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What Employers Want

Understanding What Employers Want should be an Early Step toward Choosing a Course.

When you get offered a job, it is because someone has decided to deal with you, rather than someone else.   Every employer is different, and every situation is different. If you can understand the things that motivate an employer or client though; you can greatly increase your opportunity of getting the work.

Many people study full time for 3 years to get the ideal job, and then find they can’t get it.
Other people study less, but knock on doors every week, send CV’s out every month, and put their name up in their industry groups every day on linked in and facebook. These people, with fewer qualifications, may often succeed where the better qualified and less noticed people fail.

You may be chosen over someone else for any one of the following reasons; but more likely than not, a combination of different reasons:
1.    Convenience.
2.    What you know.
3.    What you can do.
4.    Your presentation (how you appear – impressions).
5.    Who you know.

  • Convenience - sometimes you may be chosen for no other reason than you are present, and other people are not.
  • What you know and do - you may be selected because they see you can offer something that others cannot. This might be certain skills or knowledge that you have, including the scope, depth, quality and relevance to the job on offer. And what you can do and how this can be used or developed for specific roles.Their decision might be partly affected by your past experience, references, studies and qualifications, registrations, licences or even testing you (perhaps within an interview or a trial period of employment).
  • Your presentation - first impressions are the most powerful. Although you may have been told through your child to “not judge a book by its cover”, the reality is that people will judge you on how you look. Make sure when you meet your prospective employer for the first time that you present yourself appropriately. If you send an email or make a phone call to apply for a job; it needs to impress the recipient not just as being good, but also being appropriate. If you are judged as being an ideal supervisor, but the job advertised is for a subordinate, your presentation is inappropriate, and you may not be offered the job.
  • Who you know - some people get offered jobs because they are known by the boss, either professionally or personally. Sometimes it may be a reference or endorsement by a third party that secures the job.  It is also quite important to develop contacts within an industry. This is perhaps not as relevant for the first time employee, but once you have worked for a couple of years’ contacts within and outside of your industry can open up all sorts of opportunities. In today’s world of social media, some employers are influenced by your connections (e.g. within Facebook or Linked in) or rankings on such things as Klout.

What other things do employers look for?
As discussed - employers look for a range of attributes and skills when choosing an employee or considering one for promotion. Consider the following along with what we have covered to date:
  • Experience – past experience is always viewed favourably, of course not all jobs advertised require experience that is directly related to the position. Sometimes experience from one role can be transferable to another.  
  • Credentials - formal qualifications, licenses, industry affiliations/memberships. These can sometimes be important, but can also be over rated.
  • Ability to communicate – people with an inability to communicate effectively (whether it is through shyness or nervousness) will often miss out on jobs – being able to communicate well is a requirement to complete many job roles successfully, so an inability to communicate during an interview may mean not gaining employment. It can also be mistaken for a lack of interest or a lack of motivation. It also means that you go unnoticed once you are in a job so your prospects of advancement are lowered!
  • Momentum - are you continuing to develop in life, or are you stagnant?
  • Motivation – motivated people come across as confident and enthusiastic about life and work; a positive outlook gets you noticed.
  • Enthusiasm – however there is a difference between enthusiasm and over exuberance; although you must be enthusiastic to gain employment and to advance in your career, many experienced employers know that when a person is overly enthusiastic in an interview they may not be genuine. Or they might not last the distance once employed. Quite often people that are overly enthusiastic are ‘sprinters’ not ‘long distance runners’ i.e. they may not last long as they tend to run out of puff faster. Employers look for a controlled enthusiastic approach.  
  • Presentation – further to what was discussed earlier, how you appear, grooming, body language etc. is very important to you securing a position. You should always dress according to the interview you are attending. If you are going for a job as a gardener then a suit would be inappropriate but if you are going for a role as a bookkeeper then jeans are inappropriate. In an interview make sure you have eye contact – people that avoid eye contact are difficult to evaluate for a job. Lack of eye contact sends many negative messages to your interviewer even if it is just because you are nervous. To give your interviewer a feeling that you are confident and serious about the job you should be well groomed, maintain eye contact, don’t fidget and sit or stand up straight.
  • Problem solving ability – this is a skill that some people are born with and others develop over time and with experience. Problem solving skills can also be learnt through education – but you need the right education! You are less likely to develop problem solving skills from courses focussed on competency based training than those based on experiential learning that actually develop problem solving skills.


Employers, clients and customers are real people, with personal biases and personality traits that affect their decisions just as much as anything else. Every employer is different. Different employers may react in very different ways to the same thing; and often that reaction may be subconscious.

A male employer may well favour employing a good looking young woman, rather than a grumpy old man; even if the grumpy old man has much better skills, experience, and is better suited to the job. Many employers will react in a positive way to an applicant who comes to an interview well groomed and wearing a suit, but some employers may judge that presentation as being a negative.

  • Research the employer before contacting them.  Search in social media and read their profile.
  • If responding to an advertisement, be prompt.
  • Make yourself visible to potential employers.
  • Find out what things employers are typically passionate about in your chosen industry; and nurture your own passion and ability to communicate with respect to these things.
  • Play it safe with presentation. Don’t reveal anything that will repel mainstream employers (whether lateness to an interview, or being poorly groomed or displaying a bad attitude in an interview).
  • You don’t need to know everything!  When you apply for a job you need to satisfy the broad outline of the job description – your experience or education does not need to comply with every small detail of the job advertisement. If you are confident and enthusiastic employers will overlook small gaps in experience or education.
  • You need to be confident in your manner, produce a succinct CV and keep your introduction letter short and sharp. DON’T WAFFLE! People will decide in the first couple of sentences of your intro letter if they will give you an interview.
  • Have an up to date CV; “be ready to go”! Employers look at your resume to eliminate you from the pack. An up to date, informative, well written resume (keep it short) that helps to provide the employer with your information (in a concise manner) will be put to the top of the pile.
  • Research the company; get an idea of their business structure, what they have achieved in the past and where they are headed - and understand what job you are applying for and what it entails. Employers are always impressed if you know about their company or business and you can discuss their business and its aims intelligently during an interview.
Read a book, do a course, join an organisation; talk to people, observe people.
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