In the current climate and for many people, a great employer is one who reliably pays a salary on a weekly or monthly basis. If I were a jobseeker in a region such as the North East where there are 9 candidates chasing every job, or Plymouth where there are 6,500 people chasing only 1,000 jobs this would lie fairly central within my decision making process.
But the economy will turn eventually. There is some limited evidence that this is beginning to turn. Those in the recruitment business talk of a shift from an ’employer led’ market through to a ‘candidate led’ market. This meaning that the emphasis shifts from the focus being upon candidates fighting for jobs, to an employment market where employers are fighting one another to win and attract the best talent. Some employers are arguing that the market is already a candidate led market, particularly in those sections where certain skills are in demand and there is an absence of those skills.
Before the days that I became self-employed, I can recall the difficulty I sometimes faced at interview. We are perhaps all familiar with the interview question “Why do you want to work for us?”. I cannot recall just how many interviews I have sat in and in the back of my mind thought to myself. “I’m unclear why I want to work for you”, “Why should I work for you?”. But unless being specifically head-hunted, I always felt this was something of a risky turn around.
Now we know that this question is likely to occur at interview. We prepare for it. So you say, “I’ve been doing my research into you and I have learned that you have done some great work for customer XYZ, and the project that you led with customer ABC really demonstrated the leadership that you have in the market…blah,blah, blah”. We’re these genuine statements? Probably not. I just needed a job, and yes, you appear to have some decent credentials. You are a company and you are doing business. This means you can pay me.
The end result of this of course was that I would go work for the company and would either be a) pleasantly surprised or b)wholly disappointed and yearning to find another role. Generally, by the end of the second week with the firm I was working for I’d have a pretty clear idea of my position.
You see the problem is, a company will pose the question “Why do you want to work for us?” when it provides little to no reason for the job candidate having the information, the knowledge or the perception that enables the job candidate to reasonably or at least honestly answer that question.
Those of us with some ambition, usually have some idea who we want to work for. I can recall going back 20 years ago when at the start of my career I was attracted to the organisations that had the big brands in technology. At that point in time Microsoft was at the top, but for me I was particularly attracted to the work of the Systems Integrators. Accenture (Andersen Consulting as they were at the time), Cap Gemini, Logica were all companies with whom I was enthusiastic to work. In the end I worked for a firm whom relatively speaking, no one had heard of, Icom Solutions. This company was small next to these giants, but boy did I learn a great deal during my time there. This company wasn’t populated with a 1,000 graduates but was populated with some hugely experienced project managers, implementation specialists, sales people and managers. Frankly, I think I learned much more from working with this fine team of people than I ever would have being churned through the graduate programme of some enormous SI company.
But of course I didn’t know that at the time and this is a risk both for the prospective employee and the employer. In different ways the recruitment process is expensive for both parties. Choose the wrong candidate and it is a lot of money in wasted recruitment fees, salaries and time. Choose the wrong company, we’ve wasted time, damaged our CV, added some misery to our lives and forced ourselves back into the labour market. It’s an expensive mistake.
If I was in the employment market today, I would be looking at best in class companies and looking at how they attracted their employees. Obvious candidates in the tech world that I tend to inhabit are of course Google, Facebook, those big systems integrators and so on. But I would be looking at what they had to offer and what I had to offer them. Companies who were not clear on what they had to offer would be put on the B list. Event though as in the case of Icom Solutions for me, they weren’t better places to work. Why? Because it is about managing those risks in being employed.
I also think that I would like to start with some adjectives that met with who and what I am and what motivates me. I would find out which companies might help meet my need. For me I’d be looking for answers to self-described adjectives such as :- innovative, cares about customers, informal, lacking stuffiness and a host of other adjectives. Does the employers’ positioning of itself to me indicate that my needs are going to be met in this respect?
It is my belief that companies who care about presenting me with a sound rationale for why they are a great place to work are likely to care when I am working for them. If a company pays attention to its approach to hiring in this level of detail, then likely this also reflects in their products, customer service and ethic. They are likely to have a mature and rounded view about employment and are likely to care about the people who work for them. If employees are being well looked after by the company they work for then I suspect that those same employees exert a similar level of care towards the organisations customers. Which helps to make it a great place to work. I see it as something of a genesis, those who care, care more.
If I cannot identify that a company cares about its employees, that you have sound principles, a sound respect for your employees, then it is likely that you are going to sit at the bottom of any offers list that I get.
What is important to you as a candidate when trying to judge prospective employers?