It’s a question that seems pretty simple, but for some reason, people keep asking it: what do job candidates want?

If you said, “A new job and a hiring process that is transparent and responsive.” You would be right, but for some reason, that straightforward answer isn’t enough. We know this because every year there are all sorts of new surveys that work hard to dig beyond the obvious answer in order to find more nuance beyond the predicable response that at least 90% of all job seekers would offer up.

With Criteria’s 2022 Candidate Experience Report, just released this month, it gleans more insight from job candidates in the wake of The Great Resignation. Since Criteria describes itself as a “talent success company that helps organizations make more objective, evidence-based talent decisions that both reduce bias and drive outcomes,” they have a slightly different take on what job candidates want than a great many of these surveys do.

5 Things Today’s Job Candidates Want

That’s always a good sign, and here are five key highlights from the new report that dives into the thoughts, feelings and desires of job candidates today:

    • Flexibility is the No. 1 priority for job candidates – Candidates ranked work-life balance as more important than compensation, work culture and benefits. A third of candidates (33%)  have turned down a job because it didn’t offer flexible or remote options.
    • Over half of candidates (54%) have abandoned a recruitment process because the salary didn’t meet their expectations – Salary transparency is one of the hottest topics of 2022. Candidates overwhelmingly agree that they’d rather see salary information front and center in a job description. Nearly six out of 10 (57%) strongly agree, and another 25% somewhat agree. But that wasn’t the only reason. Over half (53%) also say that they abandoned a recruitment process because of poor communication and another 32% abandoned it because the process took too long.
    • Candidates are confident in their ability to command pay – Candidates may be hungrier for salary transparency because they’re confident in their ability to command pay. The majority of candidates feel confident that they will be paid enough in their next role, with 48% saying they strongly agree and 31% somewhat agreeing. Interestingly, the amount of confidence varies widely by the different groups surveyed. For example, candidates in the retail and transportation & logistics industries were especially confident, as were Asian and Black candidates. Confidence also seemed to decrease with age, with younger candidates exhibiting higher confidence than older candidates.
    • Candidates are also confident they’ll be able to find the job that they want – Job seekers are feeling optimistic that their next role will meet their needs. In fact, a full two-thirds of respondents were “Very confident” that their next job would be satisfying. Confidence levels differed amongst groups – for example, those in the education industry were less likely to be very confident compared to other industries, and Black, Asian and Hispanic candidates were more confident than their white counterparts.”
    • In general, candidates perceive the hiring process as fair – A combined 71% of candidates feel that the hiring process in general is fair: 40% strongly agree and 31% somewhat agree. However, nearly a third of candidates (28%) feel that they are disadvantaged by the traditional hiring process: 10% strongly agree and 18% somewhat agree. Asian and Black candidates were more likely to feel that the hiring process was fair, but also more likely to feel disadvantaged by traditional hiring.

The study also asked candidates what qualities they wanted from their new employer when they take their next job. Again, what candidates are telling them isn’t groundbreaking, but it is instructive. The issue isn’t organizations don’t know all of this, but rather, so many have failed to respond to it.

What Organizations Can Offer

Candidates may hold the balance of power in today’s job market, but employers can stand out in the crowd by offering candidates what they actually want in their next role. The study asked candidates to rank seven (7) major qualities that an organization can offer, in order of importance. Here’s where they ended up:

    1. Better work-life balance;
    2. More opportunities for career advancement;
    3. Better compensation;
    4. Better manager and/or team;
    5. Better work culture;
    6. More sense of purpose at work;
    7. Better benefits.

Here’s my take: This report is about the overall candidate experience, and I’ve written about that before at Recruiting Daily — like back in 2018. I also wrote about it a year before that when I noted that, “It will take more humans, less automation: to solve the problems that so many candidates had with the lack of a decent candidate experience.”

Criteria’s Candidate Experience Report spells out yet again what recruiters and hiring managers already should know about what candidates want, but they knew most of that back when I was originally writing about it here in 2017-2018. The big question then, is this: what about the candidate experience has changes since then?

The answer? You know it all too well: virtually nothing. Some organizations take what candidates tell them to heart and make the proper adjustments to their process, but honestly, most don’t. In other words, the candidate experience is pretty much the same in 2021-22 as it was back in 2017-18. It’s sad to say that, but it’s true.

The Key To Hiring? It’s The Golden Rule

It’s also true that what I wrote for Recruiting Daily in my very first blog post in May of 2017, titled The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Candidate Experience, is as relevant today as it was then. I made this point:

“Everyone who recruits or hires should have to be a job candidate at sometime.”

That is still true, and although the aforementioned report didn’t use those exact words, the insights they got from job seekers around the globe, the very insights that drove their new report, pretty much made the same point.

But, I also said this:

“Any company can treat top candidates well (although that not always a given, as I found out), but how they act toward the great nameless, faceless mass of people who apply to them really speaks volumes about how they treat not only those who actually do get hired, but how they probably treat their customers too.

It’s a version of the Golden Ruletreat your job candidates as YOU want to be treated. If you truly care about the Candidate Experience, this shouldn’t be so hard for recruiters and talent managers to understand.”

Job candidates may have more leverage today, but what they want in a job and an employer hasnt really changed much. But the challenge remains. Will more organizations listen to what job seekers are telling them and make the appropriate changes?

John Hollon

John Hollon is managing editor at Fuel50, an AI Opportunity Marketplace solution that delivers internal talent mobility and workforce reskilling. You can download the research reports in their Global Talent Mobility Best Practice Research series at Fuel50.