Understanding the Job Seeker: 3 Steps to Making a Connection that Lasts

Finding a new job is stressful. Just think about all the steps a person has to take before accepting a new job: searching for work, preparing an application, sending it in, talking to a recruiter…that’s four steps already and we’re still a long way from extending an offer.

Throughout the entire process, recruiters should be building a relationship with the candidate. This requires empathy and a solid understanding of what’s driving the job seeker psychologically and emotionally.  Ultimately we should be asking: What will prompt this particular job seeker to fall in love with my company to the degree that they’ll not only continue through to the end of the process, but also say “yes” when we extend the offer?

If we truly understand what’s motivating candidates, then we can help them by providing the right guidance and support throughout. Of course, our goal is to have them choose us only if the match is truly mutual. This will lead to a happier and more successful new hire. But how can we make this happen? 

Step 1: Listen and learn

Many factors can spur somebody to start a job search. It could be a disagreement with their boss, dissatisfaction over compensation or frustration at limited career growth opportunities at their current company.  Fear can play a role too: perhaps their company has been seeing declines in their business and, in anticipation of layoffs, the candidate is getting a head start on their job search.

With so many potential factors in play, recruiters have to quickly identify which ones matter for each unique individual. So listen more than you talk. Be curious. Ask open ended questions that probe at the underlying reasons for a move, or the job seeker’s career motivators in general. But above all—listen.

Often the first answer doesn’t get to the root of the issue. Let’s say you hear this: “I recently had my performance review. We were talking about development opportunities, but I just don’t see any for me at my current company.”

Many recruiters will leave it there and move on. A great recruiter won’t be satisfied with a surface level response: they will probe for more detail and help the candidate paint a picture of what they would like those development opportunities to be. When a job seeker shares what will really make them happy in their career, a recruiter can help them see the ways in which those goals become possible if they make a move. Make them see that their ideal situation is possible with you, and the likelihood of them accepting an offer at the end of the process is going to be far greater.

Step 2: Helping candidates fall in love

Once you understand the individual’s motivators, you can start to personalize the experience. However, keep in mind that the drivers leading a person to start looking for a career change are different from those that will make them fall in love with a new job at your company.

The interview process is a key area where an employer can offer a personalized experience. While standardization of interview questions across candidates is advisable, there is no reason the overall experience needs to fit the exact same mold for each individual. Showcasing the exact same programs, perks and benefits to everybody you speak with is not a winning strategy.

Let’s say you find out that one candidate has the travel bug, and your company has an open PTO policy. This is a program you will want to highlight, since it is likely to serve as a motivator in this case. An open PTO policy might mean you can offer the ability to travel when their kids are off school, and your competitors may not have this. For others, you might uncover motivators like location, money, flexible working hours or the ability to make social connections. Excellent recruiters will take this information and tailor their approach accordingly.

For instance, recently somebody came in for a leadership role on my team. In the initial conversation we discovered that she was reporting directly to her CEO, with whom she had a distant relationship. She was also tired of cold, northern winters and was ready for the warm weather and atmosphere that Austin has to offer.

When she came in to interview, the manager she would be reporting to gave her a gift card to a restaurant where she and her husband could have a glass of wine on a patio, enjoy the weather, and talk about the how the interview went. This approach touched on both of the candidate’s motivators, and helped her make the decision to commit.

Step 3: Making the decision to commit

So now you’re ready to make the offer. Getting a ”yes” means reconfirming all the motivators and presenting it with a focus on how you understand and can accommodate the candidate’s needs.

A recruiter who mechanically presents an offer in two minutes is doing it a huge disservice; this inevitably over-emphasizes the monetary aspects. The assumption that people are only ever financially motivated to find a new job just isn’t true.

Of course, the compensation needs to be reasonable, but that’s not the emotional hurdle most people need to get over when switching jobs. Again, you have to dig into the psychological drivers, which you unearthed at the start and have followed throughout the process.

What does this mean in practice? Let’s say the candidate has an interest in a specific type of project, and the hiring manager can assign them to that project: that should be part of the offer. This highlights that what you’re offering is more than a paycheck—it’s quality of work, and by extension, quality of life.

Ultimately the candidate will think: “It’s this project that I told them that I wanted to do that they are committed to making sure I can do it, so it sounds like they care about me. This is a place where I could fit in and be happy, and a place that I want to say yes to an offer from.”

And isn’t that what we, as recruiters, all want?

Barb Bidan was VP of Global Talent Attraction at Indeed between 2015 – 2018. 

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