Attention to detail isn’t just a quality of nitpickers. It’s a marketable soft skill that shows employers you’re dedicated to producing error-free, accurate work. Employers value people with strong attention to detail because they’re both efficient and productive; they meet deadlines and turn in high-quality work.
What Is Attention to Detail?
Attention to detail is the ability to focus on all areas of a project or task, no matter how small. People with excellent attention to detail are thorough in reviewing their work. As a result, the work is generally more accurate and free of errors.
Attention to detail synonyms include careful, meticulous, scrupulous, and attentive.
What Are Attention to Detail Examples?
Attention to detail examples include organization, editing skills, diligence, and time management.
People who pay attention to detail must be organized to maintain efficiency while producing accurate work. Whether creating a checklist that breaks down all small parts of a task or setting up structured time to review their work, a person’s ability to organize is crucial to ensure no detail gets left behind — and that they’re getting their job done promptly.
You don’t need to get all the details right the first time to have good attention to detail. Instead, you should be your best editor (and everyone else’s). People who pay attention to detail must review their completed work to catch first draft errors and mistakes. Good editing and proofreading skills will help you notice the minor errors you might have overlooked the first time.
Reviewing your and others’ work multiple times can be tiring and frustrating. Keeping track of details requires extra effort, and those with attention to detail need the diligence to persevere and return to the same work again and again.
Paying attention to detail can be a lengthy process if you don’t organize your time efficiently. You’ll need to know how to manage your time well enough to allow for editing but not take so much time that you miss deadlines or hold up projects.
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How to Show Attention to Detail on a Job Application
On a Resume
You don’t need to write “attention to detail” on your resume to prove you have this skill, but rather demonstrate you have it within your application. To do this, review the job description and pick out the job skills the company is looking for. Then, add the ones you have to your resume, word for word.
For example, if the company is looking for excellent communication skills, add this skill to the skills section of your resume or add “communicated” as a verb in your job description. This practice shows the employer that you’ve read the job description with a meticulous eye and that you’ve personalized your application for that particular posting.
Further, review your resume multiple times — and even ask someone else to check it — to ensure there are no typos or grammatical errors and that you’re spelling every company name correctly.
Finally, if there are specific requirements about how to submit your application, be sure to follow them strictly to show you’re paying attention to the details. For example, some companies only want to receive PDF resumes; do not submit a Word document if you see this requirement.
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In an Interview
Be an active listener to prove you’re paying attention to every detail the interviewer mentions. Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions about what they’ve said.
Attention to Detail Interview Questions
It’s common for interviewers to ask specific questions to get to the bottom of your work style. When answering these questions, flex your organizational, editing, diligence, and time management skills. Be specific about the processes you use to ensure your work is accurate and demonstrate how you work with others to get an error-free final product.
Don’t be afraid to mention the grammar tool you use to check your writing or the project management program you use to manage your workload. Talking about these processes helps paint a clear picture for the hiring manager of your work style.
Examples of these interview questions include:
- Explain how you organize your daily workload.
- Do you pay attention to the big picture or small details?
- Describe a time when you made a mistake at work and how you went about correcting it.
- What tools do you use to ensure that there are no mistakes in your work?
- Describe a time when you noticed an error in a colleague’s work and how you navigated the situation.
In your follow-up email (which you should send within 24 hours of the interview), thank the interviewer and mention one small detail from the conversation. Your detail can be about the company’s benefits, for example, or something more personal you and the interviewer connected on. This detail adds a point of connection and can further clue them into your attentiveness.
7 Ways to Improve Your Attention to Detail
Attention to detail is a soft skill, so there aren’t necessarily courses you can take to improve it (unlike hard skills). However, there are ways you can refine this skill in your everyday work life:
1. Slow Down
People with strong attention to detail embody the mantra “slow and steady wins the race.” It’s especially vital to slow down if you’re working one of your first jobs to get acclimated to the professional world.
“Early career professionals are strongly encouraged to practice working at a slower pace as it can help them improve their attention to detail at work,” Aima Irfan, editor in chief at InsideTechWorld, says. “When talking about attention to detail, it means taking more time to understand and perform tasks slowly. Creating something with high quality means going over it again and again to ensure perfection. The key here is to stay focused, work at a slower pace and avoid distractions.”
Time management matters when producing error-free work on a tight schedule. The best way to tackle competing deadlines is to prioritize. First, make a checklist that breaks down all the tasks you’re hoping to complete that day — no part is too small.
Then, think big picture about what tasks are high priority. Is a task due by the end of the week, while the other tasks are long-term? Do that first. Is there a task that’s foundational for future work? Start there.
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Monotasking is the practice of working on only one task at a time without distraction. When monotasking, you choose one of the many tasks on your checklist and work to complete it without checking other work communication or looking at other tasks. This working style can help increase productivity and focus by limiting distractions and interruptions, helping you get work done more efficiently and accurately.
“Early career professionals tend to want to be the best they can be, which usually means taking on extra responsibilities and working longer hours. And although this can make you seem like a hard worker, it can often lead to things like forced multitasking,” Jim Sullivan, CEO & founder of JCSI, says. “Too much of this can hinder your work performance because you have simply taken on too much.”
4. Take Breaks Often
“It’s important to take breaks often when you’re trying to focus on a task,” Sakina Nasir, SEO executive at Streaming Digitally, says. “This will allow your mind to rest and reset, which will help you stay focused when you return to the task at hand.”
While we may think we have to work through the whole day to get things done, we can perform better — and even be more engaged at work — when we take regular breaks. According to a survey by Tork, 91% of employees say taking a break helps them maintain their mental focus and 88% return to work feeling energized and refreshed after a break.
5. Allocate Time to Review Your Work
People who pay attention to detail don’t just get it right on the first try; they review their work to see what details they missed on the first go around. Set aside time to review your work before the deadline to catch these details. Give yourself a cushion of time, so you’re not rushing through any edits.
6. Establish Standard Routines and Procedures
“Having an SOP (standard operating procedure) for tasks that you do regularly can help you make sure that you’re always paying attention to the important details,” Linda Shaffer, chief people operations officer at Checkr, says. “This is especially important if you find yourself getting bogged down in the mundane details of your job. Having a set routine can help you stay focused and avoid making mistakes.”
Don’t be afraid to use project management tools to help you organize these routines and procedures. Having your SOP written down can also be useful if you want to share your work style with an interviewer or teammate.
7. Ask for Help
“Know that you do not have to go at it alone,” Kyle Elliot, founder and career coach behind CaffeinatedKyle.com, advises. “Ask for another set of eyes on your work. This can be a trusted peer, your supervisor, or a mentor. You can also make use of Grammarly and other free proofreading tools to catch any glaring errors.”
People who pay attention to detail don’t have to catch all of the details themselves — but they do have people and programs to call on to help them succeed.
Attention to Detail: The Bottom Line
Attention to detail in the workplace is priceless. You never know when a small budget typing error could lead to lost money, a missed colon in code could break a whole website, or a forgotten comma could dramatically change the meaning of a company’s brand statement. Show potential employers you have good attention to detail not by stating it directly but by being meticulous in your application, on your resume, and in your detailed, specific interview answers.
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