What Employers Want: Detail-Oriented Employees

Today’s post will be the last in this series about “What Employers Want,” which has spanned two months and covered more than a dozen different skills that are frequently included on lists of requirements in job ads. This final topic describes what it means to be detail oriented, and makes suggestions for how you can demonstrate that you have this attribute.

In it’s most basic sense, being detail oriented meanings paying attention to the small things—the details—involved in any project. But it really means a lot more than that. People who are detail oriented typically like to look at topics—or problems—from a variety of angles, seeking out as much information as they can before arriving at a conclusion or deciding on a course of action. They like to think about cause and effect: Why did this happen? What might happen if we do this? How would this action affect other areas?

In addition, they are people with the patience for this type of pursuit. They don’t accept the first idea/solution that arises, but take the time to investigate thoroughly. They can sometimes be seen as slowing down a process when working with a team, but their dedication to thoroughness is typically appreciated in the long run.

Another attribute of detail-oriented people is that they often have a good memory for, well, detail! They will remember names and faces, be able to recall seemingly random bits of data that apply to the current situation, and read body language quickly.

The first, and perhaps most important, way that you prove that you are detail oriented is by having an error-free resume and cover letter, both of which reference specific requirements from the job ad! Anyone claiming to pay attention to detail who has minor errors in their written work is not going to have much credibility. The second way is to have done your homework before the interview and arrive knowing a lot about the company and its job opening. Beyond that, however, you will have to think about specific accomplishments that were enhanced by your attention to detail. For example, if you have worked as a proofreader, chaired a committee, or served as treasurer for a student organization, you probably pay attention to detail! Many hobbies—such as quilting, knitting, playing a musical instrument, sailing, playing chess, or skateboarding—require attention to detail. If you’re really not detail oriented, you may want to think about spending some time working to develop this skill. There are many online resources that can help you! (I like the advice in this article from the Houston Chronicle.)