FIVE Must-Have Attributes That Get You Hired!

Seven Attributes of a Winning Hire

Attribute #1: Communication Skills

Tom places this one first in his list of seven attributes. As a recruiter, I am constantly looking at client job descriptions that state that candidates must have “excellent communication skills.” I have gotten so used to seeing it that I rarely mention this as a requirement when describing a position, and this is a mistake because it is a critical skill area. Excellent communication skills refers to one-on-one verbal language skills, writing skills, presentation skills, and in general the ability to “convey thoughts, opinions, suggestions, questions, and answers in an appropriate and professional manner,” as Tom describes it.


Effective communication skills include “listening skills.” Let’s face it, listening is tough–particularly when you are sitting across from a prospective boss, nervous and feeling like you’d rather be in the dentist’s chair. I learned long ago that you must focus on the person in front of you–you need to listen intently to every nuance of every question that the interviewer asks. Moreover, if you listen well, then you will ask questions that are much more perceptive.

Attribute #2: An Ability and Willingness to Learn

Years ago, I came across a hiring manager who told me that his number one determination for a hire came from an applicant’s record of success in what he called “lifelong learning.” Tom brought this back to mind as he described how important it is to have demonstrated a commitment to lifelong learning. Do continued learning and development inspire you? What is it that you have learned recently? What do you want to learn in the future? These are the kinds of questions that employers ask, and the answers are important enough to be among Apotex’s top attributes for the winning hire.

Attribute #3: Team Skills

Most corporate employers believe that the major difference between academia and industry is the culture of teamwork that pervades industry. These employers believe that the “ivory tower” has too large an emphasis on independence as opposed to interdependence. This doesn’t have to be the case, however. Have you worked in a successful team-based environment?

Attribute #4: Customer Service

When I first read Tom’s slide that mentioned this particular attribute, I had a hard time understanding how this might be relevant for a job seeker who comes right out of academia. As I listened, I came to understand that this is indeed one of the most important differences for the person who is going to make it in industry. Who is it that benefits from the work that you do at the university? The principal investigator? The granting agency? These people are customers! A focus on customers and on customer service is essential in order to bridge the gap into your new job in industry.

Attribute #5: Initiative

Many companies will investigate this attribute through reference checking. They will ask your references these kinds of questions: Have you ever gone above and beyond the call of duty? What have you done to exceed the expectations of those whom you support? What kind of work hours do you keep