Detail Oriented People: Interview Question and Resume Tips 

 July 30, 2020

By  Marie

Detail orientation is something that comes up often during a job search. Employers are searching for detail oriented candidates. So, it is important to understand how to develop this skill set and then communicate it in your resume and interview.

What does it actually mean to be detail oriented? 

Why are employers so interested in this skill?

And how do you communicate that you are detail oriented during an interview or on your resume?

Let’s explore this topic.

What does it mean for a person to be detail oriented?

detail oriented engineer

By definition, an individual that is detail oriented pays particular attention to details.

These people are often capable of intense focus on one specific task. They are thorough in their work and accurate. It’s because they don’t let the details slip past them. 

Also, detail oriented individuals remember what they read and write. They take extra time to understand their tasks.

Detail oriented individuals make sure to understand all aspects of the problem before working on a solution.

They want to know the “what” but also the “how” and “why”. They ask A LOT of questions. 

Detail oriented people are also highly organized. They keep great track of their time and work. 

Employers desire these individuals for these reasons. But this is not a flawless quality. Detail orientation has its downfalls.

Detail oriented people can miss the “big picture”. They can create a lot of “busy work” in their pursuit of perfection.

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Detail oriented people are acutely aware of timelines. But, getting caught up in the details may cause them to miss deadlines for key strategic objectives.

Also, detail oriented leaders are often labeled micromanagers.

This is because they are so interested in the details of what their teams are doing that they don’t give them enough space to work. They can make teams feel untrustworthy or incapable. 

Think “helicopter mom” but instead “helicopter manager”.

Overall, like many things in life, detail orientation can be a double edged sword. But a detail oriented person who is aware of the potential downsides is able leverage its great strengths while managing the weaknesses.

What should you do to become more detail oriented?

time management and planning

If you want to be detail oriented, you can certainly develop this skill. Here are a few tips to start.

First, start by looking at your time management skills.

Are you using your time wisely? If not, start organizing your time better. I am a big fan of calendar blocking

Evaluate how long you can stay focused on a task. 

Are you able to sit down and write an entire document for an hour? Or work on a specific problem? If not, working on your focus will help develop detail orientation. 

Determine what period of time you are able to focus on a given task, and practice extending that focus by 3-5 minutes every week. 

Bullet Journaling is a good way to develop detail orientation.

There are a lot of great resources online about bullet journaling. In general, bullet journaling will allow you to become more organized. It also allows you to self reflect and pay more attention to the details in your life you may be missing. 

Spend a few minutes at the end of the day bullet journal, along with your calendar blocking, to improve your detail orientation. 

I also recommend reading. 

I know, reading is my solution to every problem. But this time, I will steer you AWAY from audiobooks.

Instead, read hard copy or digital books. This will really help you develop detail orientation. Make sure you are fully digesting the material as you read. If you feel your mind starting to wander, take a break and re-read again.

Reading is a great way to practice your focus. You can start by reading 20 minutes at a time and slowly add 5 minutes every few days.

Finally, work on your communication skills. 

Practicing how to write a professional email is a good start.

Overall, be clear and concise in your communications (both verbal and written). This way you can show that you understand the details.

For verbal communication, practice on speaking slowly. This will allow you to focus on the details as you speak.

In fact, speaking slowly with short pauses is most effective. This also allows your listeners to hear the details you are presenting.

Why do employers ask about this skill?

employers seeking detail oriented candidate

Employers who are seeking and asking about detail orientation are recruiting for a position where this skill set is highly valued. 

These types of roles are typically:

  • Requiring high level of organization
  • Involve complex tasks
  • Technical in nature (e.g. scientist, engineer) or;
  • High degree of focus and attention to detail required (e.g. proofreaders, documentation specialist)

If you are job searching, you need to understand whether detail orientation is a key component for position. Take a close look at the job description and look for the following:

  • Does the job description refer to detail orientation? (obvious one, I know)
  • Is the employer outlining responsibilities that require a great deal of focus?
  • Is the employer seeking a highly organized candidate?
  • Does the job description outline writing skills as an important requirement?

Scan the job description closely. You will be able to recognize whether detail orientation is going to be an important skill for the role by the descriptors.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Example Job Descriptions

Below are some examples of how employers outline detail orientation in job descriptions. These are actual job descriptions for different roles, at different companies, in different industries.

Sample 1:

“Excellent written and communication skills

Strong attention to detail and critical thinking ability

Able to work independently and critically review work before sending out for review

Professional experience in editing and/or technical writing a plus”

Sample 2:

“Consistent track record of being proactive, ambitious, and detail-oriented.

