Looking for a secret weapon to job search success? It can be difficult to know what hiring professionals are looking for from job applicants beyond a stellar application. That's why we decided to ask.
Here are 10 things that candidates do that make hiring professionals immediately want to hire them, according to the professionals themselves.
1. They present themselves as a 'fixer.'
"An underrated characteristic is the ability to both find AND solve problems. Every company is full of people who are great at either finding problems or offering up solutions, but there are far fewer individuals who are willing to both identify an issue and follow through with solving it. If you can demonstrate to the hiring manager that you always bring solutions to the problems you identify, you will really stand out. Most managers have plenty of problems to deal with, so the last thing they want is another person who just brings them more." — Adam Sanders, Founder and Director of Successful Release
2. They're centered.
"When I'm coaching professionals in career transition, the first thing I tell them to do in interviews is to get centered before they go in so they can let their natural personality and energy flow. So often the differentiator between two similarly qualified candidates is the energy they bring to the interview. If they are relaxed, confident and conversational, the interviewer gets a real sense of what it will be like to work with that person. It can be very magnetic and can even elevate a less qualified candidate to being the one who gets the offer." — Career Coach Terry B. McDougall
3. They have boundaries.
"Beyond the obvious criteria (the candidate is informed, professional and has the appropriate skill set), I always ask about work-life balance. Many candidates, in an effort to appear dedicated, swear that they will do whatever is needed for the role, no matter the impact to their personal life. I never hire these people.If a candidate doesn’t have respect for his own personal life, wellness and commitments, he will inevitably come to resent his superior, his colleagues who do demonstrate work-life balance and eventually the company itself for the lack of boundaries he himself has implemented. And then he’ll take everything I’ve taught him to my competitor.
Instead, I look for candidates who ask about the work-life balance policy and the level of urgency in everyday operations. Balanced, happy and well people are productive employees. Burned out, exhausted, negative people are problematic to me and the bottom line." — Communications and Career Consultant Jennifer Kalita
4. They connect the dots.
"Something that instantly grabs my attention – when I’m viewing a cover letter, resume or actually speaking to a candidate – is their ability to connect their past success directly to the job they are applying for. Recruiters and hiring managers are always searching for some certainty when looking at candidates and seeing some sort of relatable success is a big factor for me. A candidate being able to see the comparison between their past work and the position they are applying for is a critical thinking skill that really stands out. And also, the fact that they have had relatable success in the past makes me think they will be able to jump into things faster than someone who has less relatable experience." — Jim Sullivan, the President, CEO, and Co-Founder of JCSI
5. They act like they're interviewing for their dream job.
"It’s so refreshing to see a candidate genuinely excited about the role. Stumbling upon a candidate for whom this is a dream job is actually quite rare. Certainly, qualification and skill set matter, as does cultural fit, but I know that passion and genuine excitement are difficult to fake, so these applicants always receive the extra credit points in my book when I'm evaluating them." — Peter Bryla, Community Manager at ResumeLab
6. They seem intellectually curious.
"When I'm meeting with a candidate for an interview, I always watch for something that I have called "intellectual curiosity" or an innate desire to solve problems. To me, I can see this in the moment when a candidate gets so entranced by something that we're discussing that I can tell that it would be fun for the candidate to do the work and solve the problems inherent in the role." — Jonas Bordo, CEO and Co-Founder of Dwellsy.
7. They show up to the interview ready to do the job.
"By this, I don’t just mean they have all the training and knowledge required, although that’s helpful. One example that demonstrates this perfectly: a candidate for a marketing position studied up on our social media prior to the interview. She was able to outline specific ways she would improve our strategy when I asked why she would be a good fit for the job, demonstrating both her passion and aptitude for the work. With the best candidates, I can picture how they’d fit into the company and the position by the time the interview is over because they’ve shown me exactly what they will contribute." — Jon Hill, Chairman and CEO of The Energists
8. They bring the knowledge and materials to answer interview questions before they're asked.
"A sign of a great candidate that jumps to mind is when they bring in several portfolios and present them with confidence to the recruiting team. I love to hire people with confidence and foresight. At an interview, I always have my questions in front of me, and sure, we go through them one by one, just like every other interview. However, standing by and letting me lead the interview is bland. I’ll do that 20 times a day. On the flip side, when a candidate comes well-prepared, and they are answering all my questions before I even think of them, without me having to do a thing, it’s pretty impressive." — Jim Pendergast, Senior Vice President of altLINE Sobanco
9. They send a great thank you note.
"Of course, I get gut feelings, but a thank you email with something extra is what seals the deal for me. For example, our new marketing assistant sent the usual note thanking me for the interview... and she had done research on 10+ conscious brands she thought would be a good fit for the agency. There were links and explanations of why each brand was a good fit for our brand. I couldn't find my socks because someone had knocked them off." — Sara Miranda, Founder & CMO of The Good Camp
10. They're honest.
"The number one thing that I look for during an interview is honesty. I look for truthful, candid answers to all my questions. If a potential employee is straight up with me, this is an excellent sign of moral fibre and trustworthiness, two fundamental personal values I look for in my employees. I want my employees also to be honest with themselves, to admit that perhaps they don't have years of experience working for a remote tele-health platform but they have a character which makes them dependable, reliable and capable enough to learn new skillsets." — Erik Rivera, CEO of ThriveTalk
*Some quotes have been edited for length and clarity.