’s some great advice about actually executing on all those brilliant projects in your mind.

2. Know Yourself

Susan Reilly Salgado, managing partner at Hospitality Quotient (Union Square Hospitality Group), is unequivocally clear about the quality her employees must possess.


“Self-awareness. If you don’t understand how you come across and impact other people with your behavior and energy, it’s really hard to build meaningful relationships,” she says, “and relationships are at the heart of hospitality.”

Now it’s time for a hard truth: You are probably less self-aware than you think you are. But the good news is, you can do something about it.

3. Be Tenacious

Ralph Dandrea, CEO of Rochester, New York-based ITX, firmly believes in the power of tenacity. “People who are tenacious don’t give up easily,” he says. “They don’t stay broken down . . . they don’t weasel out of [problems]. Tenacious people come up with the best new ideas because they don’t give up.”

Ralph Dandrea

Blogger/butcher/author Cara Nicoletti agrees: “When we’re looking for butchers, I definitely look for someone who is willing to put in a lot of hours on the front end. People that will work hard over and over again–even when they get frustrated. Persistence.”

Indeed, persistence and tenacity are often named as key characteristics of successful people. Do you give up too easily? To help inspire necessary change in yourself, check out these seven habits of highly persistent people.

4. Be Brave

“Prospective employees need to be brave,” says Leslie Ali, the cofounder of You/We. “Brave enough to try new things, to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, be okay going fast, and fine with the unpredictable. Being a little reckless is the only way to make real strides.”


Obviously, becoming braver and more of a risk taker isn’t something you can just tell yourself to do–it’s not as simple as that. Here are seven ways to become more courageous, even in difficult circumstances.

5. Be Curious

KC Ifeanyi, assistant editor at Fast Company, is looking for one thing in new teammates: “insatiable curiosity.”

“You need to always want to know the answers, and never stop asking,” Ifeanyi says.


David Tracey, a technologist at The Lab at Rockwell Group, agrees. “Curiosity and a playful spirit—not to take things too seriously, and having the ability to think through alternatives to the problem instead of getting stuck on a single solution,” is important to him when he’s studying applicants during job interviews, he says.

David Tracey

Indeed, curiosity leads to increased creativity. Here are eight more habits of people who always have great ideas.

6. Be Creative

Daniel Terdiman, senior editor at Fast Company, is looking for creativity on his team. “You can’t move the needle if you aren’t creative,” he points out.


But how do you identify creativity in prospective employees? You might be surprised by some of the characteristics creative people often possess.

7. Be Resilient

Bryan Honig, creative director at the graphic design consultancy Cave Left, says the number one quality he is looking for in new hires is resilience: the ability “to overcome challenges, to deal with difficult clients, and difficult situations.”

“Resilience boils everything down in terms of understanding difficult challenges and working effectively with others,” he adds.


Resilient people look for a positive take from every situation and take a long-term view of their work. Does that sound like you?

8. Work Your Butt Off

It might seem obvious–after all, work is called “work” for a reason–but a great work ethic isn’t as common as you might think, which means employers are always on the lookout for people who are willing to put their noses to the grindstone. “People that show up and try to give more than they take” are at the top of the hiring list for Tim Bursch, market director at Spredfast.

Likewise, Alan Martofel, the executive director of Feminist Apparel, doesn’t have time for lazy bones. What’s the one attribute he values in his employees, above all else? “A strong work ethic, because we are starting up and need people who are focused on our mission and willing to bust ass,” he says.


There’s no reason to work hard just for the sake of working hard, of course–that’s why it’s so important to be efficient and productive on the job. Here are 15 habits that will transform your productivity, so you don’t burn yourself out.

9. Be Honest

“Honesty and integrity” are an absolute must for Jeff Sheinbein, CEO, Social Imprints, “because we’re an open-book company. The main thing that everyone has to share is being open and honest in every aspect—with our customers, with our suppliers, and everyone in the organization.”

Sheinbein is right: Honesty counts–and can be measured in dollars and cents. A 2014 study found that honesty is the number one quality customers are looking for in brands these days–so make sure you show interviewers that you take a transparent, open approach to your work.


10. Be Easy To Work With

Work is work–but that doesn’t mean it can’t be pleasant, or even fun. Anouk van Oordt, the founder and managing director of Brussels-based Out of Office, knows how she wants collaboration in her company to feel. “That it is frictionless,” she explains.
“That it feels like someone who could be your friend.”

Anouk van Oordt (right) with colleague Veerle Pappaert

But it’s not that easy to make friends when you’re an adult. Here are some tactics you can employ to make yourself more likable on the job.

11. Love The Company (And Its Customers)

Melissa Pugliese, HR communications specialist at Ann Inc., knows what she’s looking for in prospective employees. “That would be passion about our brands,” she says. “And caring about our clients–caring about women,” adds Evan Izquierdo, a talent manager at Ann Inc.


Ngozi Odita, founder and executive director of Social Media Week Lagos, feels the same way. “Being passionate, and knowing what you’re doing is important work” is vital, says Odita.

As Bob Safian, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, says, “You have to have the hunger for the topic, or it’s not the right place for you.”

Related: What Successful Entrepreneurs At #FCNY Wish They Knew When They Were Starting Out