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Six skills hiring managers look for in YOU

Last updated on: August 26, 2010 12:49 IST

Image: Choose one functional area and own it
Photographs: Dominic Xavier/
Always wondered what hiring managers wished you knew?

Vikas Shirodkar, vice-president, Human Resource Development, General Motors, India, spells out the six qualities he always looks for in prospective candidates.

1. The need for in-depth functional knowledge

Today a lot of young professionals want to be generalists and dabble in everything. The fact of the matter is people who have in-depth knowledge in specific areas of functioning are bound to last longer and be sought after more than a jack of all trades.

What any industry today needs is someone who is a specialist in a certain subject and has total in-depth knowledge and the required skills within that specialisation.

If you are a fresh-out-of-college graduate you need to choose one functional area and own it.

Go in-depth and over a period learn what is there to learn in that area before you move on to another function.

It's only when you have a handful of skill sets under your belt that you can become a generalist.

You cannot be a generalist from day one.


Vikas Shirodkar is vice-president, Human Resource Development, General Motors, India. He has also been the Asia Pacific ER/LR/Policy Specialist Group Lead at Johnson & Johnson, Chief People Officer at Onida and Global Head HR at VVF Ltd.

There are no jobs for Superman

Image: Being able to achieve results by working together is a critical skill
Photographs: Dominic Xavier/
2. The ability to work in teams

Because of the nature of today's organisations, it is not possible to achieve results in isolation. You are always dependent on someone else.

If you are into Marketing, you will have to depend on the Sales and Operations departments. The folks at Operations fall back on the guys in the Purchase department and so on.

So the success of an individual's job is dependant on the cooperation and support of other functional areas.

Being able to achieve results by working together is a critical skill.

In most organisations processes are fairly well defined and standardised. You cannot go to work every morning and want to create new processes.

Success lies not so much in re-inventing the wheel but rather in getting everyone to cooperate and achieve a particular result.

A single person's non-cooperation can delay the achievement of your results. So it becomes important for you to get everyone to collaborate with you.

Conversely, it is equally important for you to do things for them, which they will expect for the success of their goals.

Unfortunately, most educational institutions today focus on harnessing their students' technical skills rather than enhancing their ability to develop inter-personal relations.

How one develops an ability to work along with others and achieve organisational goal is another critical skill today.


Go beyond the call of duty

Image: The ability to breach the boundary is important
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/
3. The willingness to push the envelope

Most people can and will follow instructions. But the true value of an employee is realised when s/he is willing to go beyond what is defined.

The ability to breach the boundary is important.

The question you should ask yourself is how you can go beyond what is explicitly mentioned by the company and do something in a way not necessarily laid out by the organisation but is in its interest.

You should be willing to put the pieces of the jigsaw together and have the willingness to think differently and innovate.

Ask yourself how you can expand the scope of what you were supposed to do and see how you can add value to the organisation rather than simply follow orders.


A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for

Image: At various points we must take risks and skate on some thin ice
Photographs: Dominic Xavier/
4. The willingness to take risks and innovate

Change is the only constant and at various points we must take risks and skate on some thin ice.

Organisations will always be resistant to change, but the truth is that the market is changing and so are customer demands and support functions.

You must be ready to explore new areas, think of new solutions and be willing to take decisions without waiting for all the data to come in.

I've often felt that with risk taking comes the readiness to be flexible.

If something isn't working, you must be willing to take a re-look at your decision.

Decisions in themselves are never right or wrong. It is how you implement them that make them successful or unsuccessful.

So with risk taking comes the readiness to be flexible.

If something isn't working, you must be willing to take a re-look at your decision.

With so much churning happening in the economy today, risk taking and innovation will be critical for success.


Every problem looked at in another way is an opportunity

Image: Analysis is not for its own sake but rather for the sake of driving a decision
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/
5. The ablility to research and analyse data

Every organisation is a living entity and problems often have historical information that needs to be collected, collated, organised and analysed so as to be able to address the problem accordingly.

You cannot have a 'plain vanilla' approach to addressing issues and for this you must be able to back up your solution with data to support it.

At the same time you must remember that the analysis is not for its own sake but rather for the sake of driving a decision.

A good example of this is (my former company) Johnson & Johnson's foray into skincare.

For at least 10 years there was talk of the need to get into the field. From time to time we would introduce a solitary product.

It was when we had a new marketing head that things really changed. She conducted extensive research and analysed the success of the skincare market in the Asia-Pacific region.

One of the main reasons we weren't making a mark was because skincare is always about a bouquet of products and not a stray lotion here or a shampoo there.

That was how Neutrogena was launched with a big bang. We learnt that it was a research-based product capable of delivering results.

This wouldn't have been possible had it not been for her research and analysis.


Saying 'I knew this would happen' isn't acceptable

Image: Be a champion of your opinion and advocate it
Photographs: Dominic Xavier/
6. Voicing and being able to stand up for your opinions

Today what you study and how many years of experience you have won't set you apart from others.

What does is the ability to voice and stand up for your opinions.

In India because of the feudal and hierarchical nature of our organisations, many would rather not speak out their minds.

But when I look back, the people whose career has had a good trajectory are those who were not willing to accept the status quo and were willing to say what they felt.

Of course, there will be resistance but if you have data to show them (this is where your ability to collect and analyse data comes in) no one will want to resist it because even if your opponent might be in love with his/her original idea s/he too is bound by results.

If you have an opinion you must be ready to talk about it.

Sitting back, watching the proceedings mutely and when things fail saying 'I knew this would happen' isn't acceptable.

Be a champion of your opinion and advocate it. Don't blame failure on others.