How a Candidate’s Career Stage Impacts Employer Branding

A recent Hinge Research Institute employer branding study of over 1,000 people at professional services firms aimed to uncover what matters most when it comes to aligning talent with an organization’s needs. Sure enough, some of the findings bore no surprises. (We all already know that a competitive salary and benefits package are still important). 

But other results revealed useful nuances among job-seekers based on where they are in their careers. Even more consequential were findings that companies may be failing to differentiate messages that speak to people’s distinct priorities.

Attracting Top Talent

To start, let’s talk about the importance of cultural fit to both job-seekers and recruiters. Fifty-seven percent of job-seekers across all career levels consider culture as important as pay when evaluating job prospects, while 75% of recruiters said cultural fit was more important than a candidate’s work history and experience.

This tells us that having a strong company culture is absolutely essential for both evaluating how new talent will fit into your organization, as well as attracting the right talent in the first place. All of which dictates the need to define and clearly communicate about the culture.

Candidates’ Priorities Depend On Career Stage

Candidates’ priorities — and the way they seek their next opportunities — vary according to where they are in their career journey. To attract the best people at any level, your organization needs to be proactive about meeting them where they are, which means knowing what they care about and how they are looking.

Entry-level candidates want to see strong signals about your company’s commitment to their growth and advancement. They also tend to shy away from the risk and cost of a major relocation. These candidates look first to your company website to see what they can learn. Does your “careers” tab have a section dedicated to new grads? Are you actively marketing to colleges and universities in your area?

Mid-career candidates want responsibility most. They desire an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution, as well as assurance that they won’t be spread too thin. This is the group most likely to talk to a recruiter or staffing firm as they assess their next move. Do you have a strong story to share about work/life balance? Can you convey what an actual assignment might involve in terms of leadership and collaboration with top management? 

Senior-level candidates are more likely to make a move if they perceive that your organization has a clear vision for the future and values strong leadership. They expect to be able to operate independently — nearly 1 in 3 respondents in this group prioritize working remotely. While salary and company culture were deciding factors, this group also emphasized the importance of the people and team with whom they would be working. Whether they are actively or passively looking, the best channels to reach them are recruiters and networking. Similar to the mid-career group, recruiters aiming to attract senior people need to be able to tell a compelling story about their organization.

Especially when the market for talent is competitive, employers must tailor storytelling to meet different candidates’ interests. By considering people’s career stages, you can better attract individuals who are likelier to meet your needs — and in turn, they will be likelier to meet yours.

Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is managing partner at Hinge, the leading research-based branding and marketing firm for the professional services. Hinge conducts research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to become more visible and grow.

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