Job Application Guide – The 3 Little Known Hiring Criteria



When you send your job application, you are essentially telling the employer “Here, evaluate me!” You put yourself up for scrutiny – often knowing the kind of things the employer might be looking for. After all, it is written in the job posting: the skills and qualifications required.

But as the post will show you, employers use three hiring criteria and if you don’t meet those three, it might cost you the job interview or the offer. These are not always as obvious and they are the three key reasons employers either hire you or say ‘no’ to you.

What are the three little-known hiring criteria? The answer is:

  • Your ability to do the job
  • Your desire to get the job
  • Your fit in terms of the company and team culture


Now, employers always use hiring criteria to find a suitable candidate for the role. After all, the job you are asked to do will undoubtedly involve specific skills. You can’t necessarily be employed as a baker if you’ve never baked a single loaf of bread in your life.

The hiring criteria or selection criteria is often divided into three sections:

The hiring criteria is often available on the job posting but you can typically find more detailed information on it on the company’s website. For example, Sequoia has a great post about how they determine the hiring criteria, as well as mentions of the criteria they use. You can read the post here. Similar information is available on Google’s website. If you’re interested in joining the tech giant, Thomas L. Friedman has also written a great post titled ‘How to Get a Job at Google’.

Generally, the best hiring criteria to keep in mind is available in the job posting. It outlines the most obvious factors such as the skills and the qualifications you need in order to perform the job.

But you can’t find all the hiring criteria written online. There are things the employer will judge you on and you just have to be the right fit in order to boost your chances of landing that job interview. It’s important to read between the lines and create a comprehensive analysis of the criteria. Essentially, you want to focus on the elements the employers really want from the candidate – which are much more than just his or her ability to bake or code.

What are those three little-known hiring criteria employers focus on that might cost you the job interview if you don’t fully understand them? Let’s look at them one by one.


It might seem a little obvious but employers are really just looking for someone who can do the job. If they are looking for an IT specialist, then they want to find just that – not just someone who has used a computer in the past. The employers are essentially focused on two things when it comes to your ability to do the job:

  • The skills required for the job – can be specific (such as the ability to use a specific software or language) or broader (such as the customer service capability).
  • Experience in using those skills/doing the job.

If you have neither of the two, you are not going to convince the employer you are able to perform in the role. Now, this might seem a little discouraging. Many people assume that the ability to do the job will mean they have to have previous work experience in the specific role. Unless you’ve worked in an IT team, you have no chance of getting the job.

But this kind of approach to the specific hiring criteria would be wrong and futile. It is possible to show you have the skills and the experience, even if you haven’t held the exact job title in the past.

You should start by going through the exact skills and experiences the employer is looking for. When you are aware of the requirements, you can start matching your own skills and understand how good of a match you are for the role. Now, here’s a quick step-by-step guide for matching the job requirements and finding if you are able to perform the job:

Now, the idea of this exercise is to understand if you would able to perform in the role. You must be realistic. If you have more skills listed on the ‘Do not have an example’ side rather than the ‘Skill I have’ side of the paper, then you are probably wasting time trying to apply.

On the other hand, by meticulously analyzing the skills and requirements, you focus on highlighting your abilities in a way that matters to the employer. You don’t end up wasting time in your application or job interview talking about how good you are at customer service if it isn’t crucial to the specific role.

The important thing here is to remember transferable skills. Just because you haven’t been a manager, doesn’t mean you haven’t performed managerial tasks. You might have had to step up at a summer camp to look after a group of people or you were in charge of ten client portfolios. These might not have been strictly managerial positions but they can showcase your ability to manage, organize and control things.

When you are thinking about the examples that demonstrate your skills, it’s important to think about another thing: the benefit you had on the organization you were working for. What this means is not simply stating how you showed sales prowess by selling shoes at your previous role. But as a direct result of your sales skills, the company increased its sales by 5% and was able to obtain a new contract with a retailer – as an example.

If you can show you don’t just have the skill, but your ability to use this skill can and has added value to organizations, you will show your not able to just perform in the role, you would also excel in it.


Employers don’t just want someone who can perform in the role; they want someone who wants to be in the role. Why? Because it is the passion that pushes us forward and helps us achieve great things. Steve Jobs and his team didn’t create the iPhone because they just needed something to do – they did it because they were passionate about connecting people and making their lives valuable.

