The right attitude counts

What employers want

By Cara Jenkin    

Enthusiasm and preparation is what South Australian employers are looking for in their new workers, employment insiders say.

The old adage that a jobseeker needs experience in the job no longer is preventing many staff from finding work, as many employers prefer any experience in the workplace and a willingness to work for them.

Insiders in the employment market, who deal daily with employers, say bosses want to hire a worker who wants their job, not just any job.

They are calling for jobseekers to take the time to show their prospective boss they are serious about working for their company by showing them a hard-working attitude.

Education, Employment and Workplace Relations department local employment co-ordinator Pippa Webb says a March survey of 250 employers in Adelaide’s north and west found half of those who had hired in the previous six months had difficulty finding staff.

She says 7.1 per cent of the vacancies went unfilled.

A lack of work experience was the most common reason only 19.5 per cent of applicants were found to be suitable for the job, even though many jobs were medium to low-skilled work such as cleaners and factory process workers.

More than one third, or 35 per cent, of employers labelled “personal traits and qualities”, such as a positive attitude, communication and teamwork skills, motivation and reliability, as the most important qualities jobseekers can show, Ms Webb says.

She says that compares with 23 per cent who identify technical skills as most important and 41 per cent who place equal importance on personal traits and technical skills.

“One of the issues that’s coming through is employers . . . think they want someone with technical skills and then they put them in the team and find out the team doesn’t work too well,” she says.

“I think employers are also interested in personal motivation, communication, teamwork and reliability.”

Retailworld Resourcing chief executive John Caldwell says the amount of experience employers seek depends on the position.

“Nine times out of 10, they are looking for an attitude,” he says.

“They are really looking for hard workers and there’s not a lot of that going on these days.”

He says workers referred by recruitment firms usually have the skills required, so employers interview staff to find an attitude and personality which fits in with their business.

They also will sacrifice a lack of experience if they find the right person who fits in with the workplace culture, he says.

Mr Caldwell says preparation is the key to showing employers the applicant is serious about working for the company.

Australian Institute of Management SA chief executive John Stokes says attention to detail on applications, such as having correct names, company and job titles, can help jobseekers get an edge over others.

Looking enthusiastic and motivated in a job interview can get an employer’s attention, he says. “It isn’t rocket science.”

“If a jobseeker can investigate (the company), it’s a positive. It shows the person is interested in the job,” he says. “Most employers are not interested in people who don’t want to be there.”

Recruitment firm Talent2’s head of contracting Michael Clark says a resume gets a jobseeker’s foot in the door but the interview is where they can win the position, so preparation is the key.

Employers also want staff who fit the culture, he says.

“You can generally teach someone the job/skills and therefore getting someone that is going to fit is a priority,” he says.

“Having said this, if you have the technical skill also then you are a standout for the position.”

McMahon Services building services manager Shaun Emery hired project manager Carlos Neves three months ago because he had experience and showed energy.

Mr Emery says he usually seeks experience in the market but the right personality and approach to the business also is essential.

“I can teach anyone how to build something but I need to have the right personality to blend in with the corporate clients that we have,” he says. “(Good staff) are out there. It’s trying to get that right blend for us.

“It does have its challenges, no doubt about that.”


* Honesty: A quality most employers want in employees, even if it means jobseekers have to confess unfavourable past experiences or unflattering traits about themselves to a prospective boss.

Retailworld Resourcing chief executive John Caldwell says many employers can spot false claims made in a resume or often discover them when they check a jobseeker’s references.

“Even if they left the job in unfavourable circumstances, they are better off saying `I was young and irresponsible and naive but now I am grown up’ rather than having an employer find out otherwise in a reference check,” Mr Caldwell says.

* Communication: Employers want to know their staff are keen to work, and seek reliable workers.

Northern and western Adelaide local employment co-ordinator Pippa Webb says any questions or issues should be communicated as early as possible to prevent misunderstandings.

For example, workers who cannot complete their shift because of various personal problems, from illness and childcare issues to a lack of transport, should call their boss and outline the reasons for absence, instead of not turning up to work.

“Most employers would understand,” she says.

* Want that job: Employers do not want staff who want to work, they want employees who want to work for them.

Jobseekers should focus on quality rather than quantity to give each application more attention.

They should prepare for an interview by dressing according to the business field, tailoring answers to their work environment and learning about the company, such as through accessing its website.

Mr Caldwell says workers who are nervous or shy in interview settings need to practise and learn interview skills by completing online programs.

“People don’t take it seriously but it really does help,” he says.

“For a job in the fashion industry, a suit can count against you when someone else dresses in their brand.”

* Any experience: Any kind of work experience or casual work can get an employer’s notice.

Australian Institute of Management chief executive John Stokes says an entry-level casual job, such as at a fast food outlet, can give workers a leg up, showing customer service experience, exposure to team work and can demonstrate a work history.

“They need to persevere, where they find some casual work and part-time work to demonstrate they understand what work’s about,” he says.

“It just demonstrates to the employer that they have some exposure and gone out and got some work experience that they couldn’t get, in terms of getting their first full-time role.”

Article from The Advertiser, November 6, 2010.

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