What Interviewers Really Look For in an Applicant

Proper eye contact. Good posture. Positive body language. Confidence in answering questions. Knowledge and skills applicable to the job. These are probably the first things that come to mind when talking about the things that interviewers look for in an applicant.

And while those are valid qualities, there are certainly more aspects that make a great interview other than those.

Interviews are critical parts of the hiring process. Whether it’s an initial or final interview, one on one or panel interview, you make most of your hiring decisions during these situations. As such, if you’re part of the hiring team, you have to know what to look for.

Aside from the typical qualities that we’ve mentioned, there are more attributes that you should seek so you can hire the best possible applicants.

From an interviewer’s perspective, we’ll discuss the things that you’d want to see in an applicant before extending them a job offer.

Coming Prepared for Interviews

One of the first signs of a good applicant is preparedness. That means they arrive for their scheduled interview at least a few minutes early. They’re well-dressed. They brought all the necessary things with them. These include a pen, a copy of their CV, or other relevant documents.

Even before the actual interview starts, you can already get a good impression of the applicant based on these things. Coming to interviews well-prepared is also a great indicator of how much the applicant really wants the job.

On the other hand, applicants who come in late or dressed inappropriately show a lack of interest in the job. And whether deliberate or not, it may also show a lack of respect for the interviewer and the company.

Another way to measure an applicant’s preparedness is by asking them specific questions about your company and the job.

The best applicants will have done their due diligence. They would be able to give you definite answers on why they chose to apply for your company and why they’re qualified for the job.

Coming to interviews prepared is already half the battle won for applicants. And as interviewers, you can already start formulating your decisions based on how much preparation an applicant did.


About the worst types of interviews are when you ask questions and receive one or two-sentence answers and nothing else. The best applicants are those who take the initiative in providing as much relevant information about themselves without waiting to be asked.

Great applicants will make the interview easy for you. They’ll be able to offer their opinions on matters relating to the job comfortably. They’ll be proactive in asking pertinent questions. They’ll ask you for candid feedback on how they did in the interview.

Applicants can also demonstrate their initiative by going above and beyond in interviews. There are many ways they can do that. One way is by researching as much as they can about your company. Another is by bringing portfolios of their past works, when applicable, even if you didn’t require them.

Applicants with initiative are likely to become excellent workers. This is, therefore, a valuable attribute to look for in your interview.

Drive and Ambition

There’s a reason interviewers usually ask applicants where they see themselves three, five, or ten years from now. Some may find that question too cliché, but it’s a good way to get a feel for an applicant’s ambition in life.

You’d want goal-oriented individuals in your company. An applicant’s inability to articulate their goals or ambitions for the immediate future may be considered a red flag. It might be best if you thought twice about hiring applicants like that.

Employees without goals tend to float around and do the bare minimum.

On the other hand, those with clear goals for their careers tend to be more productive as they work their way towards achieving them. You can expect only the best effort from those who care about their career development.

Specific questions will also help you determine an applicant’s drive. Drive to learn, to work hard, to blend in, and to do everything that it takes to be successful at their job. You may ask them about previous experiences on how they demonstrated this drive.

Employees who are goal-oriented and have the drive to succeed are significant assets to have in your company. They’ll be instruments in achieving your company objectives. And so you’d want to search for these particular attributes in your applicants.


For a lot of applicants, they would only try to say what they think the interviewers want to hear. So receiving honest answers can be refreshing. As interviewers, you should appreciate applicants who are upfront about everything.

As you may have seen before, many applicants will have less-than-stellar resumes. There will always be those with considerable employment gaps. You’ll inevitably encounter serial job-hoppers. Some may have experienced termination. And even others may have done questionable things in the past.

Applicants who demonstrate total honesty about their unpleasant past deserve your appreciation. Being able to show one’s vulnerable side is an excellent quality to have. It’s much better than those who will only say what you want to hear to land the job.

Granted, it would take a thorough background check to ultimately verify whether the applicants are telling the truth or not. But still, you should be able to get a sense of that during the interviews.

You’d want to look for honesty in applicants because it’ll make your decision-making easier. And honest workers are the ones that you’d want in your company.

Great Personality

Applicants who radiate charm and positivity tend to score plus points in the interviews. Likability matters, too. It may not be the most significant determining factor in getting hired, but it certainly helps their application.

As interviewers, you’d want to hire an applicant who also has a great personality in addition to the other qualifications for the job.

Someone with a sense of humor is nice to have in your workplace to keep things light and alleviate stress. Those who exude humility and kindness would also be great additions to your workforce. They’ll get along well with their workmates and take feedbacks and criticisms without trouble.

Applicants who are brash or have an off-putting personality, regardless of how impressive their resume may be, can only hurt your workplace culture. They might only do more harm than good.

The personality of the workers you hire is important because they help shape the overall company culture. Employee productivity and morale are high in a workplace consisting of fun, positive people. A happy workplace is more productive and more successful.

Knowing What to Look for in Applicants Will Lead to Better Hires

Interviewing applicants is a tremendous responsibility. As part of the hiring team, you have significant power in making or breaking someone’s career plans. You also have a major input in determining whether your company ultimately invests resources in an applicant by extending a job offer.

Knowing what to look for in applicants is crucial. It may vary depending on the job description, but the attributes we discussed will apply in most instances. Keep these in mind in your interviews, and you’re on your way to making better hires.