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10 essential qualities employers look for in an ideal candidate
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Written by Natalie Barresi

Branded Content Creator

Candidate qualities that can help you stand out

Getting a job is hard. You’re competing with hundreds of other applicants, and all it takes is for one person to have more experience or make a stronger impression than you do for you to get passed up.

What will make you stand out from the other candidates? What qualities are employers looking for?

Well there are many qualities that make a good candidate but these are 10 critical qualities that recruiters are looking for:

Knowledge and expertise

As a candidate, having knowledge and expertise in your industry is an important quality to possess. For example, if you’re interviewing for an administrative assistant position at a marketing company, having experience with marketing software like Salesforce and MailChimp can be a big plus.

It’s also important to know about the company’s history, products/services, culture and mission statement. This will help you to better understand what opportunities there are for growth within the organization.

This information will show recruiters that you are interested in what you do but also about where you want to work.

Soft skills

The term “soft skills” refers to those non-technical skills that are important for success in the workplace. These include communication, collaboration, problem-solving and critical thinking.

They’re not necessarily something you learn in school (you might have developed them on your own), but they can be learned if you don’t have them.

In addition to technical skills (the ones required for a job), employers look for soft skills because they’re essential for working well in a team and as part of an organization overall.


Experience is the second most important thing for employers to look for in an ideal candidate. Not only does experience give you an advantage over other candidates, but also helps you to be more confident and self-assured.  

It will help you to be more productive, focused, and creative. However you should never stop learning and gaining more experience to continue to learn new things throughout your career.


It will depend on what job you are applying for but in general, an ideal candidate will have a bachelor’s degree. However, it’s also important to look at your major and any relevant courses you took while in school. How did those classes prepare you for their career?  

Did you take any internships or have relevant life experiences during or after college that helped you grow as a professional? Employers want to know that you have some experience working in your field. This can be demonstrated through internships, especially if it’s with a company of similar size and industry as the one you’re applying for now. If you don’t have an internship under your belt yet, don’t worry!  

Many employers are willing to consider candidates who are just starting out their careers if they have strong resumes and cover letters demonstrating passion for the job.

It should also be noted that stigmas about not having a university degree are starting to fade. Many employers look for candidates with experience and a good attitude and motivation. Taking free online courses, language classes or building up your skills can be key to getting hired if you have less traditional education.

Adaptability and flexibility

The ability to adapt is crucial in any field. An employer will want to know that you can quickly adjust your approach and work habits depending on the situation at hand. They also look for adaptability when it comes to working with others—you’ll need to be compatible with your colleagues in order to succeed.

You’re flexible. Employers want to know that you can adjust your schedule to meet needs. They want to know that if something unexpected comes up that you will be flexible enough to handle it quickly and professionally.

Professionalism and work ethic

Being professional is more than just being punctual, it’s about being good-natured and personable. It’s also about having a strong work ethic: dedicated to your job, putting in the effort to get your work done, willing to help your coworkers and so on.

If you don’t have that kind of drive, then it won’t matter how good your other qualities are. Professionals are passionate about what they do—including learning new skills and working hard on meaningful work. This quality is one of the most important ones for employers to see in an ideal candidate!


Employers value resourcefulness and workers who can take initiative. This means you’re proactive, a self-starter, and able to work independently as well as in teams. You can handle pressure without losing your cool or falling apart.  

In fact, sometimes it’s easier for people who have their own ideas about how things should be to take charge of the situation and get things done on their own—when things get complicated, that’s when they shine through and show what they’re capable of.

Communication skills

Being able to communicate effectively is a crucial part of any job. Employers want to know that you can talk to their customers or clients, or even with your coworkers.

It’s important to practice speaking clearly and concisely, especially when it comes to things like presentations or interviews.

If you have a tendency to ramble on too long, try practicing some breathing exercises beforehand so that your mind will stay focused.  You’ll always want to be sure that whatever message you’re trying to convey is accurate; if there are any misunderstandings along the way then there will be issues later on.

This will lead nowhere but frustration for everyone involved (including yourself).

Leadership skills

Leadership skills are different from management skills. Whereas management is about running a business or organization, leadership is about motivating and inspiring others to achieve a common goal. This is something you can do at any level of an organization.

Leadership is about creating a vision and making sure everyone on your team understands it completely. You have to be able to communicate this vision clearly while also listening attentively when people express their own goals and motivations.

You have to figure out how each person fits into the big picture while still being committed to your original mission.

Cultural fit

You may have heard of the term “cultural fit,” or you may have seen job postings that ask for it. But what does it mean?

A cultural fit is someone who’s like-minded to the values and beliefs of a company. It’s important because if you don’t share these traits, it could cause problems down the road. Make sure to investigate an employer and their culture to see if you would fit in and enjoy being a part of that team. 

Cultural fits can be hard for companies to find on their own terms. They want people who will work well together but also bring something new and exciting into the mix too.

Stand out to employers

Having these qualities will make you shine in the crowd and help you get hired, promoted and paid more. Employers want to know that they can rely on their employees. While many of these values are inherent, some can be learned with effort and practice.

Find ways to improve yourself by joining organizations or participating in volunteer work. This is a great way to showcase your skills while learning new ones.

In addition, employers will value your drive and initiative.

💡If you want more tips to help you land your next job, check out our article on how to answer the 10 most challenging interview questions.

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