The Superstar Candidate

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Are employers expecting too much these days? I guess you could argue it both ways; some employers are so desperate that they’re willing to hire a worker who promises to show up most days—unless she’s having a bad hair day or his anxiety about his cat keeps him in bed all morning. Other employers seem to want applications from people who can’t possibly exist: a master’s degree, 20 years of experience, fluent in three languages, in-depth knowledge of international trade relations—and oh yeah, a willingness to work for $20,000 a year.

You can probably talk yourself out of nearly any job posting that you come across because you’re missing one or two out of 99 qualifications they list. But the truth is that the vast majority of employers are searching for some pretty simple skill sets (except the delusional ones who really do want all of that for $20,000 a year).

First, with rare exception, you have to have the technical skills that are needed to do a job. You’re not going to get a computer programming job if you can’t even boot your own machine. But technical stuff aside, employers want things like enthusiasm for the job and company, flexibility, integrity, and a positive attitude. A friend who spends all day interviewing people says that one of the first reasons she’ll dismiss a candidate is if he or she seems like a complainer. Who wants to work with someone who balks every time a new idea is brought up?

But perhaps the most important way you can stand out as a superstar candidate is by demonstrating that you’re a hard worker. Most employers want to be good to their employees by providing great pay for great work. But our “I deserve it” culture is seeping into the work world, and employers are getting frustrated. So prove that you’re unique. Come right out and tell them that you’re a hard worker and offer examples of how you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves. The company—and your wallet—will thank you.

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