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Thirty-three hours of interviews. Nineteen executives. Fourteen industries represented.

Three most-desirable traits.

On behalf of the high school senior entangled in what college programs will offer them, and the current college students striving to fine-tune their skills for the dream firm, I spoke with industry-leading executives to nail down what qualities make up their ideal candidate.

Interestingly, the top three most desirable traits were nearly the exact same across the board. Whether in the lab or the broadcasting studio, nearly every executive I interviewed mentioned the following three characteristics for a dream candidate: passion, communication skills and the willingness to do “whatever it takes.”

“Passion and desire are instantly apparent in the interview,” says Mary Henige, director of Social Media and Digital Communications at General Motors. “You can see it in their eyes and cover letter: How much do they really want this?”

That same passion and desire are clear to Trey Campbell, North American president for NorthgateArinso, a global enterprise that provides software and outsourcing services for human resources.

Campbell holds tight to the “passion-or-bust” philosophy, claiming an individual will be far more productive if they are enthusiastic. But the trait spans beyond desire for a specific job, as Caryn Kboudi, vice president of corporate communications for Omni Hotels, attests, “Their passion should be for the specific area of expertise in addition to the brand.”

Coming close after passion, executives long for good communicators.

Ben Berry, CIO of the Oregon Department of Transportation, advocates that the ability to communicate and carry on a conversation is vital to his industry.

Berry is known for taking interviewees onto the floor and introducing them to current hires. He then bases his hiring decision on how well they can interact in the new environment. Those communication skills translate almost literally into cash when it comes to the consulting field.

Jim Carlisle, director of Western Management Consultants in Toronto, assures us that, “Communication skills are vital in all aspects of consulting: getting the work, understanding what the client wants and delivering results. In this field, great communicators can head straight to the bank.”

But the perfect candidate wouldn’t make the cut if it weren’t for this final similar trait: their willingness to do the work. Employers want new hires that are prepared to assist with what the company needs, regardless of the task.

Joy Rothschild, senior vice president of human resources for Omni Hotels, receives tens of thousands of resumes a year and puts “willingness to do whatever it takes” at the top of her wish list.

When interviewing candidates, she wants to know, “Are they willing to get their hands dirty?”

Even after the interview, to Hal Rosenberg, general manager of Veria, the leading healthy lifestyle and wellness TV network, willingness to start at a low-level position just to be in the business “shows that a candidate will work the hardest to make it the farthest. That’s what it takes.”

Save yourself 33 hours, 19 interviews and a whole lot of paper. Remember the top three traits before applying for a job or internship.

Ask yourself if you are genuinely passionate about the position and the company. If so, you shouldn’t hesitate to do whatever it takes to get involved. Then, clearly articulate why you want to work there and if you are as excited about the field as your passion would portray, you should have little trouble holding a conversation on the topic.

Fill out the application and let passion, communication skills and drive take it from there.

Monkia Lutz’s My Gap Year runs every other Thursday in the Colorado Daily. Follow her on Twitter at @monikalutz.

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