Top ten things employers are looking for

Fri, 26/04/2013 - 12:23 -- nick

Adzuna, the online search company, and The Guardian have got together to work out what employers are really looking for.

Adzuna searched for the words most often used in job adverts, and The Guardian's Leo Benedictus writes on what they really mean.

Below are ideas from Benedictus and others on what employers are looking for, together with UnemployedNet's ideas.

One thing to remember is that job descriptions are sometimes created by committee, and ideas can be thrown in because they were mentioned at a meeting rather than because they are important to a job.

But if they are mentioned you need to address them, and each section below will tell you how.

'1) Organised

Number of adverts it appears in (according to Adzuna) 99,862

Average salary for jobs requiring the skill £34,479

By far the most frequent term on the list, and one of the most forbidding. "My interpretation is that you are going to have a heavy in-tray," says Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University. "You're going to have a lot thrown at you, and you'd better be able to prioritise."

A CV emphasizing that you're used to working hard – and showing enthusiasm for it if you're called for interview – is probably a good plan here.


You might have to work with a team that is highly organised - and wants you to fit in - or highly disorganised - and wants your help. Your CV should mention if you have created or used systems, such as online databases, for previous employers.

2) Communication skills

Number of job adverts it appears in 68,064

Average salary £31,923

It is ironic that the ability to be understood should be described with a phrase that is so opaque. In some jobs it may refer specifically to giving confident presentations to lots of people, in which case emphasise that; it may also be a way of saying "social skills" – a vital element that employers are oddly reluctant to specify.

"I think there is a degree of emotional intelligence in there," says Kirwan Hack from career management consultants Fairplace Cedar. Clearly it is hard to demonstrate this on a CV, other than by being articulate and clear, but it is useful to show that you are used to handling people. "The important thing is to demonstrate the different audiences you are used to communicating with," Hack says. "The more breadth you have, the more convincing it is."


You'll probably be working with sociable people, or will need to speak to people a lot on the phone and perhaps in person. You CV should show excellent phone skills, one-to-one communication skills, and don't forget those writing skills.

3) Motivated

Number of job adverts it appears in 65,011

Average salary £30,905

A strange one, yet the third most popular. By definition, any candidate who applies for a job is motivated to get it, so this means demonstrating something more pronounced. In part it may be a strategy by an employer to put off all but the most eager applicants; it may also be a way of warning that you are going to have to work independently, and often find your own tasks.

"'Don't expect me to molly-coddle you'," is Cooper's interpretation. "You'd better have initiative and be a self-starter." Show off this aspect of yourself as much as you can.


This is often a buzzword used without much thought. Of course employers want employees who are keen to be there. Telling them how motivated you are is a job for your covering letter, which you can use to sell yourself as a person.

4) Qualified

Number of job adverts it appears in 58,955

Average salary £34,837

There shouldn't be much ambiguity over whether you are a qualified accountant or a qualified nurse, say, but being qualified for some other jobs may be a matter of opinion ("Exactly what is a qualification to be a manager?" Cooper asks, for instance.)

If there is no recognised certificate in your field, assume the word is an invitation to showcase your experience. If a certificate exists, however, don't stop there. "Often the qualification is used as a baseline," Hack says. "But if I'm looking at that I want to see how it's been applied … if there's something about how they've actually used their learning in the role that is an added extra."


If you don't have the specific qualifications asked for, don't forget that many jobs will allow equivalent experience instead. If you can prove that, although you don't have a management qualification, you have been working as a manager for five years, you could be in with a chance. Don't forget to name the tasks you carry out.

5) Flexible

Number of job adverts it appears in 56,551

Average salary £29,007

"I think we're going to see this word used more often," Cooper says. And certainly, in a stagnant economy, it has become more common for workplaces to be understaffed, requiring people not only to do their jobs but to be flexible enough to take on others here and there. "It's mucking in," Cooper says. "Being willing to do things outside your level of competence, either up or down."

Evidence of working that way in past jobs would therefore be good on your CV, and show bags of enthusiasm in the interview. Anyone can be flexible – the question is how grumpy they will be about it.


You'll need to be ready to do things outside your job description, including potentially working more than your contracted hours. Employers can't legally ask you to do this so have to find roundabout ways. Again, your covering letter can help here, so tell them how keen you are to work outside your job description if that's true.

6) Degree

Number of job adverts it appears in 54,049

Average salary £38,780

Given that about a quarter of the UK population has a university degree, it's no longer a strong selling point on its own – and means very little once you've been working for a few years. As such, employers asking for a degree are probably just trying to make their workload manageable. "They're going to get so many applications, I think it's a sifting thing," Cooper says, adding: "You could say you're 'educated to degree level' even if it wasn't to the point of obtaining your degree.")


As with 'qualifications' above, if you have equivalent experience, particularly working in a degree-level job for five years or more, you could still be considered.

7) Commitment

Number of job adverts it appears in 49,686 (+10% since 2012)

Average salary £30,709

"This is really about how you demonstrate the energy and fire you have for the role," Hack says. Again, this may well be because you'll be expected to work long hours and do less enjoyable things when necessary. An employer asking for commitment may also be hoping to find someone who will stay for a while rather than using the job as a stepping stone elsewhere. Proving these things is going to be a matter for the interview, because the terms are easily parroted on paper.

"I look at a lot of CVs," Hack says, "and to be honest I tend to skip past a lot of these words because you're not going to get it from a CV. But if you say it about yourself you're going to have to demonstrate it at the next stage."


Again, a covering letter can help you sell your qualities as a potential employee. Tell them how keen you are to have the job and how fantastic you think their company is, with examples of great things it has done as reasons why you want to join.

8) Passionate

Number of job adverts it appears in 47,971

Average salary £28,762

This is in the same territory as "commitment" and "motivated", but has a more extrovert flavour, according to Cooper. With the lowest associated average salary it also suggests that the applicant's passion may be relied on to motivate them as a substitute for money. "If I put that on the list I'd want someone who really cares about working in the public sector, the third sector, or whatever it is," Cooper says. "In other words, 'We expect that you're here not just because you've been unemployed for nine months.'" At interview, that's what you'll have to show, or simulate.


As with commitment above, use the covering letter to sell your passion for the work you're applying for, including your devotion to customers and desire to go the extra mile.

9) Track record

Number of job adverts it appears in 40,471

Average salary £39,156

This phrase is associated with the highest average salary on the list, which makes sense because it's probably being used by employers who are willing to pay for the finished article. "You want to see that people have been though the mill," Hack says, "either in your particular sector or something similar."

As a result you will have high expectations to meet when the jobs starts. "It's a scary one because it could say, 'If you don't, you're gone,'" Cooper says.


All CVs should include track record or work history. A track record tends to show particular achievements in a sector, but these requirements are filtering down through less well paid jobs now. Emphasise your achievements, any awards you have received, and quotes of praise from influential people in your sector.

10) Innovative

Number of job adverts it appears in 36,581

Average salary £37,680

Clearly some jobs require people to be creative all the time, but in most cases "innovative" will mean something rather different. "The last thing they want you to do is be a free thinker," Cooper says. Hack suggests the term is really asking, "Are you a problem solver? Can you think of good ways to get through the issues and challenges you're going to face?"

To demonstrate that you are, he recommends dropping some brief hints on your CV about times when you have dealt with a difficult challenge. "You don't need to explain how you did it," Hack says. "That'll come out at the interview."'


Some jobs really do want you to be able to contribute new ideas for the way to do things, so give examples in your CV of any new processes you have come up with, new product ideas or new ways of contacting customers.

Via The Guardian