Interview questions and structured interviewing
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The Ideal Employee: Are You?

Patricia Van Zandt

Did you know that an employer automatically assumes a job candidate possess basic qualities, such as punctuality, honesty and dependability? When you are hired, your new employer already assumes you will show up to work on time every day, and that your on-the-job behavior will be both ethical and honest. So, if part of your interview prep time is spent showing ways to demonstrate these basic qualities, it’s time you move on and get your interview headed in the right direction. Fierce competition allows employers to require more from their candidates, and if you want to get your foot in the door, spend your interview time not only showing ways you will contribute to the workplace, but highlighting your personal traits that make you the exemplary recruit.

What traits do employers seek in employees? Typically, the traits an employer will look for in a candidate is relative to the organization’s corporate culture or hiring structure. Recruiting a new hire within the financial industry, for example, will require an applicant possess an entirely different set of qualities than an applicant interviewing within the hospitality industry. While listing desirable characteristics may seem arbitrary since common traits can be relative to each industry or employer, in general, hiring officials do seek common traits in potential employee.

Where Can I find the Employer “Wish List?”
According to a December 2000 survey conducted by Ask the, employers in a variety of industries were polled and asked to place a value on the following list of employee qualities. The results were ranked from 1-10, with ten being the most desirable:

Dependability: able to show up at work on time and perform the duties as described by your job description or supervisor - 10

Goal Orientation: able to set an measure work goals and monitor progress on projects or assignments – 10

Positive attitude: able to get along well with others – including co-workers, clients and customers – 9

Flexibility/Willingness to Learn: able to adjust to varied duties and changes within the surroundings – 8

Motivation: able to perform duties effectively with little external motivators, sense of pride within the profession, able to motivate others - 7

Organization/Attention to Detail/Time Usage: able to effectively manage time, formulate plans and carry out, juggling multiple tasks - 6

Initiative: able to sell new ideas to management, able to create ways to make the job more interesting, results driven – 6

Problem Solving/Analytical Skills: display concrete, abstract or creative problem-solving skills – 5

Stress: able to effectively manage stressful/pressure situations - 4

Career Ambitions: possess long-term realistic ambitions – 4

Perform a quick self-evaluation to determine how many of these traits you display at work. Ask yourself:

1. Am I a loyal employee? Do I show up for work on time every day? If I am sick or unable to work, do I notify my employer as soon as I know there is a problem? Do I speak positively about co-workers at my workplace?

2. Am I a flexible employee? Do I go to work with the attitude I will try my best no matter what assignment I am given? Am I willing to take on new responsibilities?

3. Am I an employee who takes initiative? Do I look around to see what needs to be done, or do I wait for my responsibilities to be assigned to me? Do I continually ask questions to find out more, or do I stick with what I know? Do I suggest changes or new ways of doing things when appropriate? Am I willing to take on new responsibilities?

4. If I were the employer, would I want to hire me? If I were my co-worker, would I want to work with someone like me?

5. Am I positive employee? Do I exhibit a positive attitude in all that I do? Will I go out of my way to help other co-workers, supervisors and customers, or others I interact with on a day-to-day basis?

6. Am I a motivated employee? Am I eager to go to work each day? Do I constantly try to learn new things about my job, or do I prefer to hang out in the shadows? Do I accomplish my work to the best of my ability?

Keep in mind, your behavior says a lot about your personality and will most definitely reflect your work ethic. While it takes time to develop many of the good behavior habits that are considered characteristics of a good employee, it is not an impossible goal. If you want to change your performance at work, the time to get started is now. Go into work tomorrow with a new attitude - one that says, “I am going to put forth my best possible effort in all aspects of my job.” Start looking at your career as a “great career” (if you don’t already do so) and if you are already the best employee you can be today, take time to mentor fellow co-workers or friends with your excellent work habits. Mentoring can help you to continue to improve and sharpen your work skills and will make you more valuable in the workforce. (Note: Including a key line on your resume or portfolio that indicates you served as a mentor to fellow co-workers is guaranteed to impress any potential employer).

The Golden “Work” Rule
Following the golden rule at work by doing unto your employer, as you would want done to yourself (assuming now you own the company as assume all of its profits and losses). For example, if you show up for work at 8:35 a.m. four out of five days a week when the rest of the staff starts their day at 7:55 a.m., would you consider firing yourself? Maybe not, but you are surely drawing negative attention to yourself and work habits. Be sure to assess your job performance at least every six months with your supervisor and ask such questions as, “Am I satisfactorily meeting my performance quotas,” or “What skills/area’s can I work to improve upon.” (Note: Only the most dedicated career finder will take the time to pose these questions to employers). The time is now to take stock in your career and to use it as a wise investment.

And, finally, according to industry professionals and major employers, the main problem facing the workforce today is an abundance of employees who lack loyalty, a positive attitude and punctuality. Believe it or not, employers are concerned with their employee work ethic, and many of those same employers say they are surprised at the degree to which employees lack basic skills and behaviors necessary to succeed in their jobs. A few of the more frustrating bad habits employees possess are failure to show up to work on time (or even show up at all!), unwillingness to perform the tasks assigned to them, or the failure to take the initiative to simply look around and see what needs to be done. Employers also find that it is often these same individuals who portrayed themselves in interviews as dependable, ethical, flexible and possessing a strong initiative to succeed at work. If you want to be a better employee, there are things you can do to help your skills on the job.