Back in high school and college, we had guidance counselors to help us plot our future educational paths based on the career choices expected of us by parents, teachers, friends, and potential employers. We studied our options and weighed each career opportunity, choosing from a scorecard of checkboxes that were meant to guide us.

In the end, however, those checkboxes were only limiting us.

The 8 Factors Motivating Any Candidate

These checkboxes probably included the following eight motivating factors, intended to help you rate the specific value of each career path. Whether you know it or not, these eight factors have influenced your thinking about every job you’ve held since your student days. They also influence the way you recruit candidates today:

  1. Mission: What is the goal of the organization, department, or job? Do you have passion for the work of the company or its cause? Does it matter to you personally?
  2. Leadership: Are you inspired by the people in charge? Are you encouraged, motivated, and cheered on by those at the top? Do you respect and look forward to being taught by the leadership of the company?
  3. Challenge: Is the work in question something that interests you? Do you feel as though the job represents something bigger than yourself? Does it force you to be your best self?
  4. Scope of Impact: Does your work matter? Will it make a difference? How broad and how deep will the scope of your impact be?
  5. Acquisition of New Skills: Do you need to up your game in order to be successful in this job? Will you learn new skills? Will those skills directly benefit the future you?
  6. Prestige: Is the reputation of the company or brand something you can be proud of? Are you happy to talk about your work in public and to family and friends? Does the job make you feel good? Will it look good on your resume?
  7. Personal Needs: Does the job allow you to make accommodations for additional concerns in your life, such as ailing parents or small children? Do you have distinct scheduling needs, perhaps due to a side gig such as consulting or teaching, a beloved hobby, a custody arrangement, or an impairment or personal obstacle? Are you seeking employment that offers flexibility, benefits, or geographical considerations that differ from the norm?
  8. Money: For some, this is the No. 1 issue. For many, however, it takes a back seat to other priorities. How much do you need to make? How much do you want to make?

Don’t get me wrong. These eight factors can be useful in guiding employment decisions, and I used them in my own recruiting career to steer my hiring efforts. As I was smiling and dialing, cold-calling candidates and recruiting them out of the blue, I relied on these eight motivating factors as signposts along a roadmap. If I heard a candidate’s interest in one or two of those factors, I knew there would be a second conversation. If I heard interest in three or four, I knew the bait was on the hook. Any more than five nibbles meant the candidate was practically in the boat.

Once I knew what to listen for, building candidate pools was like shooting fish in a barrel. Then, however, I noticed something happening: My candidate pools, though rich in numbers and potential, would slowly disintegrate as the 3-4 month search process dragged on. A once robust pool would dwindle as my prospects dropped out of the search, one by one, for a variety of reasons.

Updating the Old Scorecard

Until I was able to figure out the true value to my candidates of the money, the leadership, the mission, and so forth — that is, the value assigned by a particular candidate to each factor — I was simply checking boxes. I was trying to sell a product — the job — to people who weren’t necessarily in the market. I was calling them because they were successful at what they were doing and that success made them attractive to my client. I was asking them to throw their hat into the ring for a search they didn’t even know existed until they had picked up the phone. Rather than a value proposition that was meaningful to the person on the other end of the line, I was armed only with generic checkboxes.

Limitless Cover BigOnce I realized this, I knew the only way to nestle into the imagination of a candidate and inspire them — to really influence them to care about the new position — was to make the correlation to a deeper need. I had to show the candidate they were limited by the way they currently interpreted those factors. Then, the candidate could see themselves in the job I was offering as limitless.

The job I was offering wasn’t simply about the money, the brand prestige, or the acquisition of new skills. It was about how the income could contribute to the life that person wanted to live. It was about how the value of the brand could contribute to the candidate’s career development. It was about how a broadened skill set could help them accelerate their career trajectory. To speak to the values and needs of the individual candidate, I had to go deeper.

But that wasn’t all. Depending on the individual, I could then take each of these eight factors — each of the person’s treasured values I had dug deep to uncover — and weave them into a larger conversation about consonance. For the people who valued connection, I could talk about the advantages offered by the company’s strong leadership or the challenges the job presented. For those who needed a deeper sense of calling, I went straight to the firm’s innovative mission or the wide-ranging impact of the position. I could discuss contribution not just through the salary and benefits package, but also through the values the company manifested in its work. I could talk about control by telling stories of other workers who had sought and achieved similar promotions, flexibility, or agency with the company.

Helping candidates finding the right work isn’t about checking the boxes on a list of timeworn values. It’s about how this list gives us a way to measure consonance, to understand whether the work we do matters to us. It’s about using this list to remove the limits placed on us by someone else’s expectations and live life on our own terms.

Once I understood this, my close rate went way up. Candidates had a reason to be in the hunt for work that mattered to them. They had a reason to stick it out through the long and demanding search process. They could see how this product I was peddling — the job — was in consonance with their own life plan. They could feel the limits being lifted as they imagined themselves in the role. It just made sense.

This article has been adapted from Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life, 2019 by Laura Gassner Otting, copyright (c) 2019. Published by Ideapress. Visit for more information.

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