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The Best Employers Sell the “Why” to Candidates

Written by Phil Roebuck | August 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

purpose1A purpose driven jobforce

In 2009 leadership expert and author Simon Sinek delivered an influential TED talk in which he proclaimed that for any business to succeed, its brand identity must be defined by the “WHY” instead of the “WHAT.”

His message was simple, unexpected, and revolutionary: “People don’t buywhat you do, they buy why you do it.”

Sinek then went on to apply his ideology to recruiting. “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”

And so it goes that if you wish to compete for top talent in this mobile, social era of recruiting,  then potential candidates must believe in “WHY” you exist, not just “WHAT” your company does. More specifically, employers need to communicate a mission, a purpose, because that’s what candidates – particularly those in Generation Y (Millennials), are looking for.

The modern job candidate is not just looking for a job; they’re looking for a job that they’ll love. Employers, then, must oblige this sentiment if they want to attract the best and the brightest.

It’s a mindset thing

Employees at companies that are very good at selling the WHY – Apple, Airbnb, Starbucks, and Southwest Airlines – don’t believe they are just selling widgets, or flying people around the country; they believe they are changing the world.

Potential candidates need tangible proof that your employees are invested and engaged in the company’s culture and that a deeper connection exists between social impact and simply coming to work every day.

Now don’t go throwing up your hands at those aforementioned brands with defeated resignation and say, “Well, sure, those guys are Fortune 500 companies – at my company we literally sell widgets.” You’ve missed the point.

Whether you make soda pop or safety pins – it doesn’t matter WHAT you do – any successful organization is able to articulate the WHY over the WHAT.

And data supports the hypothesis: a 2003 University of Michigan study found that companies that were perceived by employees to be more virtuous also had significantly higher productivity, quality outputs, and lower employee turnover.

Authenticity reigns

Employers can easily communicate the WHY to candidates by leveraging media to impart their company’s culture. Advertising agencies always seem to do this really well (go figure), but then again, so do widget companies!

Speaking of widget companies, look no further than this Pintrest homage to an episode of Undercover Boss, the primetime TV show on CBS, where Oriental Trading’s CEO, Sam Taylor, disguised himself to work alongside employees in order to learn about the various aspects of his organization’s culture – and in this exercise Taylor was able to articulate his company’s purpose and broadcast it on national television!

With 9.4 million Americans tuning in to watch that particular episode, one can imagine that both the VP’s of Marketing and Human Resources at Oriental Trading were incredibly pleased.

However you do choose to communicate purpose to your candidates, know that it’s imperative to your hiring success. And it will require more than posting a mission statement to your company website, however impassioned or eloquent. Join the world of social recruiting. Post videos, virtual office tours, examples of your company’s outreach and social initiatives – whatever will impress the WHY upon a candidate. It’s all part of that candidate transparency thing that we harp on all the time here at Webrecruit.

If a candidate cannot literally place herself in THAT OFFICE, or imagine working for THAT  supervisor, then it will be hard to imbue in her a sense of the company’s purpose.

And at that point, as an employer you’ve already lost her.

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