Understanding the mindset of a modern job candidate

By Alexander Dick, below, CEO, Alexander Lyons Solutions 

At this point, it should come as no surprise to any employer that that the recruitment market is now largely driven by candidates themselves. With recent figures for the Office for National Statistics [ONS] revealing that job vacancies currently stand at approximately 1.1 million for the UK, there are more opportunities available than there are active jobseekers to fill them. This is creating a landscape where those on the lookout for a new position truly have the freedom to shop around for the best offer, knowing that, in many cases, employers need candidates more than candidates need them.

In this sense, any employer who still believes that they hold all the cards when it come to hiring is living in cloud cuckoo land. With the pandemic having fundamentally changed many people’s attitudes to how they work – particularly around flexible working – candidates have far more agency to dictate what they want from their jobs than ever before. As such, any business that isn’t willing to go the extra mile to understand the changing mindset of modern candidates will likely find themselves losing out to their competitors in the race for top talent.

Putting yourself first 

For some business leaders, the world of work is characterised by the misguided belief that people needed to work excessively hard, and all hours of the day, to achieve success. However, this doesn’t tally with the mindset of younger candidates entering the workforce, who are increasingly putting a premium on their own wellbeing.

Nowadays, speaking about mental health is, thankfully, no longer the taboo it once was. With various high profile media campaigns, endorsed by A-list celebrities, having normalised conversations around how we’re feeling at work, candidates are increasingly choosing to put their own wellbeing above all else. In fact, many candidates are even willing to take pay cuts if it means getting out of a toxic working environment.

This is corroborated by the 2023 Salary & Recruiting Trends report published by Hays, which found that almost two thirds of workers – 56% – would accept a lower-paid job if it afforded them a better work-life balance. After all, when you spend so much of your life working, why waste your time somewhere that makes you feel miserable? Therefore, firms should not shy away from discussions about how they can improve the balance between the time employees spend at work and that spent at home. This could improve workers’ satisfaction with their job, and dissuade them from resorting to seeking a lower-paid position elsewhere.

Choosing how and where to work

For those used to overworking in highly competitive and often poisonous environments, finding a workplace where they’ll be valued and well-treated can truly be worth its weight in gold. With 87% of millennials considering career progression to be very important to their working lives, according to Gallup, being a part of an organisation that offers training and development is a must. People want to feel that what they put into their work is recognised, and that strong performance will be reflected by their pay and position.

Indeed, research by the Harvard Business Review shows that 72% of workers feel recognition for performance has a significant impact on employee engagement. If they feel that they have hit a ceiling on what they can achieve in their existing job, therefore, they may well decide it’s time to move onto pastures new. As such, businesses must work hard not only to attract candidates with the promise of career development promises, but also to retain them by keeping their progression as a key focus throughout their journey with the company.

Whether they prefer working from home or in a more traditional office setting, candidates want to feel empowered to work in whichever environment they feel happiest and most comfortable. With the pandemic having made remote working the norm and proved its sustainability, businesses need to be responding to the wishes of workers when it comes to choosing how and from where they work. This is because, if a company isn’t able to offer a candidate the remote working options that suit them best, the candidate will simply look to one of the dozens of other organisations who can. Workers no longer have to make as many compromises over where they work, and they know it. Having a healthy work/life balance is what matters to them above all else, and they are prepared to go where they must to get it.

Tokenistic gestures around inclusion no longer cut it 

Businesses have long professed to be inclusive organisations, welcoming people of all ethnicities, nationalities, sexualities, and genders. However, I’m willing to bet that, if you were to check the ‘Meet the Team’ sections of many of these so-called ‘inclusive’ companies, there wouldn’t be much inclusivity on display. This is because some businesses, unfortunately, believe it is enough to simply claim they are inclusive without actually practising what they preach.

The same goes for claims of sustainability. Many companies have jumped on the bandwagon of professing to be environmentally friendly in recent years, as important issues like climate change have been brought to the forefront of the public consciousness. However, a significant proportion of these businesses – 42%, according to a report by the European Commission – are effectively ‘green washing’. In other words, they are exaggerating or falsifying claims of sustainability as a means of improving their brand reputation.

To the modern candidate, who believes passionately about inclusivity and is switched onto the social issues of the day like climate change, a business that’s only making tokenistic gestures is going to stand out like a sore thumb. Make no mistake: inclusivity is one of the most important factors of a workplace to modern candidates, with Monster’s global Future of Work report finding that 62% of employees would reject a job offer if it came from an organisation that didn’t support diversity.

Therefore, if organisations want to gain access to a wide range of high-quality candidates, they need to consider hiring people from diverse backgrounds. By doing so, they can benefit from a myriad of different viewpoints and ideas that can help them grow as an organisation, and put the conditions in place to attract even more top talent, whatever their personal story might be.

Similarly, if companies claim they are environmentally friendly, they need to be able to demonstrate that they genuinely are. After all, building trust with workers is vital to their satisfaction. If businesses are willing to bend the truth about something like their environmental commitments, candidates are likely to be left wondering what else they might lie about.

Employers no longer hold all the cards 

Today, the world of work is a far more socially conscious and flexible place than it was in days gone by. Now, employers must accept that they no longer hold all the cards when it comes to the recruitment process, and that candidates carry a fair amount of weight themselves. As such, it is in employers’ best interest to acknowledge that the mentality of candidates has fundamentally changed.

By observing the changing mindset of modern candidates and making an effort to attract them, however, businesses can also stand to benefit, and demonstrate that they too are moving with the times.