Canadian job seeker survey: what candidates are looking for in an employer

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Job seekers care about employer branding. They just don’t know it yet.

Many companies are beginning to re-examine their talent acquisition strategies as the competition for skilled workers heats back up. Manpower’s annual Talent Shortage Survey revealed that in 2014 31% of Canadian employers had trouble filling jobs, the highest rate in seven years. More than half of employers surveyed (53%) say that this talent shortage is having a medium to high impact on their ability to meet client needs.

One simple solution to this is to find out what is important to candidates and then let them know that your organization suits those needs.

In a survey, Workopolis asked thousands of Canadian candidates what matters to them when choosing an employer or targeting a position to apply for, and it turns out that it is your employer brand. Over a third of them don’t actually know this though, because they don’t understand the term “employer brand.”

We asked 4,500 Canadians “How much does a company’s employment brand influence whether you will apply or accept a job offer?”

63% said that this factored into their choice, with 36% saying it played a “big part” of their decision. However, that leaves 37% of candidates who said that employer branding is irrelevant.

Dig deeper, though, and we find out that branding matters to them as well, and in a big way.

We then asked Canadians, “All things being equal when it comes to salary, benefits, and location, which of the following factors is most important when considering a new position?”

25% said “opportunities for advancement” was the most important, followed by “a relaxed fun working environment” (20%), these were followed by “On the job training, learning opportunities” at 16%. (This last selection is of particular importance to younger or less experienced workers.)

To a lesser degree candidates say they care that a company is seen as an industry leader (13%) or has a reputation for financial stability (13%). Interestingly, only 5% of candidates surveyed say they are concerned about the company’s “Corporate, social responsibility” and less than 1% cared about whether a company is seen as “Cool.”

When asked to elaborate on their desire for a positive working environment, that vast majority of respondents identify this as a workplace that offers “work / life balance.”

In a candidate study by Accenture in 2013, more than half of respondents (52%) said they have actually turned down a job due to concerns about the impact on their work-life balance.

How much does it matter? We asked Canadians, “Would knowing these things about the company beforehand influence your decision to apply for and accept a job?”

A whopping 95% of respondents said “yes”.

Opportunities for advancement, working environment, work / life balance, company reputation: these are the core elements of your employer brand, and they are the deciding factors for 95% of candidates on the labour market.

And brand matters more than money. The employer brand elements that matter most to candidates are even more important to them even than salary.

    • 36% of Canadians say that they would take a 5-10% pay cut for a job with a more positive working environment.
    • 31% would take a similar pay cut for a position offering more opportunities for career advancement.

Canadians want to work for an employer that offers a great quality of life on the job and respects balance – while providing them with the opportunity to grow in their careers.

Candidates are actively looking for this information. 98% of Canadian candidates surveyed say that they research a company before applying. 42% said that they “thoroughly” research potential employers before making a decision. Only 2% do no research at all.

How are they finding information? We asked “How do you find information about companies you might like to work for?”

    • Visit their corporate website – 86%
    • Google search – 79%
    • Word of mouth – 59%
    • Company review sites (Glassdoor, RateMyEmployer) – 42%
    • Social media – 37%
    • Other – 6%

If candidates researched your company today, what would they discover? Here are three recommendations for giving your brand a boost.

Optimize your online presence

The first thing that the vast majority of candidates will do is look you up online. Does your company have a search engine optimized web presence? Will potential candidates land on a page that highlights your positive working environment, how your company respects work / life balance, and is an enviable place to work? This is the information that must be made readily available.

Testimonials from employees who have worked their way up in your organization can go a long way to demonstrating how your company supports talent and promotes from within.

Leverage social networks

Not only is it the most well-known video sharing site, YouTube is also the world’s second most popular search engine. Leveraging video content can be a great way to get the word out about why your company is a great place to work.

Social interactions on Facebook and Twitter allow you to establish a brand voice for your company, interact with new audiences of potential candidates, and increase search your engine rankings.

This also gives you the opportunity to address any potentially negative remarks on employer review sites such as or Glass Door. Candidates know that every company has positives and negatives, addressing criticism in an upfront and respectful manner establishes your credibility and likeability.

Keep it real

Word of mouth is another important factor for candidates weighing an opportunity. Start a dialogue with your existing staff. Ask employees for their input on what would make their work easier or more enjoyable. Are there low costs changes you can make to improve the culture or environment?

Be sure to treat applicants with courtesy and respect at every phase of the hiring process. An unsuccessful job seeker may be disappointed, but one who feels personally or professionally slighted can become a vocal detractor of your brand.

Solicit frequent feedback. Find out what if any improvements could make the hiring experience better for candidates or hiring managers.

Your employer brand matters to 95% of candidates – even though only 63% of them know it. But here’s why you need to know it: 98% of the talent available will be researching the fundamentals of your brand before making a career decision.

Successfully recruiting and retaining the talent you need will depend upon creating those conditions that make you an employer of choice and communicating them effectively.

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