What Employers Want in Employees: Common Sense Skills

If there’s one characteristic every employer wants in an employee it is common sense.

Which boss hasn’t said: “I can train an intelligent person to do the job, as long as they have common sense.”

But what exactly is common sense and why is it so often elusive in the workplace? Here are the definitive answers (all right, maybe just some of the answers):

The key element in common sense on the job is the ability to see the big picture. In most jobs, the big picture isn’t getting a handle on next year’s earnings or figuring out the company’s Internet policy – although some jobs do require that kind of outlook. No, the bigger picture usually entails seeing where your work fits into the purpose and objective of your particular piece of the organization.

For example, if you are a sales assistant, your job isn’t just about filling out a salesperson’s expense account and sending it to accounting for payment. Sure, doing that correctly is important. But the bigger picture is making sure that all the administrative details of the sales force are taken care of competently so the salespeople can go out and do what they’re supposed to, which is sell. If you don’t have the common sense required to understand why doing your work is important, you’ll always be perceived as a competent drone, but probably not much more.

Element number two in common sense is related to the first. It’s being able to see what’s missing. For example, if a restaurant patron orders soup, a waiter with common sense realizes she needs a soupspoon. Basic, but the “what’s missing?” element is missing in too many employees. Does your boss who asked you to get an airline reservation need a hotel reservation too? Does the form you created asking for a customer’s address have a space for the zip code? Do you give your phone number on voice mail messages?

Common sense attribute number three: finishing. Every boss wants someone who follows through, which simply means finishing what you start. If a task isn’t worth finishing, it probably wasn’t worth starting.

Number four: a willingness to help. Everyone is working harder, so it makes sense individually and corporately for people to help each other. Employers want workers who understand what needs to be done – whatever that may be – and are willing to pitch in and get it done. Employees with an ounce of life in them want that, too, so long as they’re not being worked to death. If you’re as helpful as a Soviet emigration official circa 1958, get with the program or you’ll be out of a job.

Fifth: being nice to those inside and outside your organization. If it’s just common sense that we all want to be treated pleasantly, how come so many people are rude? Pleasantness is highly underrated. It is the social lubricant that enables work to get done within your organization, and makes customers come back. Remember flies and honey? Those who aren’t nice don’t show common sense.

Article – Copyright 2000 Evan Cooper. Syndicated by ParadigmTSA