When your work is error-free, you'll be on the fast track to succeed

In a competitive jobs market, having employable skills on your CV and being able to demonstrate them in an interview will help you to get noticed and get a job offer faster. Among the top skills that employers look for in candidates is attention to detail.

Being able to complete a task on time and to brief, or being able to spot how to make adjustments that deliver better results, are just two ways that you can show you have attention to detail. 

Not everyone has this skill, but don't worry as it's something that can be developed. Here we explore what attention to detail is, why employers value it, ways to develop it, and how to demonstrate attention to detail in interviews.

What is attention to detail? 

Attention to detail is being able to focus wholly on tasks so that they're completed to a high standard and free of errors. 

Attention to detail isn't a standalone thing; it can be a collection of soft skills. This collection of skills will vary from one job to another. For example, it could be the ability to spot a grammatical mistake in a 5,000-word document or it could be spotting that part of a customer's order is missing. 

Why employers value attention to detail

Making mistakes and having to re-do work costs companies time and money. The more accurately you're able to do your job, the more productive and efficient you are. From this, you can easily see why attention to detail is a skill that employers want candidates to have. 

If you're trying to show a potential employer that you have attention to detail, start by being 100% certain that your CV is error-free - check for spelling and grammar mistakes, make sure you use the same font throughout, and ensure that you have consistent formatting. 

7 ways to build habits that improve your attention to detail 

Whether you feel that your attention to detail is pretty good or it could be improved, building habits to hone it into your routine will strengthen your employability. Here are some actionable points that can help to improve your attention to detail:

Be clear on your responsibilities 

If you're not aware of what responsibilities fall under your job remit – maybe you've changed jobs or you've been moved to a different department – you can easily miss important details, which could lead to mistakes. The easy way to reaffirm what responsibilities you hold at work is to refer to your job description or speak to your line manager or HR department. 

Block out distractions

Work out what causes you to get distracted and then put in place processes to block them out. For example, a big distraction could be notifications coming through on your phone. In this case, turn off these notifications, put your phone on silent, or turn it off. If you're distracted by the chatting of colleagues or the noise of family when working from home, try to find a quieter space to work or wear noise-cancelling headphones. 

Create a work plan

Mapping out your weekly goals and then breaking them down into daily tasks will help to keep you focused. You may choose to be old-school and use a journal or diary and written to-do lists. You could also use one of the numerous apps to help productivity or organise your day. However, it's important not to be too stuck on these lists, as unexpected and urgent tasks could land in your inbox at any time. 

Be healthy 

Sleep deprivation, poor diet, insubstantial exercise, or a lack of fresh air all affect concentration. Be on your best form by getting between eight and nine hours of good sleep each night, eating a balanced diet, taking regular breaks, and getting outside once or twice throughout the day. 

Organise your space

An unorganised or messy work station ‒ whether in the office or at home ‒ means that details can easily be missed. The main cause of an untidy workspace is paperwork. If you can, scan important documents and destroy the paper copy, or ask colleagues to send you PDF copies instead of hard copies. To keep an organised filing system, remove non-essential files from your computer.

Practise increasing your attention outside of work

Regularly taking part in activities that boost your attention and concentration in your spare time will help you to perform better at work. Find the time to read and do word-puzzles, such as crosswords and word searches. Timed and sequenced activities including card games and even cooking are also great for focusing your mind. 

Aim for quality over quantity 

The quality of your work can easily slip when you start rushing, so always prioritise quality over quantity. Of course, some jobs are more pressured for output than others. If you have a heavy workload, sit and talk to your manager to discuss how you can balance their need for quantity with your need for quality.

How to demonstrate you have attention to detail in interviews

The interviewer may not directly ask you if you're detail orientated. If it's a skill they've mentioned that they're looking for in candidates, show them that you have it by including examples in your answers to questions like "What is your greatest strength?" or "What's your most valuable skill?"

An example answer to these types of questions is:

"My greatest strength is that I have great attention to detail. When I started my last job, I noticed that orders were being held up for posting because address labels were having to be handwritten, as the label machine was broken. I raised this issue with the operations manager and the machine was swiftly fixed, meaning orders could be dispatched quicker."You can also show you have attention to detail by referring back to something previously mentioned by the interviewer. For example, they may have mentioned that they're looking to include videos as part of their marketing. You could casually mention that you're a keen videographer or that you've completed a video production and editing course. 

It's these little details that could help to show that you're the right person for the job.

To show attention to detail, your CV must be error-free. Get a free CV review for objective feedback to see how yours stacks up.

Editor's Note: This piece was written by Emma Saldanha and originally ran on Glassdoor UK. It is reprinted with permission.

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