What companies look for in a new employee

Aug. 1, 2003

What companies look for in a new employee

By Joe Escobar

If you happen to be in the job seeking mode, you have probably realized that there is some stiff competition out there. Many qualified candidates could be competing for the same job that you are. But what will make you stand out? What skills or traits will help you land that job? I spoke with some decision makers in the industry to get a little insight into what helps job seekers land that job.

Technical skills
Having experience is often a requirement mentioned in job listings. You've probably seen something in the classified ads like this "3-years type experience required." Often times, those with experience, especially type-specific experience, have a greater chance at getting a job than someone fresh out of school. But if you are just out of school, what could set you apart from the crowd? Howard Siedlecki, president of Kenosha, Wisconsin-based Sunshine Aircraft Repair Inc., shares his insight. "When looking at an A&P fresh out of school, I hand them a wrench and see if they know which way to hold it. That's the first thing I look at. When you look at someone's experience, everybody comes out of A&P school with something. I tend to like the ones who have a passion for fixing things - those that restore cars or have a mechanical background other than what they went through in school. I tend to glance out the window and see what they drove up in. If it looks bad, that's OK. If it is purring like a kitten that is a plus. I also tend to lean toward those with military experience. It's about discipline."

Broaden your knowledge
Say you are fortunate enough to have a few years experience under your belt. What can help make you more marketable? Having a wide range of skills is one way to increase your hiring potential. Are you computer literate? Are you NDT certified? Do you have any additional certifications such as an FCC license?

But be aware that while the extra skills you have could make you more valuable in one facility, they may not mean much at another. "In our facility, we don't do a lot of NDT," Siedlecki shares. "We tend to send most of our NDT work out. So an applicant with a lot of experience in NDT methods wouldn't mean a whole lot to me." Jim Freeman, owner of Janesville, Wisconsin-based Helicopter Specialties Inc. (H.S.I.), adds, "For me, I like to see someone with avionics knowledge. That is something that you don't see with very many mechanics these days. And with the work that we do, it helps to have our employees as well-rounded as possible."
So the bottom line is evaluate what additional skills you have and consider those when applying for jobs. Research the company and find out what kinds of skills are valuable to them. If possible, talk to some of the employees for some insight. If you match the jobs you are applying for with the skills you have, you have a greater chance of getting hired.

If you remember only one thing from this article, make sure it is this - your attitude will probably make or break a job opportunity. I can't stress this enough. Everyone I talked to pretty much agrees that attitude is a very important factor that they consider when considering a job applicant. "Attitude is critical," says Tom Hilboldt, Manager of Technical Services for Cahokia, Illinois-based Midcoast Aviation. "I would rather hire a mechanic right out of A&P school with a positive attitude than someone with type experience who has a poor attitude. Attitude, enthusiasm, and caring about what they do goes a very long way." H.S.I.'s Freeman concurs. "Attitude is a big one. It is especially critical in a small shop such as mine. I would rather work with someone who has a good attitude and is willing to learn than a very qualified mechanic with a poor attitude. You can train inexperienced mechanics, but someone with a poor attitude can bring others in the shop down and create tension."

Gary Minkin, president of the Mart Corporation, takes it further. "It's about the whole interview process. How they present themselves. Do they care enough to dress nice? Did they take the time to learn about the company beforehand? Do they ask the right questions?" All of these things tie in to the person's attitude. Minkin refers to it as "a fire in their eyes." "It's that enthusiasm that will get them the job," he says. "It's about being a good person and having a good attitude. It's about a desire to learn. In other words, to grow and develop within the company. I also like to know what kind of non-work activities they are involved in. That says a lot about a person." Minkin also pays attention to a person's non-verbal communication. "Are they dressed nicely? Do they have clean nails? Do they look you in the eye when they talk to you? These things say a lot about a person."

Hilboldt also looks at a person's non-verbal communication. "How you present yourself during the interview process is important. A suit and tie presents a good image, and even slacks and a nice shirt are appropriate. It never ceases to amaze me when someone comes in with their shirttails hanging out, blue jeans, and dirty fingernails. I also pay attention to how they react to questions I ask them. Are they confident and poised, or do they seem to squirm and struggle through them?"

In the end, attitude seems to be the most important factor in the interview process. Your attitude will probably make or break a job opportunity. So maintain a positive attitude, present yourself in a professional manner, and your job search will be easier.

Additional articles on job interview tips from AMT:

Secrets to Interview Success: The questions and answers you need to know
By Colleen Malloy, August 2002

You're Hired: Resume writing and interview tips to help land that next job
By Joe Escobar, August 2001