An Open Letter to Our Candidates

Imagine that this letter appeared on the first page of your company’s career website, or perhaps on your company’s home page in place of the “Careers” button.

Dear Candidate,

Like you, I was also once a candidate looking for a new job. The first time was many years ago, but I’ve been in similar circumstances many times since then. I also know many people who were my peers in those days who have had, and are having, remarkable careers.

Likewise, I know many strong people with enormous upside potential who didn’t achieve their career goals. In many cases, it was by making wrong career decisions early on.

I don’t think putting together a career plan and achieving it today is that much more difficult than it was when I started out in business. In fact, with the demand for talent starting to exceed supply, you’re actually in a pretty unusual situation. There are a lot of exciting opportunities out there, and it’s easy to get swayed one way or the other by the best marketing.

Nonetheless, I’d like to offer you some career advice as you explore opportunities with companies like ours. Perhaps we’ll even be able to offer you an exciting career opportunity. Regardless, you have a rare opportunity at this moment if you choose wisely.

While a wrong choice will not be devastating, it will set your career back a year or two. Too many wrong choices could adversely impact your career and life. That’s why I felt this message was important to write to you.

First, don’t get lulled into a compensation-driven career strategy because you think it’s the cool thing to do. If, ultimately, our company makes you an offer of employment, I would hope you would accept it because it was the best job with the most significant upside potential, not because it was the highest salary. In fact, we’ve implemented a compensation strategy at our company that is competitive, but it’s purposely not at the top of our industry.

While we want to attract the best people available, we want to do this by offering the best jobs and the best career opportunities, not the best compensation. We know you can make more money in the short term at some other company, but we don’t think you’ll be able to find another company that will offer you the best chance to maximize your career growth. We want to be an employer of choice, and in our minds, this is how we want to achieve it.

With this in mind, recognize that time is your most valuable asset. Invest wisely, as what you do in the next few years will have a huge impact on the rest of your life. Those who focus on compensation often select jobs that aren’t as personally satisfying, overlook the chance to make a big impact, or miss the opportunity to handle bigger jobs sooner.

While not always true, after a few years, those who have focused primarily on maximizing compensation tend to be overpaid in comparison to their abilities and under-satisfied. These are the people who are always looking for something better, wondering why things didn’t work out as hoped.

On the other hand, those who have focused on doing work they enjoy, being given as much responsibility as they can handle, and being put into challenging situations tend to grow more rapidly and find their work more satisfying.

Not surprisingly, these are the same people who get promoted with far bigger compensation packages. The choice is yours: focus on compensation or career growth. Consider this carefully as you look over the opportunities listed in our career site and talk with our managers and recruiting experts.

Talk with people who a few years ago were in situations just like yours. As you’ll see on our main career site, we have two big buttons. One says “Chat Now with a Recruiter,” and the other says “Chat Now with a Friend.” Once you click, you’ll discover some wonderful things about our company.

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I’ve asked our line managers, including our directors, VPs, and executive team to join me in this effort to switch our focus to opportunity instead of compensation. As you look over our online job descriptions, you’ll notice something else unique. To start with, they’re not boring. They describe the real work you’ll be doing, why the work is important to the company, and why it could be important to you. They emphasize the big projects, the key tasks, what you’ll be learning, some of the challenges you’ll be facing, and what you could become if you’re successful.

As you look over these job descriptions, notice the lack of the laundry lists of qualifications and experience requirements. Typical qualification-intensive job descriptions like these turn me off. I can’t understand why any talented person would be the least bit interested in doing boring work. As a result, we’ve banned these from our site. Of course, you need skills, experience, and qualifications to successfully handle just about every job we have open, but we’ll address that after you’ve applied. We handle this differently than every other company around.

For example, most of our open jobs aren’t even listed. Instead, we’ve put up something our recruiting team calls talent hubs. These are micro career sites, each one covering a group of jobs like sales, marketing, IT, operations, and product development.

When looking for career opportunities at our company, check out these talent hubs first. They describe the type of work we’re doing in this area, the types of people we’d like to consider, and the growth opportunities available for those who excel.

While the basic skills and qualifications are listed, they’re pretty broad-based, spanning entry-level to seasoned pro. As we review your background, we’ll focus on what you’ve accomplished, rather than your skill level. This way we can offer you a bigger job, if appropriate.

Even if you don’t think there’s an obvious specific match, submit your resume anyway. Applying this way will take no more than two minutes! If something is available that directly matches your interests and our needs, we’ll show you this instantly. Sometimes we’ll even redesign a job or add extra training if we find a strong person without all of the prerequisites. This is where the idea about selecting jobs based on career growth and job stretch comes into play.

While we can’t guarantee we can make you an offer, we can guarantee that if we do make you an offer it will be one that clearly provides significant career stretch and growth in combination with a competitive compensation package.

To me, this is a very fair trade off. Ultimately, whether you take a job with our company, this should be how you make each of your career decisions. Accepting a job should not be about the money. While this might seem like a good idea in the short term, if the job is not satisfying, you’ll be very disappointed. When accepting an offer is based primarily on the career challenge, the chance to make an impact, the opportunity for growth, and the chance to work with some outstanding people, everything changes.

Whether you receive a job offer or even choose to accept, I’d like to hear about your experiences during this process. We believe that hiring the best people is critical to our company’s long-term growth. Everything we do, including how we design our career site and how our managers and HR people treat you through this process, is an important component. Don’t hesitate to email me with your thoughts and comments about our unique approach to matching great people with our great opportunities.

Regardless of what happens, I personally wish you the best of luck as you pursue your career goals.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).

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1 Comment on “An Open Letter to Our Candidates

  1. Dear CEO,

    After I submitted my resume through your impersonal system and never heard from anyone, even though my credentials matched very well – although I didn’t come from a big brand school or company, I went to a start-up competitor where they did interview me and gave me a job. My firm is growing pretty fast – how about yours?

    When I joined your firm, you were super impressed with my skills, personality, and capabilities which I felt I articulated to you very well in my numerous interviews with your staff. Yet,once I joined your firm the characteristics that made me a success suddenly didn’t mesh with your culture, philosophy, and management creating such a divide – I couldn’t succeed and was either terminated or had to leave the company.

    When I joined your firm, I was promised career development, challenging assignments, and growth, plus the opportunity you articulated in the position and interview was super. Months later, I am awaiting the mentoring and development and am growing increasingly bored with the repetitive ‘gotta get it done today’ work. I believe I am using 10% of my brain and capability and doubt I will have opportunity to go further. Maybe your competitior will offer me better.

    When I joined your firm, you focused on my past successes hoping I would do the same for you. However, I didn’t know that pervasive favoritism, politics, and poor management resulting from the emphasis on who can lick boots best pervaded your culture. I am calling back the recruiter.

    When I joined your firm, my boss was a great person who I saw a future with. One week after I joined, he was moved or terminated, I was moved to a role I didn’t ask for, and the firm experienced a sales loss, merger, or whatever. Needless to say, what you articulated no longer holds validity. I am on the search again.

    When I joined your start-up, who knew what would happen? You expected me to take charge and grow your business – which I did. But factors of politics, fear, and other things caused me to get successively pushed back and pushed down. Your focus on things that were trivial in spite of business growth and success nearly caused the entire company to fail.

    Dear CEO – I have had enough of the charade that you pose, all that opportunity, growth, success- keep your promises and positions. I’d rather be on my own, I promise to treat my employees with integrity and respect, emphasize the right things, and give them everything that I couldn’t get from you. Maybe my company will earn a world-class distinction and beat out yours.

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