Heath Alva
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Detail-oriented: What it means and how it can get you hired
Last updated: June 30, 2022
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Detail-oriented: What it means and how it can get you hired
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Do you consistently produce high-quality work?

Are you great at catching typos or other small mistakes?

Do you have strong organizational skills?

If so, you’re probably a detail-oriented person. That’s great news because this soft skill is in high demand by employers.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to prove to recruiters and hiring managers that you’re the detail-oriented candidate they’re looking for. Anyone can claim to be detail-oriented, but you need to convince your potential employer that you really are.

This article lets you know what being detail-oriented means, why employers will love you for it, and how to show it off in your job search with your resume, in your interview and your application.

What does it mean to be detail-oriented?

A detail-oriented person is someone who pays close attention to small details.

That means they’re good at catching mistakes, they remember things that other people ignore or forget, and they’re great at staying organized.

While it’s great to be focused on the big picture, it also helps to be able to dig down into the minute details and really polish your work.

Examples of being detail-oriented at work

Detail-oriented employees are valuable in every industry. Six examples of being detail-oriented in the workplace are:

  • A food service worker remembering the details of every customer’s order.
  • A data entry clerk accurately entering numbers into a database.
  • A factory worker using heavy machinery with great precision.
  • A sales representative sending emails to customers without any typos.
  • An administrative assistant keeping files perfectly organized.
  • A housekeeper noticing and cleaning a small smudge on the window.

Why do employers like detail-oriented people?

You might have noticed that job descriptions frequently list “detail-oriented” or “attentive to detail” as a requirement for new hires. In fact, 70% of employers are looking for employees with attention to detail.

(Image Source)

That’s because detail-oriented employees benefit employers in many ways.

Detail-oriented people do high-quality work. They don’t forget a step in the process, make careless mistakes, or leave work unfinished.

Because they’re so attentive to detail, they can often work independently. Other employees might need to be watched closely in case they make mistakes, but the detail-oriented worker doesn’t need as much supervision.

We all make some mistakes, but someone who misses many important details can hurt a company financially.

For example, companies with bad grammar and spelling on their websites lose almost double the number of potential customers compared to sites with no mistakes.

A detail-oriented employee proofreading that work would catch those errors before putting them on the website. That’s why if you’re detail-oriented, employers are looking for you.

Tips for being more detail-oriented

Some people are naturally detail-oriented, but it’s a skill we can all get better at. Take the following steps to improve your attention to detail at work.

Make sure you understand the instructions

A detail-oriented worker follows each step of a process accurately. That’s impossible to do if you don’t know the steps in the first place.

Listen carefully when someone teaches you a new task. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — your supervisor will be happy when your knowledge leads to higher-quality work.

If there are written instructions for your task, make sure to read through them thoroughly. If there is no documentation anywhere, it might help to write them down yourself.

Break big projects into smaller tasks

Let’s say someone tasks you with cleaning a house.

You can’t tackle the whole house at once, and if you go in without a plan, you’ll probably miss something. The best strategy is to break the task into smaller pieces.

For example, you might start by dusting all surfaces, then washing all of the mirrors and windows, cleaning the furniture fabric, and so on.

If you have to clean the house again, following the same process will make you more efficient.

The same idea can be applied to any big project. Break the work into small, achievable pieces and go through them one by one.

(Image Source)

Make a checklist

You can use checklists to keep track of your daily tasks or manage the steps in a particular process.

Even if doing a particular task feels like second nature to you, a checklist ensures that you’ll never slip up and miss something important.

Use tools to help with organization

You don’t have to keep track of every detail in your head — there are tools designed to help you.

Organizational tools can be simple, like a notebook to make lists with, a calendar to keep track of your daily tasks, or sticky notes to remind you of details.

You can also go high-tech. Set reminders on your phone for important tasks or download a note-taking app like Evernote.

Double-check everything

Even detail-oriented people make mistakes. The important thing is to catch those mistakes before they cause any trouble for you or your employer.

The best way to do that is to double-check your work. Create checklists to help you go through all of the steps and make sure you didn’t miss any small errors.

