3 Things Candidates Say vs What They Really Mean

We like to think our candidates feel comfortable enough to be totally honest with us. But in reality, that’s not always the case. They still might embellish the truth in a recruiter interview for one reason or another, especially if they aren’t desperate for a new job or don’t feel comfortable enough with you.

But remember that if you don’t uncover their real motivations for moving jobs and ensure their needs are being met, you can be faced with problems such as counteroffers, them leaving the role just after starting, or dropouts!

In a talent shortage, you are recruiting against the odds, so you need to make sure your interviews are water-tight and really dig deep to uncover exactly what the candidate needs. Sometimes this can feel like mindreading, so to help you out, I’ve compiled a list of three things candidates say, vs what they really mean…

1. “I’m not looking for a move right now.” 

What they really mean: “This role isn’t attractive enough”.

If years of experience in recruitment taught me anything, it’s that even candidates who aren’t unhappy in their positions can be swayed if the opportunity is sold with their motivations in mind!

 As long as you know exactly what the candidate will move for, you will be able to tailor the way you sell the role and really get them excited about a new opportunity. It’s all about shining a light on the right things!

How to dig deeper: In this situation, you’ve got to work hard to really get to the bottom of what the candidate’s role is currently lacking. No matter what they say, there’s always room for improvement, even if the candidate doesn’t realize it himself!

Hypothetical questions work well here: Asking “If you could describe your dream role what would that be?” or “What are your top priorities in a potential role?” will help you dig deeper and find what’s missing.

From there, you can make parts of the role super attractive to them, taking whatever they’ve been lacking into account! Otherwise, you will just keep hearing that they aren’t looking for a role - until you find they have a new one, placed by a recruiter that took the time to get to know what would make this candidate move!

2. “I’m looking for a job with better career progression.” 

What they really mean: Career progression means different things to different people. For some candidates, it means a “this job title isn’t what I’m looking for” for others, “I’m looking to level up my responsibilities, not stay the same” and for others, it’s more that “I want a salary increase!”.

How to dig deeper: So, you’ve heard the red flag sentence – there isn’t enough career progression, to dig deeper you’ve got to ask specifically what sort of career path they’re interested in.

If they don’t have a clear answer ready, it means they don’t care about it as much as they’re letting on. It’s more likely boredom in their current role that’s bothering them. Sometimes candidates aren’t sure where they want to go, they just know they need MORE.

This is great news for you! You know they’re not being challenged enough. You might then go onto sell them on a role in a fast-paced environment with a variety of responsibilities, different challenges, possibilities to grow, and show them how they can put their ambition to use!

On the other hand, if they can give you a concise answer about what they are looking for, you’re now armed with a deeper understanding of which type of career progression opportunities they’ll respond well to. For example, if it’s a salary increase that they are after, you will know not to bother wasting their time with low or same pay graded roles. If they want to become a Senior at their next job (but aren’t quite qualified yet), you can help bring out their strengths and experiences that’ll help them ace the interview and level up in their next role.

 3. “That salary isn’t high enough to make me move.”

What they really mean: “What else is in it for me?”

When a candidate says this, I’m always wondering: is it really just the salary or is it the whole package? Candidates tend to be more flexible with their salary requirements when they know there is a whole bunch of other benefits that come with the role.

How to dig deeper: It’s rare that candidates look just at the salary when searching for a role, which is why it’s your job to fully lay all the other perks out for them! They may be paid a slightly higher salary right now but have a small pension scheme or no good health insurance. Knowing their current overall package is the first step to finding a role with better benefits. The next - asking them which ones they are currently using and why a higher salary is so important to them.

Perhaps you can match your candidate with a role that offers more of the things that matter to them. Example? Some candidates will say they need a certain salary to cover their commute, but the new company might have remote/hybrid working options. And just like that, you’ve just placed a candidate that was ‘not interested’! You need to hone in on what they really want!

Make sure you always do your research – both on your candidates and clients – to really know what pairings will make both of them happy. At the end of the day, if you fail to make the right placements, you’re only hurting yourself!How to Recruit in a Candidate-Short Market eBook

Beth Williams

Awesome Aussie Beth is an experienced recruiter and Growth Executive here at Firefish. She has a huge love of the industry and a real passion for helping recruiters to change the way they recruit.

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