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Successful job seekers have this one key trait

A new report finds this trait is the top quality that hiring managers look for.

Successful job seekers have this one key trait
[Source photo: Rawpixel]

Those heading into the job market today or seeking an internal promotion must possess a crucial quality: adaptability.

In TopResume’s new report, entitled “What Turns Employers On—and Off—About Job Candidates,” adaptability tops the list of 21 traits that hiring managers look for.

This quality has not always been in such demand. Before the pandemic, adaptability didn’t even make the list. But today, adaptability is a prerequisite for any successful job seeker. It shows that you’ll be able to thrive in today’s topsy-turvy business environment.

How can you demonstrate this desired quality in your job search? In an interview with TopResume’s career expert and Fast Company contributor, Amanda Augustine, I discovered the following six ways to show your adaptability:


First, make it clear you are a creative problem-solver. Don’t say, “I’m adaptable,” but demonstrate it, Augustine says, by “showing how you’ve brought creative solutions to the table.” Provide “concrete examples of ways you’ve successfully tackled challenges.”

Offer a narrative about how you were confronted with a problem—such as a tightening budget or a software glitch—and how you addressed the problem by applying a new approach.

Be specific. Show how and when you came to your conclusions, how you implemented them, and what quantifiable results you got from your creative solution.


Show how you are not fixed in your thinking, but are open to new ideas.

As Augustine explains: “This flexibility could mean working really well on a team and realizing someone else’s idea is better than yours and letting go of your own for the sake of the larger goals. “

Job seekers should prepare at least one story that shows how they pivoted from believing they had the best idea, to listening and discovering there was a better approach they were willing to embrace.


Assuming you are in a client-facing role, take this interview as an opportunity to illustrate how you have demonstrated flexibility in client relationships.

Augustine encourages job seekers to “show that when you pitched an idea to a client and they rejected it, you were able to think on your feet and offer an alternative solution.” Demonstrate “how you still met the customer’s needs and won the business, even if your first idea didn’t succeed.”

That story will impress a hiring manager looking for a candidate who can roll with the punches and meet constantly changing customer expectations.

Indeed, such an example would position you successfully for any role that requires openness and flexibility in coming up with shared solutions.


No matter your job title, you can speak about your ability to meet goals, even when the financial or human resources you’ve been given are reduced.

Augustine gives this example: “Suppose you are a manager. Your team has shrunk, your company has laid off some of your people, but you are still expected to meet your target. The plan you had in place no longer works. Show how you got creative, how you met your primary goal even when circumstances changed.”

“How would you do that?” I asked. Augustine replied: “It could mean showing that you shifted resources from one project to another. It could mean you engaged people from different departments to help you. Or it could mean you engaged in ‘quiet hiring,’ by bringing in contract workers or having existing employees on your team take on new tasks. You want to show you got very resourceful about using your personnel.”


Show your adaptability by talking about when you took on extra assignments, such as helping out when a coworker went on leave, or there was a new intern to manage.

“Taking on different roles or trying your skills in an area outside your job description allows you to show adaptability,” Augustine explains. But, she adds, “it doesn’t mean letting people roll over you or take advantage of you. It gives you an opportunity to show your value. It could lead to a promotion as you accept new responsibilities.”

“When you take on additional responsibilities with enthusiasm, you’re creating leverage for yourself,” she says. “Think of it as a long game. It can even lead to a promotion.”


When you speak with a hiring manager, make clear your skills and knowledge are up-to-date, particularly in fast-moving areas like technology.

“Once a month, even if you’re not looking for a job,” Augustine advises, “check out the types of jobs you would be interested in and see what skills they’re looking for. If you find you have a gap, take a course that prepares you for the new marketplace.”

“You can start filling that gap proctively,” says Augustine. “And you may even use that new knowledge to propose something to your present company. Demonstrate how you’re adaptable to industry trends, and in doing so help your current employer and ready yourself for that next big role.”

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Judith Humphrey is founder of The Humphrey Group, a premier leadership communications firm headquartered in Toronto. She is a regular columnist for Fast Company and is the author of three books: Impromptu: Leading in the Moment (2018), Speaking as a Leader: How to Lead Every Time You Speak (2012), and Taking the Stage: How Women Can Speak Up, Stand Out, and Succeed (2014). More

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