What Employers Look For in Candidates: It’s Not Just What You Think

In today’s competitive job market, there’s more to getting hired than just matching the qualifications.

Whether it’s interpersonal qualities, specific job skills, or personality characteristics, employers look for a blend in the ideal candidate. When you’re immersed in the job search alongside hundreds or even thousands of other candidates, highlighting the right qualities can help you stand out from the crowd.

What Skills Do Employers Look For?

Highlighting your strongest and most marketable skills on a resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile can help create a powerful impression that gets you through the door. While each industry and job requires a different set of skills, certain core qualities are essential to prove yourself as the right fit.

We’ve shared five of the most sought-after skills that employers look for in candidates.


One of the many soft skills that employers look for is leadership. Whether you’re managing a team or taking a head role in a collaborative project, leadership involves keeping others on task and accountable. When you demonstrate great leadership, you’re also accepting responsibility for outcomes, volunteering to take on assignments, and being prepared to take charge in challenging situations, and employers love to see that skill in potential employees.

To demonstrate leadership on a resume, you can emphasize skills like dedication, dependability, active listening, integrity, communication, delegation, responsibility, and decisiveness.


Problem-solving skills allow you to objectively assess a situation and determine how to move forward. It means seeking solutions despite challenges and setbacks in the workplace.

Employers look for candidates who can take action and brainstorm solutions to some of the problems the company faces. Skills to highlight include communication, decision making, research, creativity, critical thinking, and analytic thinking.

Cross-Functional Collaboration

Regardless of the role, teamwork skills are critical. Even in positions that rely heavily on independent work, you’ll still be expected to connect with other roles, teams, and departments.

Cross-functional collaboration means being able to cooperate with colleagues who may each specialize in different areas. Despite having different areas of expertise, the team members need to be able to work toward a common goal and implement new strategies to improve operations.

To show your collaborative skills, you can highlight communication, openness, the ability to give and receive feedback, flexibility, empathy, and responsibility.


In fast-paced work environments, self-management is crucial. Employers want to know that their staff can manage their own time effectively and stay on track, without anyone looking over their shoulder.

Self-management skills allow you to manage your own time, keep track of your progress, and maximize your productivity. In addition to contributing to the company’s growth, you should focus on your own professional growth day by day.

There are some skills to feature on your resume include time management, organization, motivation, goal setting, multitasking, strategic thinking, and prioritization, that will show great self-management.


Employers look for candidates who will take initiative in the workplace instead of waiting for their boss to direct them. This means being proactive about opportunities and finding new ways to move the company toward its goals.

Demonstrating this kind of inner drive can prove that you’ll add a lot of value to the company. Skills to highlight include initiative, self-motivation, organization, persistence, and diligence.

What Employers Want To See From You

If you ask recruiters what they look for in an applicant, you’ll hear a lot of similar answers: efficiency, dedication, honesty, leadership, and motivation. These qualities can prove that you’re the right fit, but there’s more to the ideal candidate than technical or soft skills. There are certain traits employers look for that might not be as visible.

These elements of the hiring process are often overlooked, but they can help you stand out among equally qualified or even more experienced candidates.

Thinking and Problem-Solving on the Job

It’s not just about the skills you possess on your resume. It’s also about how you’re going to use those skills and apply them to your work.

Employers value critical reasoning, problem-solving, and solution-oriented thinking because these elements are key to almost any role. You want to demonstrate your ability to assess a situation, analyze the information, recognize what needs to be done, and take action to implement efficient and creative solutions.

Positioning yourself as a creative, practical, and innovative thinker takes more than just the right keywords on your resume. You need to prove that you have faced challenges in the past and come up with a successful solution. Highlight these experiences on your resume and cover letter, and have a few examples prepared for your interview.

Cultural Fit vs. Skills-Based Fit: What’s the Difference?

In the world of recruiting, hiring managers debate between two qualities: cultural fit and skills-based fit.

A cultural fit refers to your ability to fit seamlessly with your team members. You want to have the right cultural alignment, get along well with coworkers, collaborate with different teams, and inspire others in the workplace.

While culture can mean a lot in a workplace environment, skills are just as important. If you bring the right skills, you can hit the ground running on new tasks and projects. You might not require as big of an up-front investment of time and resources.

Finding the Right Balance

While the cultural vs. skills-based fit continues to be hotly debated, you don’t need to choose between the two. You can strike a balance between fitting into workplace culture and bringing the right skills to the role.

While the required skill set might be laid out in the job description, it’s harder to seek out a good cultural fit. Before applying, take a moment to research the kind of work environment at the company you’re applying to. Use resources like Glassdoor, Fishbowl, and other career sites to get a sense of what the company might be like behind closed doors.

How Capstone Resumes Can Help

The best skills and qualities to put on a resume will depend on the industry, job type, and career level. Before you apply for a job, take a moment to assess the skills that the employer might consider the most valuable.

Anticipating what an employer might look for can allow you to fine-tune your resume to highlight the personal strengths that align with the company’s goals. Identifying these connections between the company’s needs and your strengths will help you make a solid impression.

If you’re looking to stand out with your resume, contact us to schedule a personal resume consultation. Our experts will work with you to highlight your strengths and showcase the value you can bring to the table.