Many people think “a job is just a job.” But, looking at the opportunity that has opened up since the labor market shifted in favor of employees, we can see how your approach your job search has the potential to help you re-write the direction of your future.

Rather than looking for your next, best dead-end job… what if you approached this as the first step into a career with a trajectory that could take you to the next level. The first question you need to ask yourself is: what exactly is it that a hiring manager is looking for? Here are some things that could help you as you answer that question:

1. Hiring managers want to know about your work ethic and how you take initiative.

It’s less about your specific work experience and more about the way you approach your work. Hiring managers want to know you can get the job done, not just that you’ve had experience doing it. They want to know that you’re proactive and look for ways to improve the workplace. They also want to know how you handle difficult situations, and whether or not you take ownership of your work.

2. A hiring manager looks for a person who is confident, open-minded and adaptable.

The hiring manager is looking for someone who can be a fast learner and will not complain about the workload as they make the transition from trainee to full team member. Flexibility in working with others is essential, as well as being open to learning new skills and tackling new projects.

3. Hiring managers look for people with good communication skills, both verbal and written.

This is especially important for entry-level applicants, who may not have a lot of work experience to draw on.

Good communication skills are key to success in any area of life, but they’re especially important in the workplace. Hiring managers look for people with strong communication skills because they know that these employees will be able to effectively interact with clients, coworkers, and managers.

Hiring managers want employees who can communicate effectively with clients and coworkers. If you can speak confidently and clearly, you’ll be able to build positive relationships with the people you work with. If you can write well, you’ll be able to communicate important information to your team and clients.

Strong communication skills are also essential for career growth. If you want to move up in your company, you’ll need to be able to effectively communicate with your boss and other

4. Hiring managers also want to see that you’re a team player.

Being a team player isn’t just about being able cultivate a good rapport with your superiors and peers, it’s also about being able to demonstrate that you can be dependable in taking care of your responsibilities and helping your teammates with theirs. If you have experience working on collaborative projects or have held leadership positions in school, community organizations, or sports teams, you should touch on these experiences when discussing your qualifications for the job.

One way to show that you’re a team player is by highlighting your problem-solving skills. They want to see that you have taken the time to think about how you would have approached a problem you encountered in the past. Did you work well with others on that project? Could you communicate your thoughts and ideas effectively? These are all the qualities leaders are looking for in a new team member.

If you’re not sure what kinds of questions will put your problem-solving skills to the test, come prepared with a few queries of your own. You could ask how the hiring manager would proceed if the person he or she was training on a project became ill; how the office would handle an unexpected absence; or what steps he or she can take to avoid miscommunication between departments.

5. They want candidates who are honest and ethical in their dealings with others.

Managers have to be able to trust that their team members are going to behave in an appropriate manner and that they can be counted on to do the right thing. Dishonesty or unethical behavior can quickly ruin a team’s morale and cause a lot of problems.

They may ask you to describe a time when you were faced with a difficult choice, and why you made the choice you did. Don’t misrepresent yourself or your skills, and be truthful about your qualifications. Be honest in your interviews and don’t try to mislead the interviewer in any way.

If you can demonstrate that you are someone who behaves with integrity and honesty, it will go a long way towards proving that you are the right person for the job.

6. They would like someone who has been successful previously in similar positions or tasks.

Direct experience isn’t necessarily an expectation for an entry-level position, but it is helpful if you can show how something you have been doing in another job or area of responsibility has taught you skills that would be useful in the workplace.

In an entry-level position, problems will crop up and it is expected that you will quickly learn how to get them solved. If your previous experience showed you learning quickly and being able to handle these kinds of issues, it would be a plus. 

7. They want to know if you’re a good fit for the company’s culture.

“Culture” isn’t just a buzzword in truly successful companies. They have invested a lot of time, money and effort in creating a place where every employee feels like they are an integral part of the organization.

Managers need to be confident that a new hire will become an essential part of that culture. If you can convince your hiring manager that you are not only the person for the job, but that you feel like their culture was created just for you, you’ve got a much better chance of landing the job.

8. They want to know that you have what it takes to do the job.

While being a great fit for the culture and a solid team player are important, ultimately the manager needs to believe that you can do the job. They’ll be looking for evidence that you have the skills and experience required to do the job. Mindset is also a critical factor when it comes to employer confidence— are you willing to learn, are you coachable and open-minded and do you have a growth mindset? Do all of those parts of you add up to someone who is going to be a good long-term investment for the company?

9. They want to see your qualifications.

Sometimes, even for an entry-level position, there are qualifications that matter. It is reassuring to have verifiable proof that you can do the job.

Hiring managers look for the credentials required by the job posting, but there’s more to it than just having credentials. References, letters of recommendation and transcripts – these documents indicate that others have trusted you with their resources. If someone will vouch for your work ethic or commit to your character, it can go a long way towards offsetting a lean or incomplete employment history.

10. They want you to be able to think on your feet and solve problems.

While a manager knows that proper training will be required, they want to know they won’t have to stay by your side and hold your hand. They want you to be able to think on your feet and solve problems. This means they’ll likely ask you some questions during the interview process that will test your problem-solving skills.

Some common questions are “What would you do if…” or “How would you handle….”. Be prepared for these questions and have some examples ready of situations where you have had to adapt to the unexpected or solve problems, even if that experience isn’t directly work-related.

To sum up, all a hiring manager really wants to know is that bringing you onboard is going to reduce his or her headaches, not add to them. If all ten aren’t in your toolbox at the moment, it’s not necessarily a deal breaker… but working on these ten will open up more opportunities to you. The best way to show this is by being able to communicate that you are a great fit for the company culture, have the skills required for the job and are someone who is willing and able to learn. If you can show all of these things, you’ll be well on your way to landing that job!