PartTimer | What do employers really look for in an employee?

What do employers really look for in an employee?

Dec 10 2017

Everyone seems to have a different opinion on what employers actually look for when hiring. Some say work experience is the most important. Others say they look for how many jobs you’ve had and how long you worked there. Some encourage you to write about volunteering or extra-curricular activities. So what is the miracle formula? Below are some things to consider when thinking about what employers really look for.

Work experience

Some jobs will require you to have work experience, and some won’t mind training you from scratch. Generally, the more specialised jobs require a higher level of work experience, and often have a higher pay point. But everyone has to start somewhere! If you haven’t had a job before, it’s best to include activities on your resume which simulate job experience. This includes any volunteer work you’ve done in the past, extracurricular activities, or leading teams and groups. Volunteer work is great because it is similar to having a job in terms of structure, and expectation to show up on time and be organised. Include groups you’ve been a part of or led, as this shows you have a range of skills. If you have worked a job before, make sure you include a reference, outline the tasks you had and explain the skills you learnt. Teamwork is a great one to include. Even if the employer knows you haven’t had a job before, they know that you’ll be able to work well with their existing team, and won’t have any problems fitting in with the workplace culture. According to a study by NACE, 78.9% of employers in a study looked for teamwork qualities in a new employee.

Don’t be worried that a lack of previous work experience will hinder your chances or disadvantage you. Let them know that although you may not have had any job experience, you are willing to work harder to make up for this and are excited to learn new skills. Also, on the bright side, you haven’t yet picked up any bad work habits.

Personal skills

Communication, attitude and integrity are important, even in a part-time job. Employers value having an employee who will uphold the company standards and behave accordingly. This means having a positive attitude and being willing to work, even if the work seems hard. A hard worker will always be appreciated. Having integrity means doing the right thing, even when no one’s watching. This could be being honest with money when handling cash or owning up to something you’ve done wrong.

Everyone makes mistakes. For a lot of employers, how you handle the mistake is the make-or-break part, not the mistake itself. Chances are, the mistake has been made in the past by a previous employee. If you recognise that you’ve made a mistake and try your best to fix it, the employer will see that you’re unlikely to make that mistake again.

It’s sometimes hard to know whether employers want you to ask them what needs doing, or whether you should come up with your own tasks. This is particularly hard to gage in your first few months. Employers look for candidates who take initiative and follow instructions. They don’t want to have to babysit you, you’re there to do a job. But they also know that they’ll most likely have to teach you the skills for the job. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! This doesn’t mean that you’re incapable or incompetent but means that you want to do the job right.


According to The Guardian, the skill of organisation appears in nearly 100,000 job advertisements. It’s the skill of having everything ready at the right time and not being forgetful. Essentially, it is being prepared. For most of us, we lack organisational skills because we lack the time to organise. Employers are looking for candidates who prioritise being organised over other things you might do in your own time. Anyone can be one of those people who prioritise and are organised. For you, this might mean getting up an hour earlier, preparing work well before it’s due or keeping a diary to remind you of important tasks. An easy way to prove that you’re organised before you’re even employed is to be punctual to your interview. Arrive ten minutes early, make sure your phone is on silent, check you have your resume, references and other important documents. On your way to the interview, run through some questions that you might be asked, and prepare some things to say. It might help to write down a list of things you want the employer to know about you by the end of the interview. These might be things such as you’re willing to work weekends, you want to start straight away or you think you can bring something new to the business.


As with everything in life, we can’t apply one rule to all. It, of course, depends on the type of job you’re after, the employer and the market at the time. Just remember that you can only do your best. Employees that always try their best are the ones employers have time for, even if they need extra training or make mistakes.

- CR