What Employers Want: 12 HR Hot Buttons

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 18, 2012

The competition is fierce in today's job market, and standing out in the crowd is more important -- and challenging -- than ever before.

How do you know you're giving employers exactly what they are looking for? This article explores 12 human resources hot buttons.

Hot Button 1: Results

Today's employers are less concerned with your past experience and responsibilities. Instead, they want to know what you've actually accomplished.

Use plenty of words in your resume and interview that end in the letter "d" -- "developed," "initiated," "led," "increased."

Hot Button 2: Figures and numbers

Potential employers don't want vague assertions. Be prepared when you speak with them to deliver concrete numbers, figures, and statistics.

Did you decrease ad spending in your last position? Increase revenue? Have percentages and dollar amounts at hand.

Hot Button 3: Awards and accolades

This holds true whether you are an entry-level employee or a high-level executive with tons of experience.

If you've won awards or been recognized for excellence, make sure potential employers are aware.

Awards and accolades show you strive for -- and ultimately achieve -- success, as well as stand out among your peers.

Hot Button 4: A blog or website

A blog or website can position you as an expert in your field, can showcase accomplishments, and can highlight good communication skills.

Just be sure that your blog or website is professional, and don't write about anything you wouldn't want potential employers to know.

Hot Button 5: Staying power

HR departments like to see a trend in which an employee stays at companies for several years, with promotions and upward movement, before moving on.

HR departments are wary of a pattern that shows several jobs in which you lasted two years or less.

Hot Button 6: Up-to-date skills and education

Have you kept up with certifications? Can you demonstrate that you've kept up with your field or industry's cutting-edge technology?

When separating the wheat from the chaff, employers look for those with the most current skills and education.

Hot Button 7: Ideas and initiative

Organizations that are willing to spend extensive time and money hand-holding new employees are few and far between.

Instead, most companies expect new employees to hit the ground running.

Don't wait for them to tell you what they need, or what are looking for. If you can offer them solutions and ideas to solve current problems they are experiencing, their interest in you will skyrocket.

Hot Button 8: Attitude

HR departments are attracted to people who are enthusiastic, flexible, and positive.

Avoid criticizing past or current employers or co-workers. Instead, focus on what you liked about past employers and co-workers, and what you learned from them.

Hot Button 9: Leadership skills

These skills are not reserved for those in management positions only.

New employees, those with little responsibility, and even those at the bottom of the command chain can demonstrate leadership skills by showing how they've improved a process or product, contributed ideas, or come up with solutions to problems.

Hot Button 10: Growth potential

HR departments like to see candidates who routinely go beyond their job descriptions. 

Highlight situations in which you went beyond your comfort zone, and you'll be seen as someone who is willing to go above and beyond to attain success.

Hot Button 11: Creativity

The ability to creatively solve problems and think outside the box is a valued skill that may HR departments look for, especially during today's economy when slashed budgets and a reduced workforce make meeting goals even more challenging.

If you have a track record of solving a wide variety of problems using creative solutions, be sure the potential employer is aware.

Hot Button 12: Hobbies

Yes, employers want to know that you have a life outside of work.

A devotion to hobbies and interests show that you are passionate, committed to success, and makes you more intriguing to the human resources department.

Are you competitive sailor who has traveled the world vying for titles? A former kickboxing champion? A watercolor artist? Who wouldn’t want to meet you and get to know you better?

Push their buttons and get that job

You know you could do a great job, but you need to convince potential employers.

One way to up the odds that the HR department picks you out of a competitive crowd is to push their hot buttons. Best of luck!