career advancement

So your recruitment agent has got you an interview with a professional services firm. You’ve got the full job spec from your consultant, and you both think you’d be a good fit for the role.

But sometimes, it’s not always obvious what employers are looking for just from a job spec.

Below, we’ve compiled the top seven skills and traits that we know professional services firms are looking for in their potential new candidates.

1. Be able to influence effectively

All candidates working within a professional services environment will need to be able to work and communicate effectively with senior stakeholders – ie. partners/directors of the firm and other senior professionals. This is essential as you will always need to gain buy-in from multiple senior stakeholders (many of whom my be owners of the business), and many of them will have very different views.

2. Have great commercial awareness

Professional services firms work with clients in several different industries in both the public and private sectors. This means as well as wanting new employees with experience working within the professional services sector, they also want employees who have a strong understanding of the business landscape and various industries.

Work to increase your awareness by changing your reading habits – the broadsheets are great but perhaps pick up the Financial Times instead for a change. Keep a particular eye on the core industries that you will be engaging with on a regular basis as it could have a major impact on your prospects. If you haven’t already done so, investigate industry opinion online from different sources – broaden your reading to include new blogs and writers for new and thought-provoking opinion.

3. Knowing the role

This awareness should also extend to knowing as much as you can about the roles you’re applying for. Always do your homework before an interview and use your recruitment consultant to help you do this. That’s what they are there for! Your consultant, if they are worth their salt, will be a mine of information about the firm you’re looking to join. They will have been sent the role by the client (way before you’ve seen the job description) and will have recruited hundreds of people like you for similar roles previously. They’ll likely have a long relationship with the client, so will have amazing background knowledge and experience of the firm, and the contacts within it – and will really know what the client is looking for better than anyone else. They will know the teams already in-house and know what fit the client is looking for. In other words, trust their knowledge and judgement. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions – remember, they’ve got your back and want to you be successful too.

4. Be a ‘Thought Leader’

A relatively modern term that has become increasingly popular in the professional services sector in recent years – a thought leader is a member of a team that creates ideas and helps their firm to retain relevance and USP amidst evolving markets and trends.

In senior marketing roles, thought leaders are an especially viable asset as they act not only as leaders but as influencers in their areas of expertise by anticipating, and adapting to trends and nurturing increased visibility in the market. Valuable for the bottom line.

5. Be more digital

There have been significant increases in digital specific roles, even within smaller firms and more will undoubtedly reveal themselves in the coming years as avenues such as social media, SEO and PPC become even more commonplace.

When it comes to social media, research has revealed that professional services is the industry with the greatest potential ROI to gain from social media.

6. Proactivity

In the days of yore, the professional service industry would rely on word of mouth to spread the word and increase profitability but today there is much more competition. To compete, firms need to be more proactive in order to win new clients. This means they are looking for individuals who know how to approach new business generation, and not wait for the business to come to them.

There are also looking for those who are adept at client relationships, with client retention just as important as a new business.

7. A good work ethic and genuine enthusiasm

Finally, all professional services firms, without exception, will be looking to employees who genuinely love what they do and know where they want to be.

It’s impossible to fake enthusiasm, so focus on the areas of the industry that you genuinely love and don’t be afraid to reveal how passionate you are during your interview. Firms know that retaining someone who loves their job is a billion times more easy than someone who dislikes it, and that obviously, they’ll be far more productive. Happy workers = happy bosses!

The professional services sector is always evolving and as it grows it will require a more diverse range of employees to stand out from the crowd. In such an environment, it’s those with the skills, the determination to succeed, the willingness to adapt, and the right kind of industry experience that are going to make the biggest impression.