What every job-seeker needs

We just had our biggest career fair of the year at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, with recruiters from more than 120 employers from a wide range of industries on campus to meet nearly 1,500 undergraduate business students. The things that can help students prosper are the things that make any job seeker successful — whether you are actively hitting job fairs, just landed an interview for your dream job, or you’re hoping to meet some new contacts at the next professional event or networking session.

Employers today are looking for savvy job candidates who possess leadership, strategic thinking, communication and creative problem-solving skills. Stand out from the competition and show that you have these skills. The six “Qs” below represent what every job-seeker needs to have and how to show them off when meeting potential employers:

1. IQ: Smarts and critical thinking skills. Companies are looking for people who can problem-solve at a high level. Executives want people who can strategize, recognize patterns and see the big picture. Showcase examples of how you exhibit these skills. Ask great questions – ones that demonstrate knowledge of the company and deep thoughtfulness. At the same time, it’s important to realize that while “smarts” may get you into the game, they are not enough to help you win in the war for talent. There are plenty of bright or clever people who have never made it because they lack social skills.

2. EQ: Emotional intelligence quotient. This is your ability to read your own emotions and adjust accordingly to stay even-keeled, guide your thinking, and build relationships. Your EQ is also your ability to read others’ emotions – your interpersonal savvy, including listening skills. At job fairs and interviews these things come into play in your ability to read a recruiter or interviewer and genuinely connect with them. Savvy candidates have already done their homework on the company and can spend time asking thoughtful questions about the interviewer and his or her professional background in the company. This effort will impress recruiters and really help you stand out. And stay in tune with how they are reacting to you – this will give you clues if you’ve been talking too long, for example, and when to wrap up and move on.

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3. PQ: Passion quotient. All employers are looking for passion. When meeting potential employers, convey that you have that “fire in the belly” because those are the people companies want to hire. What does passion look like? Used LinkedIn to research a recruiter before meeting them. Show excitement about the firm, smile and be animated. Companies are looking for people who will go above and beyond, and who aren’t just thinking of themselves when making an impact. The Gallup Corp. points to loyalty, psychological commitment (being “all in” on a firm), and discretionary behavior (volunteering to help other people, staying late when needed, etc.) to measure employee engagement. Give employers examples of how you’ll exhibit these traits when working for them.

4. CQ: Cultural quotient. You should be able to pick up on and adapt to cultural nuances in the way business is done in different counties or regions. This is important to multinational organizations and firms with offices in different regions of the United States. And it really is critical to be able to connect with co-workers with diverse backgrounds in any firm. In a job interview situation, this can come down to picking up on these differences and showing sensitivity. For example, assert yourself more with a New York recruiter or take time to make small talk with a Southern recruiter who might value that type of interaction.

5. CRQ: Courage quotient. A lot of leaders and CEOs who have spoken at the Smith School say they are looking for candidates who will challenge the status quo and ask the tough questions to push their organizations forward. They want employees that have the courage and conviction to speak up and back up their convictions when challenged. On the job, you will have to make tough calls – hiring, firing, etc. Best-selling author Patrick Lencioni suggests that such genuine openness and humility inspire trust, loyalty, and commitment. When interacting with a recruiter, show your courage by having the vulnerability, for example, to share an authentic response when asked the typical “Tell me about your greatest weakness” question.

6. IMQ: Improvisation quotient. This represents the ability to think outside the box, be curious, be adaptable, and do more with less. In changing and uncertain times, every employer wants people who can think on their feet, be flexible, and even innovate under times of duress, stress, or ambiguity. Be ready with examples of how you have done this in previous jobs. Demonstrate intellectual curiosity and expand your horizon by conducting informational interviews or shadowing business leaders in order to learn more about jobs, company cultures, and emerging trends. Recognize that research and networking can help you learn new things from a different perspective. Enroll in an Improv class to sharpen your creative thinking, active listening, risk-taking, and ability to flex and respond to unexpected events.

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All of these “Qs” play together and are each important to organizations. But how do you know which is the most important? Before you go on that job interview, find out as much as you can about the firm, the position and the people who will be conducting the interview. Visit companies’ websites. Read up on their mission and core values, understand the competencies and skills they are looking for, and talk to others who work there (or previously worked there). Leverage social media like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Glassdoor.com to get an inside look at a company’s culture. This will help you directly connect your skills and experiences to a firm’s needs. Then when you do come face-to-face with that employer, you’ll be ready to show off your “Qs” and how all of your skills align with what the company really wants.

Kudisch is assistant dean of corporate relations and managing director of the Office of Career Services at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business since 2010.