What matters most to candidates? Pay, culture, purpose?

Research by LinkedIn has found that the most crucial part of a job advert is the salary range. This may not seem all that surprising. However, research by Glassdoor also shows that candidates are looking for more than just money from their new role.

What do candidates want?

The answer to this question isn’t simple. As the research into this topic has been relatively extensive, it rightly covers different salary bandings. The answers to these questions will largely depend on the role being applied for and the person applying for it. So, it is right to break down the results as much as possible to avoid generalisations.

How should we break down results?

For example, a Millennial executive will likely have different considerations and expectations than a Gen Xer looking to head up a department. For the Millennial, who is looking to get their foot in the door, salary is possibly more important than culture.

Not only do they want to get ahead ASAP, but they may have a hefty student loan on their shoulders and financial goals ahead of them. For example, a millennial looking to get onto the property ladder will likely be more concerned about salary than culture. A small increase to their pay packet could make all the difference.  

As well as this, they may not consider the roles they are applying for to be long term career roles. Rather, they may consider them to be stepping stone roles with the view to gaining the experience they need to attain those higher salaried roles.

According to research, 37% of job seekers say that a company with a track record for promoting from within shows long-term potential. So, to attract and retain millennial talent, clear structures for progression, with training and development opportunities, are inevitably vital.

What about higher earners?  

A Princeton University study shows that “having a higher income increases happiness, but only up to about $75,000 per year.” So, as salaries get higher, the focus on monetary rewards decreases and is replaced with other factors. These factors include culture, leadership opportunities and the desire for “their employers to share their values”.

This sense of shared values comes down to the need for a greater purpose. “When employees have a sense of purpose at work, they feel passionate, innovative, and committed.” As such, research shows that “short-term goals are not enough to motivate employees.”

However, the desire for purpose could also be attributed to the fact that candidates going after higher-paid roles are aware, in this candidate-driven market, that they are in a position to negotiate. So, if the salary presented doesn’t meet their expectations, but the culture does, they may apply with a view to negotiating.

However, this need for purpose does not exclude millennials. So, while there may be more significant driving factors for candidates in the multi-generational workplace, a purpose-driven organisation will always be a top-choice employer.

How do you identify purpose?

Purpose is not the same as business goals or expectations. A recent study from LinkedIn shows that “49% of employees would trade a portion of their salary to continue in their current role with an added sense of purpose.”

So, there’s a difference between what initially drives candidates to apply, and what employees want once they are embedded in an organisation.

This sense of purpose is a possibility for any organisation. It can be seen as the need to have “a positive impact on the lives of others.”

One way it can be achieved is by implementing initiatives that ensure that your business minimises any negative impact of their processes. For example, by reducing any negative impact on the climate. 

However, purpose-driven organisations need to go further than merely reducing harm. To attract and retain the talent they need to thrive, purpose-driven organisations need to actively contribute to making their local community a better place to live. For example, by creating initiatives which provide opportunities and support the local community.

So, which one matters more?

Ultimately, pay, culture and purpose all matter when you culminate all the variables. However, research shows that pay and benefits are the most important aspects of a job advert specifically. So, when it comes to talent attraction, it’s vital to make it clear how much compensation you’re offering straight away.

This goes against many employers’ preference to keep the salary banding hidden. However, research also shows that making the salary banding clear can save recruiters time by filtering out applications from candidates whose expectations are outside of the specified range. This can result in a more refined talent pool and less wasted time.

However, if your culture and organisational purpose are not refined, you may lose out on talent and find that retention rates do not increase. To summarise, the salary banding is most likely the first aspect of a job advert a candidate will pay attention to. However, they may pay more attention to the culture and purpose of an organisation at a later stage in the application process.

So, for initial attraction purposes, salary matters. To guarantee your offers are accepted, refine your culture and organisational purpose to ensure your workplace is somewhere candidate want to invest their time.