The Best Way to Describe Career Growth When Engaging Candidates

Once you get past compensation, medical, dental, vacation, retirement, and all the rest, what benefits can candidates expect if they join your company? At many organizations, the major benefit they’re offering is career growth (or any number of synonyms like opportunities for advancement, job growth, development, etc.).

You can see this in the preponderance of job ads containing phrases like “professional growth” and “career opportunities.” Search those phrases on any job board, and you’ll see tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of results.

In principle, offering career advancement and growth is great, but there are two big problems. 

First, phrases like “professional growth” and “career opportunities” are so overused as to be rendered virtually meaningless. For example, a search on ZipRecruiter for the phrase “career advancement” yields 300,000 results. If the majority of job postings are using the same exact words and phrases, how are candidates supposed to know that your version of “career advancement” is better than the competition’s?

Second, it’s not enough to say words like growth and advancement; companies need to specify what, precisely, growth and advancement entail. Your organization doesn’t necessarily need a formal tuition-reimbursement program to be far more specific in defining how prospective employees will derive career growth. For instance, a recent Leadership IQ study found that only 20% of employees say that their leader always takes an active role in helping them grow and develop their full potential. 

How does your company fix that problem? Do you require managers to engage in monthly coaching conversations with employees? Do you have quarterly career mapping and goal-setting reviews? However you address this issue, you need to specify that for candidates. Saying “we provide career growth” pales in comparison to telling candidates, “each quarter, you’ll have an hour-long goal-setting meeting with your manager during which you’ll select mentoring and training opportunities for the next few months to best help you achieve your career goals.”

Meanwhile, another Leadership IQ study discovered that only 35% of employees say that they’re always learning something new at work. Notably, those who are learning are 10 times more likely to be inspired to give their best effort on the job.

Again, it’s less important how exactly you address the issue and more important that you detail your solution for candidates. 

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A recent Forbes article detailed the career growth practices at AnswerConnect. For each of their 2,000 employees, they have paid learning time. It’s 150 minutes a week for full-time employees, and to achieve the best results in terms of learning, retention, and skills development, the company wants people to focus on learning every day for 30-minutes. Whether salaried or hourly, workers schedule their learning time into their day and block their schedules accordingly. 

Detailing your approach to career growth with that level of specificity will be far more compelling to candidates than tired clichés about having opportunities to learn and grow.

Your company undoubtedly offers employees ways to advance and grow their careers (and if it doesn’t, that needs to be fixed). To make your recruiting pitches more appealing, however, you need to detail precisely how you deliver career growth. Vague and intangible benefits will never be as appealing as detailed and tangible programs. 

And don’t worry if you think your career growth programs aren’t as cool as those at competitors. Simply being specific about what you offer will put you far ahead of most organizations.

Mark Murphy is the CEO of Leadership IQ and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include Hiring For Attitude, Hundred Percenters, HARD Goals, and Managing Narcissists, Blamers, Dramatics and More. Mark’s groundbreaking leadership studies have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fortune, Forbes, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and U.S. News & World Report. Mark has also appeared on CNN, NPR, CBS News Sunday Morning, and ABC’s 20/20. He’s trained leaders at the United Nations, Harvard Business School, Microsoft, Mastercard, and hundreds more.

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