Motivation: Why you shouldn’t always recruit the brightest applicant. An article by RecruitSME about the need to consider candidate motivations as well as qualifications.

Much has been written about the ever-increasing numbers of graduates available in the UK market place. With the ever-increasing number of graduates, you’d think employers would be in clover. However more choice appears to have led to a raising of the bar and more hoops for all career entrants to jump through to get a good start on the career ladder.

I appreciate when you have over 200 applications for one job you need to narrow the field and why wouldn’t you recruit the brightest applicant you can? To answer this question, I suppose firstly we need to define what the brightest applicant is. For the purposes of this article I am defining the brightest by the most traditional of methods – academic achievements.

Put simply, they may not give you that long term commitment you are looking for.  

I remember having a conversation many years ago, with a HR director of a large contact centre firm, who complained that the turnover in the call centre was too high. They were employing students – which is great for both parties in terms of term time employment and flexible hours. However, the business started to become over reliant on the student marketplace for labour which was too transient for the business and led to unsustainable recruitment and training costs.

When you have made the decision to recruit, it is important that you truly challenge what the business needs from that role for it to be successful. How you define what is important in the role will build your core recruitment requirements, your person specification. 

As well as competency, hiring businesses should explore more deeply a candidate’s motivations for a role. I don’t mean asking them where they want to be in five years’ time – there are too many variables for a realistic answer for a start!  Think back to your first job, ask some of your colleagues about their first job, then consider… what would motivate you to change career today?

Our motivations differ as we progress our careers and obtain more baggage! Once it was simply to earn a bit of cash and gain independence, maybe to learn on the job, as we progress with life these become more complex – hours to suit family commitments, enough money to pay the mortgage, more responsibility or even a change of career direction. Don’t dismiss a candidate because their motivations are different from yours – consider whether they fit the dynamics of the role.

I split motivations into several different categories:

1. Personal: What is driving the candidates job search? Hours, Salary, location, work experience, training etc. Understand what is essential and desirable to a candidate. Can you match these needs? What has motivated their career choices to date? What motivates them to succeed? Is the candidate seeking a career or a job? Why?

2. Company/industry: Why has the candidate chosen to apply for this role? What appeals to them about the company or industry? Has the candidate done any research? Have they applied for similar roles with other companies? What do they expect from an employer?

3. Role/Task Specific: What elements of the role appeal to candidates? What type of tasks does the candidate enjoy? What do they dislike? Do they have any talents they can bring to the role? What does job satisfaction mean to the candidate? Are there any aspects of the role the candidate is unsure of or would require training?

4. Work environment: We spend a lot of time at work so the work environment can factor heavily in our ability to be productive and happy at work. Are there any conditions unique to your work environment you need to test the candidate would be happy with? Does the candidate prefer big or small team environments? If the role requires significant travel test the candidates’ appetite for it? Test fit with the work culture – how does the candidate like to be managed? What do they look for in a team? 

With new talent, the candidate may struggle to describe what motivates them if they have limited experience. Sometimes it is easier to ask them what they don’t like in these circumstances. By giving equal consideration to a candidate’s motivations as well as their competence you should be able to find the best match for you.  

I have worked in recruitment for over 15 years and have seen first-hand the impact of the internet on the hiring process. Advertising roles has never been easier but applying has also become something candidates can do at the click of a button. Cover letters have become almost a distant memory. That is why in today’s market the most essential element to test is a candidates motivation to work for you.

Thank you for reading. 

Sam McKee is the founder of RecruitSME a new recruitment portal exclusively for SME and not-for-profit organisations. RecruitSME ask candidates to provide more information than a standard job board. As well as providing the candidate with the opportunity to introduce themselves by video, the system captures how a candidate would describe themselves, what is motivating them right now and what they are looking from their next role.