Excellent written and verbal communication skills are needed to facilitate close interaction with development teams, management, and other organizations within Company X”

Sample 3:

“Detail oriented, with proven ability to effectively manage time, see projects through to completion, organize competing priorities, and effectively address complex, urgent issues as they arise

Strong skills required to effectively convey complex clinical and technical information both verbally and in writing and to produce high quality reports and documentation

Strong critical thinking and problem solving skills to manage multiple levels of information and responsibilities, to quickly assess complex problems, and to develop and implement timely and effective solutions”

Sample 4:

“Experience owning an end-to-end documentation creation process

Detail-oriented, self-disciplined individual who is interested in learning new technologies and collaborating with subject matter experts

Ability to learn complex concepts and communicate the information in a way that is engaging and understood by users

Excellent written and verbal communication skills”

Sample 5:

“Impeccable writing and communications skills

Highly organized and detail-oriented

Proven ability to work well and be flexible in a fast-moving environment, managing multiple projects within tight deadlines”

Do you see a trend for the qualities that are associated with detail oriented people?

“High organized”, “writing and communication skills”, “self-discipline”, “time management”, and “critical thinking ability”.

Keep these in mind as you are scanning job descriptions.

Just because they don’t call out detail orientation specifically, does not mean it isn’t a valuable skill set for the role. Look for other descriptors indicating a detail oriented skillset.

How should you show you are detail-oriented on a resume?

resume depicting detail oriented candidate

If you are detail oriented and applying to a job with a description like one of the examples above, then it is critical that your resume clearly communicate that you are have this skill. 

There are a few ways to achieve this.

First, ensure that you are tailoring your resume for each specific job application. Review the job description closely, and find the section (similar to those outlined above) that describes a detail oriented candidate. 

Look for the specific words. Then, incorporate these words into your resume objective section. 

For example, if you are targeting the following job description:

“Required Qualifications:

Experience owning an end-to-end documentation creation process

Detail-oriented, self-disciplined individual who is interested in learning new technologies and collaborating with subject matter experts

Ability to learn complex concepts and communicate the information in a way that is engaging and understood by users

Excellent written and verbal communication skills”

A good opening line for an objective statement to describe yourself would be:

“A detail-oriented, self-disciplined, collaborative professional who is seeking XXX”

Make sure to use the same descriptors as in the job posting since most employers now use software to filter and rank resumes based on keywords.

In addition to the objective statement, you should also alter how you describe your specific experiences to communicate you’re detail oriented. 

Remember, don’t just stuff your resume with keywords. Use specific examples of when you were detail oriented.

Did you perform a huge audit of documentation that required weeks of focus and concentration to ensure no detail was overlooked? Make sure you include a sentence about that! 

“Audited XX documentation to ensure all processes were organized and compliant, collaborated with cross-function to ensure successful completion of the project”

This descriptor of a project shows that you are able to stay organized, focused, AND can communicate with the team to meet deadlines.

If you feel that you are qualified for the job, make sure to describe your experience in such a way that it fits the type of candidate the job description is seeking.

“Are you detail-oriented?” as a job interview question

successful job interview of detail oriented candidate

“Are you detail oriented” is a common question in job interviews for positions where this skill is crucial. 

First, as always. You have to be honest. Know before you walk into the interview whether you fit the descriptions outlined in the job posting. 

If you are detail oriented, it is important to answer this question with the strengths and weaknesses of this quality in mind.

Communicate how being detail oriented is your strength. Also, explain how you manage the potential downfalls of this quality.

Here is a sample answer to this question. Remember to always tailor your answers to your specific situation, job position and personality.

“Yes, I consider myself highly detail oriented. I am highly focused on understanding all aspects of the objectives for my projects. My research is meticulously organized. I am also very cognizant of deadlines, so I make sure to work with my [team/project manager] so that I stay focused on the necessary tasks and details. 

As an example, in my past experience I successfully [insert relevant experience]”

This answer hits on all of the strengths of a detail oriented person, while also acknowledging necessary collaboration to ensure you stay focused on the RIGHT details. 

So, you’ve killed two birds with one stone.

It’s very important to also follow up with relevant examples of how you’ve demonstrated these qualities in the past. Before the interview, you should have a handful of various experiences and situations in mind that you can draw from to demonstrate your qualifications and work style. 

These situations should be tailored to the question you are answering, of course.

Also, make sure to also read my other tips on how to prepare for an interview.

Detail orientation is a great quality. But it is also necessary to recognize, there are potential downsides.

Make an effort to become detail oriented. But also, manage any potential weaknesses stemming from it. 

Detail oriented? Great! Sell it in your job search!

Check out these other articles for your job search:

How to Reschedule an Interview (with Email Examples!)

How to Answer “Walk Me Through Your Resume”

How to Respond to a Job Offer in Any Situation

How to Resign: Resignation Email Template

How to Write an Interview Thank You Email

5 Tips to Prepare for an Interview (and get that job offer!)

Detail Oriented People: Interview Question and Resume Tips

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