Five Attributes HR People Are Looking For

Why do you need to know how HR people screen job seekers? You need to know because it helps you prepare for job interviews!

There are five core attributes that HR people screen for. You need to know what those attributes are in order to be fully prepared. The five attributes are:

* Experience
* Conceptual power
* Character
* Job-related skills
* Education


Why do so many HR people put emphasis on having relevant experience? It is because this is the easiest way to investigate whether or not a candidate is suitable for the job.

Is it accurate to judge by this criterion only? No. Past experience can be misleading. Good performance in the past does not guarantee satisfactory performance in the future. For one thing, there are many components of past success. Senior management support, market conditions, the company’s market position, etc. are all factors that went into a person’s past performance. If those things change, the person might not succeed as well as they did in the past.

When I conduct training for HR people, I always remind them of this.

Conceptual Power

Experienced HR people look for candidates with high levels of conceptual power. Conceptual power is the ability to summarize and learn from past experiences, and to use that knowledge to adapt to future similar, or even dissimilar, problems and situations.

How do HR people discover whether or not a candidate has conceptual power in a job interview? The most common way is to ask the candidate behavioral questions. If the candidate shows an ability to draw conclusions and lessons from past experiences, then they are likely to possess the conceptual power to perform well in the future.
Here are some sample behavioral questions taken from my book “A Better Job Interview - Questions and Techniques”:

* If a colleague in another department disliked your staff, how would you handle the situation?
* If you are involved in a difficult technical troubleshooting task, what do you do?
* If you knew that the fault was on your customer’s side while doing customer service, what would you do?
* If your teammates committed mistakes in a project deployment, would you lay the blame on them? How would you manage that?
* If your boss questioned you about a serious customer complaint, how would you handle it?
* What would you do if your staff members did not perform to your standards?


It is obvious that different types of jobs require people with different personality traits. We know that auditing or bookkeeping jobs require people who can focus on details. It is not difficult to see that a sales job requires people with more of a focus on results.

How can HR professionals discern the character traits of a person? Either they conduct a personality test such as the one we have on our website at or they can simply ask questions to test the candidate’s core system of values. HR people might ask where the candidate would go if they had a long vacation, and why they chose that place.

Here are some other examples of questions that are useful to draw out character details:

What is the most important personal goal in your career?
Would you take more risks if they could lead to greater achievement?
Name the people in your life who have had the most influence on you.

There is not always a definitive match between a particular job and a particular personality type. Job designers have to think about the subtle and unique nature of each job, and then decide what specific attributes a person needs to be a good fit for the position.

If you take the Enneagram test, writeto me after you have taken the test and I can discuss whether your specific Enneagran type suits the job you are thinking about.

Job-Related Skills

The direct way to test a job seeker for a particular skill is to give them a test. For example, if the job you are applying for requires a lot of analysis of financial data, the employer can examine your ability by asking you to run an analysis of some sample company data in Microsoft Excel.

Accordingly, it is wise to prepare yourself for predictable tests before you attend a job interview. It is not difficult to find out if the company plans to administer tests to you. Ask the HR staff about this. Sometimes, the tests are scheduled as a separate session in a series of interviews. Just make sure you ask your prospective employer about tests, and be prepared for any tests they give you.


The key to effectively presenting your educational background is to include only relevant information for your job application, and to emphasize those areas in which you have done well. You can refer to a special report written for you HERE.

From the Desk of
Damen Choy

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