Microsoft is on a roll again under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella. I gave a keynote address at their Redmond, Washington, headquarters in June and was struck by a conversation I had with a few Microsoft leaders at a dinner reception after my talk.

They were telling me they'd been doing a lot of hiring of late (given the pace of growth that Microsoft has been experiencing). I was curious about what they were looking for in new hires, and what criteria were most important for a job candidate to demonstrate to increase their chances of being hired.

Their answer caught my attention.

They told me they like to keep in mind what they called Nadella's Necessities. These are two simple but powerful things that CEO Satya Nadella wisely says that he looks for in new hires. Nadella confirmed this himself in an interview he gave the Wall Street Journal in 2015.

1. Do they create clarity?

What a brilliant way to comb through a bevy of candidates you might be interviewing. Looking back, which one created clarity? That person will stand out for certain. I spent over a decade running a recruiting team for Procter & Gamble (P&G) and I can tell you that I looked for clarity from job candidates in four ways:

  • Clarity of thought Do you answer the question asked, with confidence and with easy to follow, well-considered, supporting rationale?
  • Clarity of communication Are you able to express your thoughts clearly, in an organized fashion? To prevent a rambling response to an interview question, it helps to pause before answering to think not just about your response, but about how you'll support your response as well. Just kicking in with a stream of consciousness approach until you arrive at your point often leads to a lack of clarity. One of the things P&G did well was force the use of a one-page written recommendation. Committing your thoughts to paper forces you to think in a clear, structured way to build an effective argument. Before you answer an interview question, imagine that you have to respond in a spoken one-page format: first state your conclusion/recommendation/answer, then follow with supporting points (backed with data). 
  • Clarity of intent People get distracted in interviews (and in any communication) if they can't discern what it is that you want. If the discussion requires that you reveal what you want or why you want something, be up front and on point about it.
  • Clarity of story This was a test I ran at the end of a day full of conducting interviews. Who left me with the clearest, most powerful story? When you're interviewing you are indeed telling a story, your story. Ensure the interviewer takes away a clear picture of who you are and why you'll be the best possible choice for that job. Thinking of your story in advance helps you conduct a cohesive, connected interview.

2. Do they create energy?

You can tell energy zappers and energy sappers a mile away. Energy zappers, those who exude and seem to create energy, are an often underestimated add to any team. Everybody likes working with somebody who gives them energy.

I used a simple acronym-based question I'd ask myself during interviews as a screener: "Are they firing SCUD missiles?" By SCUD, I mean

Spark. Curiosity. Urgency. Drive. 

My experience has been that you can't teach this. People tend to either have it or not. And while different people, of course, show it in different ways, it's important to show in your way that you are indeed an energy creator.

For example, if you're an introvert, you don't have to fake being an extrovert; connoting energy happens in ways more than just showing outward displays of it. Energy is created (perhaps even more powerfully) by simple voice inflections, small, targeted shows of passion, and by being extra clear and articulate in your answers.

So I think Nadella is on to something. And you might be on to something new in your life--a new job--if you're prepared to demonstrate Nadella's Necessities.