Critical Traits Employers Look for in Candidates in 2021


Amid what seems to be the worst of times for getting hired, job seekers worry about upskilling and supercharging their resumes with relevant experience. But it’s not all that matters.

There’s still a human side to the recruitment process, with employers looking for the so-called “niceness factor.” They argue that getting that first impression right and displaying the most important traits and qualities can elevate your chances of landing a job in 2021. 

Don’t believe it? Zety, arguably the world’s fastest-growing career advice site, confirmed it by polling over 200 US recruiters and hiring managers. Below are some of their key findings:

  • A full 83% of hiring managers consider a first impression to be a critical factor when making hiring decisions.
  • 52% of recruiters use personality tests and/or psychological profiling techniques to identify candidates’ traits.
  • Conscientiousness, agreeableness, trustworthiness, and confidence are the essential “X factor” that employers look for in candidates.
  • Job applicants that show loyalty, integrity, sincerity, and kindness are more likely to get hired.

A First Impression Matters

We’ve all heard that a first impression is worth its weight in gold.

After all, there are countless articles that riff on the theme of first impressions and why they are particularly important in the business setting.

But—there’s a good amount of truth in it. Human beings are wired to make a judgment about others during those first moments of meeting and a first impression can make or break a career opportunity.

In fact, as many as 83% of the surveyed recruiters and hiring managers agree that a candidate’s first impression plays one of the central roles in the hiring decision.

So—before your next job interview, focus on those crucial first seconds to make a good impression on the interviewer. A good place to start is to ensure your body language projects confidence and trustworthiness. Being conscious that your arms aren’t closed and retaining your eyes locked on the interviewer goes a long way in making your very first encounter a success.

10 Most Important Qualities Employers Look for

Next, Zety decided to ask recruiters and hiring managers about the specific character traits they look for in job applicants. Below are the results:

As you might have guessed, loyalty and integrity came out on top. After all, most employers place great importance on employees’ moral principles and generally their loyalty to their organization, as high turnover rates can deteriorate company-wide productivity and ultimately dent the bottom line.

Other top desirable character traits include sincerity, kindness, patience, emotional intelligence, tolerance, and open-mindedness, according to recruiters. 

So—it’s not enough to be great at your job. You also have to prove you’re a good person to land a job in 2021.

Lastly, Zety put in the legwork to discover if the character traits were universal or if they changed depending on candidates’ seniority levels. Below are the results:

Unsurprisingly, some qualities seem to be equally valuable no matter the seniority of the role. Hence, regardless of whether you’re an entry-level candidate or an old-timer with lots of experience under your belt, most recruiters will want you to be dependable, hard-working, and have a proven track record.

But—a few differences have stood out.

First, twice as many recruiters consider being detail-oriented important for entry-level candidates vs. experienced professionals. That makes sense. After all, most novice employees are tasked with practical tasks that require attention to detail. In contrast, employees that are high in the org chart are often tasked with “big picture” tasks, such as strategic planning and process streamlining.

Lastly, Zety found that recruiters and hiring managers place more value on being a fast learner, which increases from entry-level to junior roles and decreases from junior to senior.


Max Woolf is a career expert at Zety. His insights, advice, and commentary have been published by Forbes, Inc., MSN, Yahoo, USA Today, Fox News, The Ladders, Reader’s Digest, Glassdoor, Stanford, G2, Clutch, Foundr, and 200+ other outlets. Max’s mission is to help job seekers from all around the world develop their skills, find good career opportunities, and land jobs quickly and without much effort. You can hit him up on LinkedIn.

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