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Think about someone you know whom you consider to be detail oriented.
When you think about this person, do you feel impressed by their skills or intellect? Or perhaps you feel annoyed by their perfectionism. Or are you the person who first popped into your head?
I feel like the term “detail oriented” is a buzzword in the job interviewing world– it’s one characteristic that people often pick off of a list of strengths that they find on the internet (somewhere between “strong communication skills” and “leadership skills”) to recite back to a potential employer.
But what does it really mean to be detail oriented and how does it make you any different from the rest of the world?
In this article, we will go into depth about what this personality trait really means. Then, we will look at 11 habits of people who are detail oriented.
Let’s get to it.
What is a Detail Oriented Person?
A detail oriented person pays close attention to the small things that other people often miss. They are diligent in all their tasks and always strive for perfection. Companies like to hire detail oriented people because they are accurate, organized, and extremely productive.
Now that you know what it means to be detail oriented, let’s look at some habits that people with this characteristic have in common.
11 Habits of Detail-Oriented People
1. They Notice Body Language
Statistics vary, but depending on the situation, somewhere around 80% of communication comes from body language. However, rarely does this number drop below 60%, making body language a universally critical part of communication.
People who pay close attention to detail notice how others around them are carrying themselves. People who are detail oriented will make it a point to pay attention to how other people are presenting themselves in order to gain a comprehensive assessment of the people around them. Being able to instinctively make this social observation gives detail oriented people a strong ability to recognize other people’s feelings and respond appropriately.
Even by simply noticing someone else’s facial expression, a detail oriented person can recognize others’ true feelings and sometimes their intentions as well–as studies have actually found that people who keep their eyebrows up just a bit and offer a friendly look to others are seen as being the most trustworthy.
2. They Value Efficiency
This is certainly not to say that people who are detail oriented rush through things or try to find shortcuts. They simply really do not like to waste time. They believe that every minute that is spent on a project matters when it comes to the end product, so time should not be misused.
Also, detail oriented people can often see patterns or alternate routes that others may overlook that can lead to increased efficiency.
When working on a project, a detail oriented person keeps each small component running smoothly in order to be sure to reach their deadline with a complete final product. They ensure nothing is left behind during the process to prevent having to go back and pick up lost pieces later.
3. They Proofread Their Work
You would be hard-pressed to find a detail oriented person who was willing to turn in a piece of work without proofreading it first. And, while many people give their writing a once-over before sending it on, people who are detail oriented may end up sending version 5, 6, or 7 to the recipient because they repeatedly go back and change things.
Proofreading for errors and for overall content looks at both the big picture and the small picture of anything that is written. When proofreading, not only are detail oriented people checking for grammar and punctuation errors, they’re also looking for continuity of ideas and a consistent message throughout their work.
4. They Connect Unconnected Dots
While anyone can be aware of the details of a project, it will be the detail oriented person who keeps even the most minor details in mind when trying to solve a problem. This is done by recognizing patterns, even if they are seemingly nonsensical to others.
Detail oriented people analyze details differently than others, using details as a guide that leads to an answer. This means that detail oriented people know what small facts to focus on to be able to resolve problems that need a creative solution. They also tend to group similar details together to find patterns and commonalities and consider how various details may affect one another.
5. They Anticipate Problems
People who are detail oriented know that if they fail to look at all of the details, they won’t be able to confidently say that everything will turn out just right. They’re also aware of how every part of a whole ultimately serves its own purpose in a process.
Let’s say you’re planning a party at your house. You know you will be put on the spot to entertain a lot of guests, so you will likely take the reins of the situation and clean your house, plan the food, plan for seating, create some sort of entertainment or focal point of the party, etc. You set up a rain plan, make sure you will have more than enough food in case extra people come or people eat more than you expect, and you make sure you have enough ice and toilet paper to last the entire night. Because if you don’t do this, you can’t be confident that the party will go well.
This process goes through the minds of detail oriented people for everything that they do. They evaluate every part of a project to prevent the entire thing from falling apart.
6. They Ask Critical-Thinking Questions
While people who pay close attention to detail sometimes overthink things compared to broader thinkers, their propensity to view everything with a perceptive eye often helps them notice things that others don’t.
In order to get to that place, detail oriented people often ask themselves critical-thinking questions, whether they are working on their own project or reviewing someone else’s. They like to look for gaps in stories, logistical fallacies, and ways to simplify complicated processes. They like to ask questions in order to make systems more efficient, confirm facts, and find the missing parts of an equation. They want to know why things are how they are without making any assumptions.
7. They Excel at Troubleshooting
The outcome of anything is usually caused by many much smaller moving pieces. For example, if you turn on a light switch, the light comes on. But if you go into this with more detail, you see that if you flip a light switch, the gate snaps shut, which completes the circuit and lets power flow into the light bulb through the switch.
But what goes on behind the scenes if you flip a light switch and the light doesn’t come on?
This depends on what went wrong during the aforementioned process. Is the light bulb burned out? Is something wrong with the gate?
People who are detail oriented can work backwards through processes to troubleshoot where the problem is occuring. While in this situation, the problem was mechanical, the ability to troubleshoot can also apply to solving social problems, such as why a company has such a high turnover rate.
8. They’re Good at Managing Their Money
People who focus on the details know when a resource is starting to get low. They enjoy using numbers to keep track of things, so, by default, keeping track of money is second nature to them.
Detail oriented people know exactly how much money is coming in and going out of their bank accounts so they can be sure that they’re staying on track with their financial goals.
Because they’re good with numbers, companies look to hire people in certain positions (such as accounting and finance) who naturally pay close attention to detail.
9. They Write Everything Down
People who are detail oriented keep a record of everything by writing it down. They know that by writing things down, they can unlock a higher level of thinking and a stronger sense of focus. Detail oriented people don’t keep their brains tied up by trying to remember everything because they want to leave room to process new information.
Keeping detailed records allows people to have a safety net by freeing up their mind to focus on other things. It also helps people prioritize their tasks because they’re able to see everything on paper. Because they don’t want to forget anything important, people who pay close attention to detail often refer back to their lists or journals.
10. They Like to Be In Control
People who pay attention to detail don’t like to give up their sense of control over their work. They prefer that no one messes with their system or tries to micromanage them. As long as detail oriented people can maintain control, they feel confident that the work they are responsible for will get done correctly.
Also, because they like to be proactive in initiating plans, people who are detail oriented prefer others to let them take the lead on projects. And, because they are good at managing a lot of smaller moving parts, being the lead on a project can be a good role for them.
11. They Stay Organized
Everyone has their own system for maintaining organization, and detail oriented people are no exception. People who pay close attention to detail often use specific methods to organize their work, such as color-coding, creating lists, and using a reminder app.
They want to be efficient with their time, so planning in advance to prevent wasting time in the future is often key. Detail oriented people are great at managing their time, and they use tools such as grouping tasks together to help reduce their time expenditure and never wait until the last minute to get something done.
Final Thoughts on Being a Detailed Oriented Person
If you want to become more detail oriented, think of these habits and personality traits and try to align your everyday actions with them. If you feel like you are already detail oriented, because this is such a buzzword in business, it is often better to show an employer that you fall into this category of people than to simply tell them.
Some people associate being detail oriented with being a perfectionist, but that isn’t necessarily true. It simply means that you’re able to pick up on the smaller details of a project as well as see the big picture, and see how all of those components come together.
Finally, if you want to level up your productivity and time management skills, then watch this free video about the 9 productivity habits you can build at work.
Connie Stemmle is a professional editor, freelance writer and ghostwriter. She holds a BS in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her 4-year-old daughter, running, or making efforts in her community to promote social justice.