These Are the Skills You Need if You Want to Be Headhunted

Good old-fashioned communications skills go a long way with recruiters
Photographer: Getty Images

If you're marching into the new year ready to ace job interviews by boasting about the half-dozen startups you launched in school, reconsider your game plan. For all the career advice about the importance of entrepreneurial thinking and being a global citizen, data show that recruiters don't necessarily value cosmopolitan self-starters or even people with lots of industry credentials. What they do want: employees who can write clean e-mails, work in a team, and think analytically.

Bloomberg Businessweek polled 1,320 MBA recruiters from July to September of last year for our 2014 business school rankings. We surveyed recruiters in two dozen industries, from consulting to consumer products, so while we asked specifically about their preferences in MBA recruiting, their feedback likely applies to a wide pool of applicants for the same types of jobs. Recruiters in our survey could pick up to five skills from a list of 14 that they considered most important in applicants. The most commonly named asset was good communication, which 68 percent of recruiters sought, followed by analytical thinking (60 percent) and the ability to work collaboratively (55 percent). On the flip side, only 8.9 percent of recruiters listed entrepreneurship as one of their must-haves, 12.3 mentioned a global mindset, and 15.2 picked industry-related work experience. 


We also asked recruiters what skills were most difficult for them to find among job applicants. Recruiters ranked strategic thinking (47.3 percent), creative problem-solving (44.4 percent), and leadership skills (42.2 percent) highest in this category. Few said it was hard to spot driven candidates, probably because most job applicants in this economy aren't showing up to interviews apathetic about landing the job. 


Those who want to blow away recruiters should try to hone skills that are important to recruiters and hard to find. Three skills—creative problem-solving, strategic thinking, and leadership skills—were named as both important and hard to find by more than 40 percent of recruiters. If you made a New Year's resolution to get a competitive edge in your job search, figuring a way to lead groups at unraveling complex challenges in a creative way (become an Eagle scout leader?) would be a good start. 

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