Here's what matters most to people when considering a job.
Back when I worked at Microsoft and Amazon, I spent a lot of time hiring and building teams. I had the methodology down: Get referrals from strong people already on the team. Look for someone who is uniquely great at something, preferably something that makes them different from the rest of the team. Don’t let problem personalities past the first step no matter how capable they are.
When I decided to take the leap from the corporate world to starting my own company, I figured hiring would be the easy part. But when I sat down to write the copy for the careers page on our company website, I got stuck. I’d always advised job-seeking friends to choose the manager first and the specific job second. Most of my colleagues looking for jobs in the corporate world would talk about what they were looking for in terms of factors like pay and opportunity for continued advancement.
But the more I talked to people at startups, the less relevant these factors seemed to be. Although several people mentioned the potential long-term payoff of sweat equity, they were mostly not motivated by immediate pay; they would have been working at corporate jobs if they had been. They talked a lot about wanting to be part of a team of smart and collaborative people, but few mentioned direct manager as a consideration. Many of them talked about how much they were learning. I never heard anyone discuss promotions.
We didn’t want to advertise our roles in a way that would attract the wrong candidates — or worse, no candidates at all. We are also huge analysis nerds. We wanted to get beyond the anecdotal conversations. Just as we do for any important product or business decision, we decided to get some data.
We wanted to understand what candidates look for when they visit job listings. And not just any candidates but the particular candidates who fit the profile of people we want to hire. Our career site needs to be true to who we are as a company; it’s important to speak to our genuine values and hiring philosophy. It also needs to speak to the unique concerns of the people we want to hire.
I did a quick survey of nearly 350 developers, designers, technical marketers, product managers, sales leaders, and user researchers who work at a mix of corporations, startups, midsize companies, and nonprofits. Participants answered a single question: what are the top three factors that you look for in a job? I suggested some possible answers with the question, including challenge, pay, location, team, manager, flexibility, social purpose, and specific job description, although respondents were free to add any factors of their choosing.
What I had observed anecdotally showed up in the data. Here are the job selection criteria techies mentioned most often in different kinds of organizations, along with the percentage of respondents who mentioned them:
Everyone cares about things not in their top three list. Few people would turn down great pay on a fun team working towards a cause they believe in. But the data shows interesting and relevant differences between what people in different kinds of organizations care about most.
Manager, scope, and growth are corporate terms. Team, challenge, and learning are their startup equivalents. Corporate workers prioritize immediate pay more highly, while people at startups value flexibility. We realized as we looked through this data that the selling points we have to offer people joining Kidgrid aligned well with the factors that people working in startups value. That made us feel like we were on the right track.
Now that we’re up and running, we’re finding that the people we’re the most interested in are the ones who care about team, challenge, and learning, because those are the things we care about too. That’s true whether they currently work at startups, at corporations, or in some other environment. A good culture fit is just a good culture fit.
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