The Top Three Skills and Attributes Employers Seek
by Tom Washington

Toward the end of an interview, my client Sherry asked the hiring manager what three key skills or attributes the manager was seeking in the ideal candidate. The first response was “great question,” and the manager proceeded to answer it 1-2-3. With almost no time left in the interview, Sherry briefly stated how she possessed these attributes and then touched on them again in a well crafted thank you note. She didn’t get the position; but found an advocate who offered her an endorsement for the next opening in the department.

A few days later she told a friend about this technique who then passed it on to a person who had an interview the next day. This person’s interview went terribly. The hiring manager was gruff and rudely told the over-60 applicant, "You're not qualified." As the applicant was leaving, she stopped, turned, and asked the hiring manager: "Could I ask you one last question so I can improve in my next interview?" The hiring manager said yes. While standing at the door, the applicant asked, "What were the three key skills or attributes you were looking for in your top candidate? The hiring manager responded, "Great question. Sit down and I’ll tell you." The would-be candidate sat down, heard the top three skills, and with renewed energy, totally proved she had each of them in spades. She was offered the job on the spot.

Unusual outcome? Yes, definitely. But this is a powerful question and can be asked at any point in the interview. The question forces the interviewer to pause for a moment and consider, “What is it we really need in the ideal candidate? Forget what the job description says, what are the attributes that will guarantee that the person we hire will truly contribute to the organization?” And then the real truth pours out of the interviewer’s mouth. What you’ll hear is what they actually want and need.

To take advantage of this question, practice with someone. Go through three or four cycles. Each time you will ask your “interviewer” what three skills or attributes they most need.

Here’s how it works. Based on the job description, list qualities that might be critical to success and practice responding to them. Then ask your interviewer (friend, interview coach) to ask about those qualities plus any that the person can think of. So, some questions you’ll be prepared for, but others will surprise you and you’ll learn how effective you are in giving spontaneous answers. When you don’t have someone to interview you, you could close your eyes, move your finger and see what skill is being touched when you open your eyes. This forces you to practice responding with essentially no time to prepare.

If you want to become a star interviewee you need to practice extensively. There are folks who seem to always interview well, yet spend little time practicing. While this is true, I guarantee they would interview more effectively if they practiced.

For more on how to interview effectively, go to the home page and click on Interview Power on the right side of your screen, then read the following chapters: Project Enthusiasm and Potential (,  Master the Art of Story Telling (, Selling Yourself Through Accomplishments, and Sell Yourself (

Power by Masterpiece Studioz