How do you show that you’re detail-oriented in your resume and cover letter?

The most basic way to show that you’re detail-oriented is to use that word on your resume.

You can add “detail-oriented” to your resume’s skill section. You can also use it in your resume summary or profile.

For example, you can say that you’re a “detail-oriented receptionist” or a “customer service professional with great attention to detail.”

(Image Source)

In your cover letter, you can briefly give specific examples.

For instance, you could mention that following food safety standards at your restaurant job required excellent attention to detail or that being detail-oriented made you great at troubleshooting computers in your IT role.

Here’s a tip: If your resume has typos, the hiring manager won’t believe you when you say that you’re detail-oriented. Showcase your attention to detail by creating a professional, mistake-free cover letter and resume.

How do you show that you’re detail-oriented in a job interview?

Most job candidates will claim to be detail-oriented. To set yourself apart from the competition, you need to be ready with real-life examples.

A useful technique for answering interview questions is to use the STAR method to tell a brief story.

This method has 4 steps:

  1. Situation: Describe the context and relevant details of the problem.

  2. Task: Describe how you approached and handled the situation.

  3. Action: Be specific about the action you took to solve the problem.

  4. Results: Share the positive outcome that you achieved due to your actions.

For example, you could say:

Situation: “When I started at my last job, the filing system was a mess.”

Task: “I had to find a new way to reorganize the files so that my boss could easily find information.”

Action: “I discarded the files we no longer needed and organized the remaining ones into six categories. I assigned a color to each category and labeled the files.”

Results: “My boss says the new system has saved her several hours each week.”

(Image Source)

Examples of detail-oriented interview questions and how to answer them

Are you detail-oriented?

Obviously, the answer is yes.

But saying yes isn’t enough. To stand out from the other candidates, you should give examples from your past jobs.

You might say:

“Yes, my supervisors have always been impressed with my attention to detail. For example, at my previous job, I had to maintain and repair machinery daily. If any of the machines were unavailable during working hours, it would cause delays for the whole team.

I created a checklist for each piece of equipment that I went through each day to ensure that everything was working correctly. In my two years on the job, the machinery that I was responsible for never broke down.”

How do you ensure that your work is high-quality?

Detail-oriented employees are known for their high quality of work. But you can’t just say that your work is great — the hiring manager wants to know about your specific strategies for making it great.

Here are a few things you could mention:

  • You always double-check your work.
  • You take notes when given instructions.
  • You don’t rush through your tasks.
  • You create checklists to make sure you never miss a step.
  • You limit distractions in your work area.

“When someone gives me a task, I start by breaking it into manageable steps. I focus carefully on each step and double-check my work when I finish.”

How do you limit distractions at work?

It’s hard to remember minor details when you’re distracted. Hiring managers want to know if you can limit distractions and focus on your tasks.

Think about all types of distractions: loud noises, friends trying to chat, notifications on your phone, clutter in your workspace. How do you deal with each one?

For example:

“When I’m at work, I make a conscious effort to prevent distractions. I always keep my phone on silent. I have noise-canceling headphones in case the office gets too loud. If a coworker tries to socialize while I’m working, I tell them we can chat over the lunch hour.”

How do you balance speed and accuracy?

This question is about time-management skills.

Being detail-oriented means that you do your work precisely and accurately. But some detail-oriented employees also have a weakness: they’re so focused on details that they work slowly.

Employers ask this question because they want to know you can get your work done on time, even if you’re a perfectionist. Explain your strategies for working efficiently and meeting deadlines without making mistakes.

For example:

“Speed and accuracy are both important to me. I make sure I’m working efficiently by breaking a task into manageable steps and focusing on one at a time. While this helps me work quickly, I always take the time to double-check what I’ve done.”

A top skill to highlight

As a detail-oriented person, you’re an ideal candidate for many jobs. Make sure to emphasize this trait at each point in the job search process.

If you don’t think you’re detail-oriented, it’s not too late to develop the skill. Work on your accuracy and organization until you can confidently give a hiring manager examples of your attention to detail.

For more job application tips, visit the Jobcase Getting Hired Resource Center.

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