Do you need to be a hip start-up to attract top talent?

Last week a candidate told me that initiatives around climate improvement and social responsibility would play a crucial role in his decision to accept an offer or not. It dawned on me that a new era has arrived where culture will prioritise over pay… or it will at least play an equally important role.

This has a significant impact on the future of talent attraction. Your culture will become a decisive factor in a candidate’s decision to choose you as employer and it can serve as a talent magnet if done right.

The rise and success of start-ups may give you the impression that you need to be in a hip and trending location with meetings around the pool table and a compensation based on intrapreneurial initiatives to gain that competitive advantage on today’s job market. Reality is that most organisations still remain quite traditional. Do you need to drastically change the way you do things in order to be able to attract the right staff?

Not at all, the majority of people, even the millennials and the generation Z, still prefer the stability of a mature organisation.

Yet in order to attract talent something can be learned from start-ups. Top candidates look for a company culture that allows them to grow, excel and accomplish their long-term goals. By nature, start-ups clearly market that people can make the difference.

Creating such a culture is not mission impossible for a mature organisation. Key to success is an authentic and compelling story that outlines the purpose of your organisation and shows candidates that the values will allow them to grow and make a difference, preferably in a place that itself makes a difference.

Marketing such a culture in a recruitment process goes beyond branding efforts or ‘great place to work’-certificates. It needs to shine through in every step of the selection process. It goes from the way you interview candidates to the way you reject those who have not been withheld. It even starts by the way you approach them to check their interest.

Creating this positive culture will give you the competitive advantage you need, provided that it is genuine. There is nothing more demotivating than to arrive on your first working day to notice that it was merely marketing and that the reality is a whole different world.

I look forward to hearing from you,


Do you need to be a hip start-up to attract top talent? was originally published in Secrets of a headhunter on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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