Turns out, nice people don’t always finish last. When it comes to job qualities in 2021, you need to show you’re a “good person” from the second you walk into the interview. That’s what career site Zetsy summarizes from its 2021 study on Traits and Qualities Employers Look For. Zetsy calls it the “niceness factor.” It involves several different job qualities, including loyalty, integrity, sincerity, and kindness.
Suppose you have these job qualities in spades. Great! Now, the hard part: How do you convey them, especially on a resume or within the first critical seconds of meeting a hiring manager?
Job Qualities Employers Want to See
We’ll be nice and cut to the chase. Zetsy settled on the “niceness factor” as the theme for their list since most attributes ranked high can be grouped into that category.
These job qualities include:
Emotional Intelligence (37%)
To us, persistence is the only attribute that doesn’t directly tie back to the “niceness factor.” In fact, it can be counter-intuitive if you don’t know how to balance it with these other traits. When Indeed conducted a similar study recently, their findings were nearly the same. Honesty, loyalty, dependability, teamwork, and flexibility rose to the top along with communication skills, self-reliance, eagerness to learn, and work ethic.
Want to “Nice” Your Resume? Leave Breadcrumbs
We know what you’re thinking: But how can I convey these qualities on my resume or application? That’s hard to do, but it’s not impossible. Make no mistake that a resume’s primary purpose is to match you to the job’s skills and experience. What’s most imperative about your resume is that it speaks to the qualifications listed in the job description first-and-foremost. It needs to concisely and correctly convey that you’re qualified for the job, not how friendly you are.
After that mission is accomplished, leave “breadcrumbs,” hinting at your niceness. Start by looking for the company’s values on its website and other clues within the job description that will tell you which factors they value most. Use your experience section, accomplishments section, and perhaps even the cover letter to highlight these same traits. For example, if the quality is loyalty, be sure any long periods at previous companies are apparent. If the quality is kindness, don’t forget to mention your award for kitten rescuer of the year as an accomplishment (if it’s true, of course – remember that honesty is also a coveted trait).
Your First Impression Matters
Your resume is meant to get you in the door for an interview. It’s at that point, says Zetsy, where your niceness will start to shine. Its survey shows 83% of employers feel your first impression is an essential factor in being hired.
How do you show you’re friendly in the first few seconds of an interview? Indeed suggests these five steps:
- Be prepared by researching the company and practicing for the interview.
- Arrive on time (whether you’re arriving in-person or virtually).
- Dress professionally (again, no matter how you’re being interviewed – even if you’re logging in from your couch).
- Use good posture and maintain good eye contact.
- Use a friendly greeting along with a firm handshake.
The first three are imperative to showing respect; something nice people show naturally. Using good posture and eye contact conveys confidence, which Zetsy points out is a critical complementary trait. And a warm, friendly greeting is vital for building trust right out of the gate.
Keeping the “Nice” Flowing
After that, employers will be looking for these critical traits:
- In the questions they ask. Behavioral interview questions can be incredibly revealing, including “Tell me about a time you failed,” and then there’s the dreaded “Why should we hire you?”
- With personality assessments. About half of the Zetsy respondents use personality tests or psychological profiling techniques to identify candidates with the traits they want to see.
- In the days after your interview. Our own recruiters identify this time as critical. Did you follow up with a thank you note or email? Are you rude to staff following up with you? Did you make unrealistic counteroffer requests?
- In their background research. Employers may check your public social media behavior for red flags. And they may ask your job references to testify on how they feel you match their idea of nice.
Balancing It All
Now, here’s where things get tricky. Rarely will you stumble upon a job in which only niceness counts. Remember that mingled with kindness, loyalty, and sincerity are other desired job qualities, including adaptability, persistence, emotional intelligence and self-reliance.
How can you show you have both soft and edges? Balance Careers Contributor Alison Doyle offers tips that can help. She frames it as answers to the interview question, “Are you nice?” The scary thing is, it’s often a trick question.
“There is such a thing as being considered too nice,” Doyle writes. “Unfortunately, being nice can be considered a detriment as well as an asset. Companies don’t always want to hire the nicest people for tough jobs.”
However, in almost every instance, showing that you can be both nice and tough—and have the emotional intelligence to decide when to tap into each—is the best tactic. If you feel that the interviewer is looking to weed out “pushovers,” the article suggests answering with an example like this:
“While I am known to be understanding and cooperative, I am also known for being firm and setting high expectations for my employees. For example, I recently dealt with an employee who consistently turned in reports late and incomplete. After meeting with him to discuss how he could improve on his reports, he still failed to meet my expectations. Eventually, I fired him. While this was difficult, it was ultimately the right decision for the company and even for the struggling employee. I value being fair but firm over being ‘nice’ in the workplace.”
Of course, always follow your gut. Don’t lie (pretending to be someone you’re not never works out well). And seek out organizations with company cultures and values that match your own. When you do that, your personality will shine through no matter what.
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