How to Get Hired: What Companies Look for in 2024

Candidates should focus on their soft skills to get hired, as employers are looking for qualities that Artificial Intelligence (AI) cannot provide.

While there has been much emphasis on upskilling and being tech-savvy, candidates should focus on their soft skills to get hired, as employers are also paying more attention to evaluating qualities that Artificial Intelligence (AI) cannot provide. 

In the new AI-driven world, what are companies now looking for in candidates? And how should job-seekers and employees adjust to cope with the evolution and get hired? The Business Manual spoke to a Senior Recruitment Director to find the answers, and discover what companies want from candidates in 2024.  

Hybrid Skills

While companies used to prefer specialized skills to custom-fit to certain roles, Louise Foronda, a Director at Global Executive Solutions Group (GESG) shares that, except for highly technical jobs, companies now prefer candidates with less specialized but varied skills and experience, which they can bring to the role. “There’s an increasing preference for the integration of skills, such as a combination of sales-finance-strategy roles.” This means employees need to be more dynamic, and develop skills and qualities that they previously thought were unnecessary for their position.

It also means that employers have become less rigid. They are now more open to looking at transferable skills, and hiring someone from a different industry. For instance, banks are now more open to hire non-bankers from other industries such as FMCG, insurance, or shared services who may bring a different perspective to the role. “This hybrid or integration of skills is part of allowing change and transformation. If we look a few years back, searches were more targeted,” adds Foronda.

Executive Presence

Appearance matters. You must look professional and capable. “I can only describe it as executive presence. It’s a certain elegant confidence [that employers are looking for]. Especially for middle managers and higher. You are positive and confident, but not arrogant or overbearing,” explains Foronda. Even past studies in human behavior have shown that even before someone opens his or her mouth, an individual’s credibility and authority is already judged based on appearance.

Culture Fit

The candidate’s experience, personality, and values need to align with the organization’s culture. This will determine the candidate’s longevity in the company. In the course of the interview, the person hiring is already asking himself/herself “Will this person last in the company?” If being interviewed by the person you will be reporting to, the future boss is also considering if your personalities match, and how well you would get along with him/her, and the rest of the team.

As part of the team, the candidate will also be part of the company’s branding, and must therefore reflect their culture and values well.

Soft Skills

Aside from meeting the required skills and experience for the job, there are several soft skills most companies are looking for:

  • Communication Skills

Communication ranks number one on LinkedIn’s 2024 list of overall most in-demand skills. The business-oriented social media platform explains that the current transformation into a hybrid work environment has made the ability to communicate well more crucial than ever before. This does not only mean being fluent and articulate, but also means being able to communicate with compassion and empathy. In fact effective and diplomatic communications could affect relationships across all stakeholders, from one’s superiors and team members, down to the customers and the general public.

  • Growth Mindset

In order to adjust to the digital age, companies are trying to be more dynamic and adaptable themselves, which is why they look for candidates who are energetic, agile, and possess a growth mindset, that can keep up with the more hi-tech and fast-evolving work environment.

  • Malleability  

With technology constantly changing how work is done, malleability has become essential. In fact, in a recent LinkedIn survey, adaptability and agility were identified as some of the most crucial skills for both people and organizations today. For an employee, this connotes several qualities: adaptability to a new role or to new skills required, ability to multi-task, and ability to roll up one’s sleeves to get a job done.

  • Solution-Oriented

Companies are looking for critical thinkers, who can solve problems creatively, think out of the box, and find better ways of doing things.

A Meeting of the Minds

At a certain point in the interview, the interviewer will try to sense if you two connect in any way, much like in a first date. He/she will be determining if your views match, and how much you have in common. To increase the chances of success, Foronda advises reading about the company beforehand — know their businesses, philosophy, any news about them, and everything that can ensure a more engaging and productive discussion. “Determine what you can bring to the table. Read the energy of the interviewer and the personality, and ask questions,” adds Foronda.

The X-Factor

When given a choice among several highly qualified applicants, Foronda admits it usually boils down to one simple thing- Likeability. “It’s the energy, relatability, and ability to connect positively with people,” she explains. “Either the person has it or not.”

To be more “likeable,” Foronda suggests just being honest, transparent, and authentic during the interview.

The Sore Point

Although laws have been enacted to avoid discrimination based on age, gender, handicap, and race, some hiring managers admit that it still exists, especially in a developing country like the Philippines. Shiela, an HR Director in a large corporation who requested anonymity, shares that corporations are usually hesitant to hire candidates nearing retirement age, despite their experience and skills. Jaymie, a Senior Marketing Manager with another corporation agrees. She recalls a time when their department selected a candidate in her fifties for a vacancy in the department, deeming her the most qualified among the applicants, but the recommendation was turned down by their CEO. “She was the most qualified among the applicants, but the CEO found her too old,” she says.   

In terms of gender bias, some hiring managers admit some employers still deem certain jobs as more suitable for men than women. But Foronda says they are now seeing more openness and flexibility compared to 10 years ago. “It will still take time,” she admits. “But it is, at the very least evolving and growing.”

Despite the setback, Foronda encourages candidates to not let the biases weigh them down. Instead, she says focus on the things within your control, such as constantly updating your skills and building your network.

The Moment of Truth

If you do pass the interview and make it to the shortlist, the next step would be the character check. Here, it is worth noting that many companies do not solely rely on your written character references. Instead, they love to randomly call their own contacts from your industry, including people and former bosses you may have purposely left out, to try to excavate everything they can to unearth the real you. This is where a good reputation and good working relations come into play. “Just maintain good connections,” says Foronda. “Be a good person.” So at the end of the day, character still counts the most, and nice guys (or girls), don’t always finish last, after all.

Louise Foronda is a headhunter with two decades of experience in the industry1

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