15 Top Qualities Employers Look For in Job Candidates

Updated July 31, 2023

Throughout the interviewing process, candidates use work experience and accomplishments to show that they have the qualifications that employers seek. While hard skills (such as technical training and education) are important, employers also seek soft skills or interpersonal skills that directly influence what kind of employee each candidate will be.

In this article, we review 15 qualities employers seek and discuss ways you can highlight these qualities during and after the hiring process.

15 qualities employers look for in candidates

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You can consider highlighting these skills in your resume and interviews:

1. Ambition

Ambition is a key trait that employers look for because of what it communicates about the worker. It means that they have something they’re working towards and are on a path of betterment for themselves and their circumstances. It can help you stay motivated and focused on what you want to achieve. Don’t be afraid to share your big dream with potential employers. They’ll likely find value in it, which will positively impact your worth.

Related: How to Answer “What Is Your Ambition in Life” in an Interview

2. Communication

Employers understand the value of effective communication and actively look for this skill in potential employees. It’s important to show your competence in this area verbally, physically and through written communication. When corresponding via email, double-check the message before sending it to ensure that you are being clear and concise. Another key component to good communication is listening actively and providing thoughtful feedback, so be sure to stay engaged.

Related: FAQ: Why Is Communication Important in the Workplace?

3. Confidence

Being self-assured is a key characteristic that employers look for. They seek people to join their team who are confident in their abilities and know what they want. Confident employees are friendly, engaging and have a clear (and honest) idea of what makes them a valuable asset.

A key component of confidence is clear goals. Communicating your dreams to potential employers will prove that you are striving for something bigger and not just looking for a job to pay your bills.

Related: 30 Questions To Ask Yourself To Improve Your Self-Confidence

4. Critical thinking

Critical thinking is the mental act of analyzing facts to understand a problem or topic thoroughly. The process typically includes steps, such as collecting information and data, asking thoughtful questions and analyzing possible solutions. That means analyzing the problem without allowing personal bias, emotions or assumptions to influence how you think. Good critical thinkers can work both independently and with others to solve problems.

Related: Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It’s Important

5. Dependability

The ability to consistently follow through is an important work trait that employers seek, and one that you can prove you have throughout the interviewing process. A dependable employee will meet deadlines, be punctual, and have a good work ethic. Show a commitment to following deadlines by completing tasks as they’re assigned.

Related: Reliability Interview Questions: 11 Key Questions With Tips and Examples

6. Determination

Persistence is an important work trait and employers often ask questions to gauge applicants’ determination in an interview. Determination is a skill necessary for accomplishing various goals and objectives in your personal and professional life. It allows you to persevere and continue working toward achieving important milestones. Be equipped with a story showing how you overcame a challenge and highlight the tenacity it took to accomplish your goal.

Related: What Is Determination? (With Definition, Examples and Tips)

7. Eagerness to learn

Employers value employees that actively seek to better themselves, so it’s important to communicate that you enjoy learning new things. Being willing to learn can help you expand your skill set, adapt to situations and improve yourself. Love for education demonstrates that you are dedicated and humble, recognizing that there is always more for you to learn. During the interviewing process, mention whether you are an avid reader or continuing your education.

Related: How To Be More Willing To Learn (And Why It’s Important)

8. Flexibility

The ability to adapt is an important quality that employers want. This involves employees who adapt their roles based on the needs of the company, which includes things like adjusting their hours, switching to a work-from-home position, or staying late to help a coworker with a project. Prove to employees you can tackle tasks and changes as they come. You can also show this skill by addressing improvements that need to be made and developing systems or solutions to the issues.

Related: 10 Interview Questions on Flexibility With Sample Answers

9. Honesty

Honesty is a key quality that employers want in their staff. Some applicants are tempted to exaggerate their qualifications to secure a job, but this is inadvisable. Though it may help you progress through the hiring process, if your potential employer discovers your dishonesty, you will never recover their trust. Honesty is also an important characteristic to have beyond the interviewing process. An employee that admits mistakes and learns from them is an asset to any company.

Related: What Are Personal Qualities? 12 Traits Sought by Employers

10. Loyalty

Honesty and loyalty are two traits that can’t be taught, which is why they are key attributes employers look for. A loyal employee remains with a company for a lengthy period because they feel valued, appreciated and believe in its overall mission. They are likely more invested in the company’s success and work towards meeting organizational goals. Prove yourself as trustworthy and committed to the company’s success; you will be invaluable.

Related: The Importance of Employee Loyalty and How To Improve It

11. Positivity

A work environment can be dramatically altered by one person’s attitude, which is why positivity is a quality employers look for. Positive people create healthy work environments and are often valuable team members. A positive attitude usually signifies resilience and an ability to overcome setbacks. When you implement a positive attitude at work, your colleagues and team members may be more likely to follow your example. 

Related: How To Bring Positivity to a Negative Work Environment

12. Problem-solving

Employers are looking for more than brainless drones to do their bidding. They want people on their team who can pinpoint and address a need, so be sure to recount instances when you recognized an issue and developed an effective solution. While employers value problem-solving skills, they are also highly useful in other areas of life like relationship building and day-to-day decision-making.

Related: 8 Common Problem-Solving Interview Questions and Answers

13. Self-reliance

Being proactive is an important characteristic that employers look for and is easy to show. In the interviewing process, ask specific questions about the duties you’ll be performing on the job. This will show that you’ve given thoughtful consideration to the position. You can also prove you’re self-motivated by recognizing needs and taking the initiative on projects.

Related: How To Improve Your Ability To Work Independently

14. Teamwork

Though not every job requires collaboration, the ability to work effectively and harmoniously in a group is a strength employers want their employees to have. In fact, they will likely ask you how you function in a team during the interview process, so come prepared with an anecdote highlighting your ability to compromise and collaborate.

Related: 5 Steps To Achieve Teamwork Success (Plus Tips)

15. Work ethic

Another top quality that employers look for is a good work ethic. Employees that work hard are always on time and target. Showing the values associated with a good work ethic can increase your employability and help you position yourself for better job opportunities. Take pride in your work and others will take notice.

Read more: Tips To Demonstrate Work Ethic

Frequently asked questions

How can I develop good professional qualities?

To develop good professional qualities, consider finding a mentor in your field. You can also identify which qualities you want to develop and create a plan. For example, if you struggle with being on time, you may plan to be early to work and avoid lateness.

What are some ways to show good professional qualities?

You can show good professional qualities during an interview by being prompt, listening to the hiring manager and answering questions succinctly. When starting a new role, you can show professional qualities by building relationships with others and managing conflict.

How do I know which qualities my employer wants?

These are some methods you can use to determine which qualities an employer prefers in candidates and team members:

  • Review the company's mission statement

  • Read job listings from the organization

  • Ask your leader or an HR representative

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