What Interviewers Look For in Candidates for Any Position

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 13, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're interviewing for a position, you may concern yourself with what interviewers are looking for when you go into the room or join the call. This may include the information included on your resume and cover letter, but also many other essential elements relevant to many positions. Learning about these elements may help you prepare for interviews more effectively and perform better. In this article, we discuss the seven most common elements that interviewers look for in job candidates and discuss some elements they rarely examine.

What interviewers look for in job candidates

Here's a description of various elements that encompass what interviewers look for when interacting with candidates during interviews:

1. Relevant experience

Interviewers often look first at a candidate's relevant work experience, including previous and current full-time, part-time, and internship roles. This element of a candidate's qualifications can provide direct information on the candidate's relevant skills and their ability to perform the essential tasks of the position. For example, if you're applying for a teaching position, previous teaching experience may allow interviewers to understand your ability to lead and control a classroom of students and follow curriculums.

Relevant experience can also give some indication of professional licensing, as it is a requirement in some positions. For example, if you're applying for a plumbing position, previous experience as a plumber may indicate you have a plumbing licence and the ability to practise in residential or commercial properties. This type of information may be useful to initially qualify individual candidates for the roles in which they applied and move them along in the hiring process.

2. Hard and soft skills

Interviewers often look at hard and soft skills when evaluating job candidates. Hard skills refer to the critical, technical skills related to the job in question, like bookkeeping or computer programming. Soft skills include those that involve a person's emotional disposition toward work and their ability to interact with others. For example, if an interviewer was meeting with candidates for an accounting position, soft skills, like communication and problem solving, may be just as relevant as hard skills, like a candidate's knowledge of accounting software.

Interviewers often ask about candidates' previous experience and applicable licensing related to specific soft or hard skill requirements. For example, if a candidate were applying for a position as a nurse, interviewers may ask about previous experience in caring for patients and how the candidate may be able to follow specific requirements for work in that position. Applicants who demonstrate knowledge of or interest in a position's hard and soft skill requirements can increase their likelihood of effectively performing the job functions. Here are some examples of skills that interviewers look for in many types of roles:

  • Communication: Communication skills help many employees collaborate with colleagues, communicate with customers, and be able to give presentations. For example, a salesperson may ask questions and gather information when interacting with customers in a retail setting.

  • Leadership: Leadership skills may be a requirement in a variety of roles, as they help employees take charge of major responsibilities while staying on top of their workload. For example, a store manager or program director may lead groups or teams of employees to ensure projects stay on track.

  • Problem solving: Problem-solving skills can help employees analyze issues and come up with solutions that benefit the company. For example, a product manager may work with other employees to come up with solutions for product problems.

  • Customer service: Effective customer service skills can help employees interact with customers in a positive way, making them more likely to make a purchase. For example, a sales representative may help set up products or process orders for customers in a customer-facing role.

  • Organization: Employees who are effective at organizing and managing their time and tasks can help keep a project on track, but they may also be able to delegate projects to other employees. For example, a finance manager may be able to train new employees or assign them to specific tasks.

Related: 10 Brain Teaser Interview Questions (With Examples)

3. Professional presentation

Interviewers often pay close attention to an applicant's clothing, mannerisms, and professional appearance during the interview process. This is because many roles require that employees work directly with customers to sell or consult about products and services, or with other team members to collaborate on tasks. Additionally, a professional demeanour can indicate a sense of confidence and experience working in an office of another type of professional environment and demonstrates respect for the hiring process.

For example, in an interview for a sales executive role in an upscale office building where most team members are wearing formal wear, interviewers may look for candidates who arrive at the interview in similar attire. This level of formality may continue when the interviewer expects the candidates to answer questions. For instance, they may expect fluid sentences with little to no interruptions. This is because the role may require sales executives to interact with customers that spend large amounts of money with the business, and maintaining those relationships may be paramount to the success of the organization.

Related: 19 Common Interview Questions and Answers

4. Education

Interviewers often look at the educational background of a candidate when evaluating their qualifications for a job. This is because many jobs require advanced degrees or certification to perform the essential functions, which can provide an indicator of a candidate's technical abilities to do their job well. Interviewers often ask about the specific subject areas candidates have studied in school and may ask about their academic history and how it relates to the role.

For example, if you're applying for a role in pharmaceuticals, interviewers may ask how your chemistry coursework has prepared you to test and analyze products for human consumption. Candidates may provide as much relevant information as they can in terms of how their education can enable them to succeed.

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5. Related training or certifications

Interviewers often look at specific training or certifications related to a position's requirements when evaluating candidates. This is because completing specific training courses or certifications may indicate a candidate has a certain level of knowledge related to the job requirements, as documented by a respected external organization, which can indicate they have the ability to succeed in their position. For example, if you're applying for an IT support engineer position, interviewers may ask about information technology certifications you've completed because those certifications may provide direct experience in managing computers and computer networks.

Related: 18 Good Questions to Ask During an Interview and Why to Ask Them

6. References

Interviewers may ask about references to gauge candidates' ability to provide them with ease. Though they may not contact them until after the interview, a candidate's ability to provide them easily can indicate a positive work history. For example, if you left a previous position on good terms with your manager, as you provided ample notice and performed well while in the position, your manager may suggest you use them as a reference when applying for new positions. This can allow you to provide such references with confidence when interviewers request them.

Related: 15 Team Player Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

7. Organizational cultural fit

When determining the cultural fit of a potential employee, interviewers often look at how well someone may work with others in a team environment. For example, when interviewing candidates for an administrative position, interviewers may not just look at how well the applicant's technical skills can help with the most important job functions, but also want to understand how they plan to interact with other team members in the office environment. Some common aspects that candidates look for in candidates in relation to organizational culture include inclusivity, empathy, integrity, and leadership.

Related: 10 Items to Bring to Your Next Job Interview

What interviews don't look for in candidates

There are some elements of candidates that interviewers rarely look for or legally cannot look for when determining the eligibility of candidates for positions. Here is a brief description of these elements:

  • Physical appearance: For example, an accounting position is more dependent on a candidate's numeracy skills, so interviews rarely consider the physical appearance of a candidate when determining their qualifications. A certain outward appearance, like dressing in formal wear, may be required by some companies for sales positions.

  • Beliefs: Personal beliefs are not important to most positions, and it's illegal to discriminate based on individual religious beliefs when making hiring decisions.

  • Culture: Culture is not an important characteristic to consider when determining the qualifications of candidates, as their ability to work within the parameters set out by the company is what counts.

  • Age: Age is not a requirement for most positions and interviewers rarely look for it in candidates when determining eligibility for employment roles. Some positions may require candidates to be over a certain age to complete the duties of the positions legally.

  • Gender: Generally speaking, interviewers rarely look for gender when determining the eligibility of candidates. There are some positions, like those working with women in rehabilitation centres, where interviewers may prefer one gender over another.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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