If you don’t show passion in your job interview, the employer isn’t going to hire you. They quite simply don’t just want someone who’s there for the paycheck. They want someone who wants to help the organization to improve and to grow.

So, how do you show the employer you want the job? Well, start by ensuring you really really do want the job. Take a hard look at the reason you’re applying for the position. Do you want it or do you just want a job? Don’t just think about the job title – think about the organization as well. It might be a good idea to create a list of pros and cons for both. You could use a template like this:

The job title: The organization:
What do I love about the job? What don’t I like about the job? What appeals to me in the organization? What are the things that I’m wary about the organization?








This will help you clarify in your own head, and subsequently at the application and interview, your true reasons for applying for the position. It helps you make sure you are sending the application for all the right reasons.

Now, once you know you have the passion for the role, you need to find away to show it to the employer. Surprisingly, showing your passion for the role might not be as hard as you think. Michael Neece, an interviewing expert, said in an interview how showing up prepared for the job interview shows that you care. Neece gave the example of a candidate who came armed with a PowerPoint presentation that highlighted her fit for the role.

If you read the previous post, you know how to be prepared – you understand the hiring funnel and you know how the process works. There are just a few essential steps to being super prepared:

  • Understand what the role entails.
  • Know what the skills and requirements are and be able to show with examples how you match those skills.
  • Understand the company’s vision – show knowledge in understanding the organization’s current and future challenges.
  • Highlight how you are able to add value to the organization.

The final point in the above list is important. There’s one efficient way to make the most of it and show your employer you are serious about getting the role. It’s not just about explaining how you would add value but actually demonstrating this in reality. How do you do this? By creating material, tips and plans for the organization to look at without being required to do so.

Let’s say you are interviewing for an IT management role at a big firm. You should examine the organization’s current IT systems and see if you can identify improvements. For example, maybe you think they could improve the bottom line by 5% simply by changing to new software. Create a detailed suggestion plan and provide it to the employer to look at before the interview or during the interview.

Providing suggestions shows you’ve actually taken the time to understand what the company does and that you feel confident you can improve the organization, making it better, more efficient and profitable.


Finally, organizations pay close attention to whether you, as a candidate, would fit the current company culture. The truth is the most qualified or skilled people don’t often get the job – it’s the people who have the necessary skills, and who demonstrate their match with the work environment.

Every organization and team is different. Some follow a strict leadership and hierarchical structure, while in others the leadership style can be more democratic. Now, it doesn’t necessarily mean one is better than the other – but it does mean that certain people might not be suited to work in that specific environment. We don’t all perform well in a hierarchical system while some of us enjoy knowing there are strict boundaries to guide the work. Therefore, it’s important for the employer to ensure you not only understand the organizational culture but that you’d also fit in it.

How can you meet this little-known hiring criterion? Again, it all boils down to understanding what the company culture is like, how the specific department operates and what kind of team would you be working with. You can find out this information by:

You should quickly start seeing a pattern – the kind of organization you are dealing with. Perhaps they operate traditionally or perhaps they seem innovative. The values might highlight sustainability or desire to improve the local community.

Use the findings as you are applying for the role or attending the interview. Match the tone of your application with that of the organization’s communication style. Highlight achievements that match with the organization’s value. For example, discuss your efforts in helping endangered species by volunteering for a local charity when the organization is part of wildlife protection efforts.

Showcase your fit for the company environment. Highlight your ability to work in a multi-national company or give examples of your ability to work in a fast paced team. The more you can match the company, department and role description in terms of values and personality, the better your chances are of actually landing the role.


The job posting is not the only source of information in terms of hiring criteria. Indeed, as the above has shown, the hiring criteria employers focus on isn’t always written on the job postings. The employer will evaluate you more based on the above three little-known hiring criteria: being able to perform the job, being passionate about getting the job, and matching the company and team culture.

When you are looking for a job and you want to perform well in the job interview, you must look beyond the job posting. To go deeper inside the employer’s mindset and see what they really want.

What do you think of the three hiring criteria? Do you see them equally important?

Also read other parts of the Job Application Guide

Part 1.


Read Part 1

Part 3.


Read Part 3

Part 4.


Read Part 4

Part 5.


Read Part 5

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