Want to know what candidates REALLY want??

With combined recruitment experience of 30+ years (eek!), Jo Blackman and I have interviewed a few candidates in our time. One of the most important questions we ask candidates during an interview is ‘What are your must-haves in your next role/what are your non-negotiables?”

Something that’s become apparent in recent years is that the motivation for a candidate to apply for a particular role has changed – quite a lot!

When I started in recruitment around 15 years ago it was all about career progression and climbing the corporate ladder, because that’s just what you did, right? Well, things have changed and nowadays the key things people are seeking in a new position tend to fall into one of these categories (or sometimes a combination).

Want to know what they are? Read on my friend!


People want to be doing work they truly enjoy, within a positive team environment.

Thankfully we’re all very different so the work one person enjoys might be another person’s worst nightmare. The key thing here is that people want to be doing something they find interesting and satisfying day in and day out. Equally important is working in a positive team environment. These days it’s not so much about the title, salary or what the organisation does as a whole, but what they’ll be doing and whether the team environment is a good fit for them.

Work/life balance and flexibility

This is the big one. Life is busy and with more families having two working parents, family time is critical. What might surprise you though is that it’s not just the working parents seeking an amount of flexibility, reduced hours or even just an assurance that it will be a 9-5 role. Young, old and everyone in-between are highlighting a preference for a role which has hours to suit their lifestyle or one that offers the opportunity to work reduced hours. Many also asking whether they can work from home for part of the time or negotiate a regular RDO as part of their package. It’s an interesting thought!

So, if you’re an employer who isn’t offering some sort of flexibility or are at least making sure your staff aren’t having to work regular overtime, it might be time to start thinking about it because it’s going to get harder and harder to attract candidates to your business – and keep your existing staff!

Strong employer brand/aligned values with the organisation

There’s no doubt that when I’m recruiting for an employer with a strong employer brand the volume of applications increases. This is also the case when recruiting in an industry that people feel passionate about or connected to – it might be Not-for-profit, Tech or Health and Fitness etc

However, it’s not the industry alone that people are attracted to. It’s a specific organisation within that industry because of their reputation and the candidates’ perception of that employer. Don’t underestimate the power of having a strong employer brand!

The ultimate scenario is when a candidate secures a role in an industry which they feel passionate about, where the values of the organisation are aligned with their own core values and the organisation has a strong employer brand. I had one of these cases just yesterday, and I’ve never been more confident that it’s the beginning of what will be a fantastic long-term employee/employer relationship.

Feeling valued

This one’s pretty straight-forward and it’s one of the main reasons people move on from their role – they just don’t feel valued by their employer. It’s no fun when you’re slogging away every day yet your efforts go completely un-recognised and, if that’s been the case for some time, people can tend to start looking around for other opportunities. Feeling valued also includes honesty and transparency from an employer. The second an employee feels like something’s being hidden from them or there’s significant change taking place together with a sudden lack of communication, they can feel undervalued and start to disengage.

Career development and learning opportunities

I understand that not every organisation can offer career progression and the promise of a long-term career path, but what every business can do is provide learning opportunities. This could be as simple as new tasks, a project or extra responsibilities. Even a fairly simple change to a role can sometimes be enough to keep a staff member engaged – and that’s what it’s all about, making sure your people feel engaged.

So, as an employer or hiring manager it might be worth reviewing these key areas to see how your vacancy stacks up, and whether your employer brand might need a little attention!

Thanks for reading!