The Single Thing Employers Want Most

Dependable? Team Player? Hard-working? Qualified? Experience?

These are some of the desired traits employers look for in their applicants. You’ll see in job postings and want ads a number of key qualities which come up again and again. Each requirement is in its own right necessary and desirable to be sure, but is there a single quality which is universally desired by employers? That one quality that every employer would like to see in every person they interview for the job?

I believe there is one quality, one characteristic which separates some applicants from the rest, and that quality is enthusiasm. I’ve written about this before, but it seems to me that this is one item that can’t be shared enough.

Of course you must have a licence to operate a Forklift, and you must have your Real Estate licence to sell Real Estate. If the job posting says you need a Bachelor’s Degree or you must have 5 – 10 years experience then yes that’s a must. However, when any company – even those with these kind of stipulations – gets right down to their shortlist of candidates to interview, they’re looking for that one individual who shows some honest drive and enthusiasm for the work to be done.

You see, if your enthusiastic about your work, you’ll put real effort into it and do more than the minimum required. You’ll show up with some positive energy, you’ll interact with your co-workers, customers and clients with enthusiasm, and if an employer can attract such people in a majority of their vacancies, the entire culture of the organization becomes one of enthusiasm, positivity and energy. In short, it becomes a great place to work, and the reputation of the organization rises as everyone who deals with the people who work there will think and speak highly of it.

Now think of your current or past workplace(s). Have you ever experienced the kind of workplace where people shuffled into work like they were part of a chain gang? Your co-workers had long faces, the very air seemed stuffy and the work was truly a monotonous drudgery? Did you ever feel like you were imprisoned at your desk with a ball and chain around your ankles? That kind of environment didn’t promote any real enthusiasm for the work, and anyone who tried to inject some was quickly shuffled off to another department or discouraged and ‘whipped’ into submission.

Contrast this picture with the kind of workplace where employees genuinely greet each other each day, smile naturally and find humour in their day and go about their work with real pride in what they do as being valued and contributing to the organizations goals. If you are wondering if such workplaces even exist anymore that alone is telling. Yes they do, and in abundance.

Now not everyone smiles naturally, and not everyone interprets humour in the workplace the same, and it’s not vitally critical that you be a ‘morning’ person and join all your co-workers at the water cooler for hugs and singing of kumbaya. If you find yourself more in this kind of demeanor you can still be enthusiastic in going about your daily activities.

From the employers point of view, enthusiasm in the workplace is staff showing up ready to work on time daily. It’s everyone pulling in the same direction to meet shared goals and targets. It’s minimal absences, harmony in the workplace, happy workers and workers who are engaged in the work they do. No matter what your role is, you should know how what you do contributes to the overall goals and purpose of the organization, and you should ideally take some personal pride in that work, meaning you do it to the best you are able.

So when training opportunities come up it means taking advantage of them. If the company offers to send some staff to a conference – sign up. If the company is launching some new initiative, get on board with enthusiasm rather than reluctance and apathy or even resistance.

If you get a chance to volunteer to work on revising some workshop, procedural manual or policy review, why not say yes every so often instead of saying no and then complaining about the result later?

The single biggest thing you can do of course to demonstrate some enthusiasm in the workplace is just to be positive. Being a positive force doesn’t mean being phony or insincere, but it does mean walking around and not being the energy drain in the office. You don’t want to be the cancer that everyone avoids because just speaking with you leaves people emotionally zapped.

Most employers tell me that specific skills can be taught, as can specific company policies and procedures. What is impossible to impart is genuine enthusiasm and a positive personality. Sometimes when employers have 2nd or 3rd interviews, they are no longer looking at your skills and qualifications, they are assessing your impact on the chemistry of the workplace you’ll be working in. If they deem you will upset or negatively impact what they are trying to work toward, you may not get the job offer. If on the other hand they see you as a positive contributing influence in the direction they are heading, welcome aboard!

Enthusiasm is something you should consider embracing in how you carry yourself. Not mandatory of course, but perhaps extremely desirable.

What does enthusiasm look like in your workplace?

3 thoughts on “The Single Thing Employers Want Most

  1. Hooray for positive psychology. This posting is an excellent example of how it should work to an employee’s or job seeker’s advantage. I am all for enthusiasm however there are certain caveats that readers should be aware of as they navigate the post. First, the language and tone of your article is reminiscent of someone who is continuing to promote the message and values of the 1970s and 80s when your points would make sense in the employment context of the time. You mention how qualities such as ‘enthusiasm’ may be reflected in the ‘chemistry’ of a second or subsequent interview. This is just another euphemism for the ubiquitous or infamous ‘job person culture ‘fit’ ‘ whereby subjectivity of interviewer (often not the actual person a candidate will be working for) gets to ‘play god’ in terms of the applicant’s employment fate. While this can go ‘both ways’, the fact is that even being positive and enthusiastic is usually not the thing that gets one the opportunities they are qualified for and interested in. Second, you suggest that this ‘enthusiasm’ should be used to leverage training and other unique opportunities within an organization and that employers acknowledge that they can train people for the skills required and knowledge of policies etc. OK. Great. But these are the very functions that are being first cut in climates of austerity. Often it is a choice between the ‘boss’ 20 yr old daughter and you for one post. Who gets it more often, no matter how upbeat one is? The fact is that is it important to be genuine, upbeat and put one’s best face forward but in reality, many other things come into play that you have no control over. I agree we have control over OUR own positivity, but please don’t try and dupe all readers into believing that this is the magic elixir to all job search struggles!


    1. Anna I appreciate your time in contributing to the feedback I receive. I have to take exception however with your closing comments stating that I am trying to dupe all readers into believing enthusiasm is the magic elixir to all job search struggles. I’ve never said at any time that is the panacea for every job search problem. My objective from day one has always been to provide hope for job seekers and those wanting to get ahead in their current careers. My advice is there for any and all and it’s based on my experience, my education and my current work as an Employment Counsellor. If you don’t mind, I’d appreciate it in the future if you would confine your feedback to what I’ve said rather than imply I’m suggesting something else. I understand from your previous feedback that you have strong post-secondary education and yet are unemployed yourself. Don’t rob others of optimism and hope if you yourself may have lost yours along the way. Many who count themselves in my readership don’t have the benefit of your advanced education and need help to improve their chances of finding employment. Respectfully.


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