Pop quiz: list the top competencies that environmental employers look for when they decide to hire.
Not too sure of the answer to this question? You’re not alone.
For many professionals entering environmental careers, knowledge of expected competencies and personality attributes is something of a murky topic. This lack of accurate information can be partially attributed to the comparative “newness” of environmental industries, with many careers in this sector still undergoing an evolution in skills requirements and work activities. Of course, it also doesn’t help that there is a lot of misinformation around which traits and skills are the most important to environmental work.
To provide some much-needed clarity around the competencies and personality attributes that matter most, ECO Canada recently went straight to the source and interviewed Canadian environmental companies
to get their own perspective on the things that affected their decision to hire, retain or promote staff.
The insights from these employers are invaluable to job-seekers. In order to know whether your competencies are the best possible match for a prospective employer, you first need to know what these employer-endorsed competencies actually are. With something as important as a job offer or promotion on the line, why simply assume this info?
So the next time you’re putting together a resumé or preparing for an interview with an environmental firm, here’s what the employer is looking for:
This category encompasses technical or specialized knowledge, such as relevant degrees, certificates or diplomas at post-secondary institutions, industry certifications, long-term experience (especially for intermediate or senior positions), and strong technical or scientific skills related to certain disciplines.
In ECO Canada’s 2012 Employer HR Strategies study
, a B.Eng. designation was frequently mentioned by environmental companies across a variety of different practices. In addition, a number of environmental HR managers pointed out that there is a growing need for professionals that have additional industry-specific training, as opposed to general degrees or certificates.
How to Build these Competencies:
Since hard competencies relate most to specialized training, this is an area where relevant education is truly key. To develop your hard competencies further, consider pursuing a targeted professional designation, such as EP certification
, and post-secondary training, like the distance education programs available through the CCEE
(Canadian Centre for Environmental Education).
Contrary to popular opinion, this area is one of the most important to environmental employers. In the Employer HR Strategies report, companies had a strong preference for candidates with well-developed soft competencies. These competencies encompassed such things as communication skills (especially writing), critical thinking ability, customer service skills, business savvy, and research skills.
Out of all of these various soft competencies, good communication skills were especially critical to these employers. For them, it was really important to have staff onboard who could demonstrate good spelling and grammar, conduct critical analyses, and write technical reports. This focus on communication also included verbal communication skills, since many of the technical practitioners in these environmental firms were expected to be able to explain complicated technical concepts to clients in layperson terms.
How to Build these Competencies:
As the foundation that ultimately supports the acquisition of both hard competencies and soft competencies, personality was the single biggest consideration for environmental employers in the study. These companies looked for workers who were team players, goal-oriented, independent, committed and keen, with a clearly evident “can-do” attitude. Interestingly enough, employers did not feel that any one of these personality attributes was more important than the others.
These employers also had the same expectations for preferred personality regardless of a candidate’s level of seniority. Whether these professionals were fresh out of school or industry veterans with decades of experience, employers still looked for the same personality attributes when making the decision to hire, retain or promote.
How to Emphasize these Attributes:
The chances are high that you have many of these personality attributes already. Make sure that a prospective or current employer knows this by sharing specific examples and success stories in which you demonstrated the personality attributes mentioned here. Because these attributes seem so innate (they are a part of who someone is, after all), it can be all too easy to forget about these in a resumé or interview. In light of how absolutely critical personality attributes are to environmental employers, don’t make this mistake!
What are your thoughts about the competencies and attributes that environmental employers look for? Are there any that you would add to this list?