What are candidates looking for in a job?

CHRIS KEELING • 18 Jul 2022

1 - Candidates want flexibility
2 - Money talks
3 - What are candidates asking for?

"The money or your life."

One of the aftermaths of the pandemic was the view that many people have taken stock of their priorities. For a good number of people, they were forced to spend time away from the workplace and stepping off the day-to-day routine allowed them to re-evaluate what they wanted from their job.

Copy of JobBrain Stats

Was it a better work/life balance? Was it a more supportive culture (particularly when return to work edicts came back into play)? Was it less time commuting at busy hours?

Candidates want flexibility

Many of these changes in motivation led many organisations to believe that culture is more attractive than pay. This view was supported by evidence from organisations like Ernst Young in their 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey, which found that 9 out of 10 employees want flexibility in where and when they work This laid down the gauntlet to business leaders and HR to produce more flexible work regimes.

However, how quickly time moves on. That is not to say that many people don’t want to retain some flexibility, but in a time where the country is facing a cost-of-living crisis and an economy that could be faltering with high inflation and falling demand, then money talks. And that brings salary and wages back into sharp focus.

Money talks

Those familiar with Maslow and his hierarchy of needs may recall that money is one of the very foundations of what we all need. Indeed the physiological needs (heat, food, water, shelter) and the security needs (financial security and personal security) form the base of Maslow’s pyramid. In other words, you cannot achieve greater satisfaction without these basic needs being met.

Only at the top of Maslow’s pyramid do we start to see things like self-actualisation (achievement of your personal goals and ambitions), which ties in with the more values-based mindset of company culture.


So what does that actually mean in terms of shaping our thinking today? Well, it seemingly is having quite a profound effect on candidate behaviour and consequently, it should affect how organisations attract workers.

What are candidates asking for?

In a survey of 10,000 applicants conducted by Talent Intelligence specialists JobBrain (part of the Jobtrain ATS family) the analysis showed the following:

  • Nearly a third of candidates were ‘attracted’ to a job because it was presented to them as an option having signed up for alerts with Indeed! In other words, they didn’t actively seek the specific job out – instead, it was presented to them with a ‘quick apply’ option via a logarithm! In short, it was a simple, effortless way to apply for a job that was laid in front of them.
  • When asked how important home working or flexible working is to you, 51% said they were either ‘not bothered’ or preferred office based work. This compares to the 48% who said that flexible working was either ‘very important’ or ‘somewhat important.' In itself, this presents no firm conclusion as to whether candidates want home working or not – but it does show there are polarised views. For those who want social contact, a workplace and an opportunity to mix and learn from others it can be very important to have a place of work they can go to. For others, they really want to have far more flexibility and are quite happy working remotely. What applies in your own organisation you can judge – but the younger the workforce and the more consumer-orientated the business, then it is likely that people want to have a place of work they can all meet in.

Copy of JobBrain Stats
  • Candidates who were moving for better employment benefits (14.9%) was far greater than those who were moving for greater work flexibility (5.4%) whilst those looking for a career change (27.2%) was the most prominent factor. So, what this starts to tell us is that money/benefits is more important than flexibility (a real shift from what many commentators thought just nine months ago). But it also highlights the willingness for people to move outside their sector. We haven’t got specific data on this trend yet, but we would advise against complacency if you are benchmarking just against your immediate competitors. A care worker, for example, may earn £2-£3 per hour more if they opt to move to the hospitality/leisure sector.

The data in this area is as large as it is fascinating so if you would like to dig deeper then you can find the information by reading our full salary report for free here.

What do we recommend?

We certainly are not saying that organisations should abandon strategies that have been grounded on promoting positive, inclusive cultures. Nor should they abandon flexible working (to do so would alienate half the potential workforce). But if you are struggling to attract staff, then going back to basics (as identified by Maslow) and including salary and benefits in your job adverts may well have a very positive impact on your recruitment efforts.



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