Nestled between “self-starter” and “excellent communication skills” on nearly any list of job requirements, you’re likely to find some mention of attention to detail. Almost every job post in almost every industry includes some variation on being “detail-oriented” as an important skill to succeed on to the job.
And true perfectionists are in luck, because this seemingly perfunctory requirement is actually critical to success in a ton of positions. But what does attention to detail really refer to in the workplace, and how can you go about actually identifying it in your candidates?
The Value of Attention to Detail
How can one trait be so universally vital to so many different jobs? Simply put: mistakes are bad, no matter the job. Detail-oriented employees are more likely to catch and prevent errors, allowing you to avoid costly blunders in the long run. Even small mistakes can cause big problems, so you want to hire someone thorough that’ll do things right the first time.
Attention to detail is a transferrable skill, and it translates into a candidate’s ability to identify and solve problems, particularly small issues that aren’t immediately obvious. Imagine if an administrative assistant couldn’t properly proofread a document, or an accountant frequently misplaced a decimal point; a few errors can mean a lot of headaches. You want someone who’s going to get it right the first time and avoid potentially costly mistakes.
Sitting somewhere between a soft skill and a hard skill, attention to detail is paramount – regardless of job title and duties. It’s an important skill to have whether you’re looking to fill entry-level or C-Suite roles. So how do you go about finding detail-oriented employees?
Identifying Detail-Oriented Candidates
It’s one thing to understand why you want to seek out the most meticulous of applicants, but how do you go about identifying them? There are a couple of ways to determine how attentive a candidate is.
One of the first places you can look is their resume. Are there any typos or basic spelling errors? What about consistent font use and style? Any candidate who submits their resume without methodically proofreading either doesn’t care that much about the position or doesn’t have high attention to detail. Either way, that person is probably not the right fit for your company.
While it’s more nuanced than a spelling error, you can also determine a candidate’s attentiveness in the interview. Are they focused and engaged? Can they recall information from earlier in the interview? Do they ask specific questions about the role and the company (an indicator of pre-interview research)? If a candidate seems disinterested or distracted, it could suggest that they’d be disengaged on the job.
Attention to detail is an important slice of the cognitive pie that can be hard to consistently evaluate. So if you’re looking for an even more effective way determine a candidate’s meticulous nature, consider using a cognitive assessment that explicitly measures attention to detail.
For many entry-level positions, assessments that evaluate basic math and grammar skills can give strong indicators of how well someone can identify and resolve inconsistencies in their work. For mid to high-level positions, general aptitude tests measure abilities that are closely related to attention skills, like problem-solving and overall critical thinking. These tests have consistently shown high predictive validity when evaluating potential success in upper-level roles that also require focus and attention. For other jobs where attention to detail is truly critical – like pilots, security guards, and air traffic controllers – there are other tests (like Criteria’s MRAB) that more precisely look at concentration and the ability to focus in the face of distractions.
The Little Things are a Big Deal
Attentive employees will notice the little things, which can have a big impact on your bottom line. Attention to detail is predictive of a host of important on-the-job skills: focus, organization, conscientiousness, and observation. No matter how you determine your candidates’ attention to detail, it’s a vital skill that you should keep an eye out for when you’re hiring. All things considered, the most important thing to remember when selecting a method of evaluation is understanding job requirements and the true level of attention required for the work.