Is Motivation or Qualifications Most Important in a Candidate?

By Roy Maurer Sep 22, 2015
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One-third of nearly 500 executives surveyed in August 2015 said a candidate’s motivations and drivers are the most important factor when sourcing for open positions.

Respondents chose a candidate’s skill set as the next most important factor (27 percent), followed by past experiences (24 percent), and then traits such as assertiveness and confidence (16 percent).

None of the respondents believed the college the candidate attended or the degree he or she attained was most important, according to the survey released by Futurestep, a Korn Ferry company specializing in recruitment process outsourcing and professional search.

Futurestep Managing Director of Global Operations Vic Khan explained that a candidate’s motivations and drivers are clues to whether they will be a good fit. “For example, one very potent driver is power—the motivation to attain work-related status, visibility, responsibility and influence,” Khan said. “Those who work in a competitive environment and have this driver would likely be highly engaged and successful. Conversely, those same people working in a more collaborative culture may struggle.”

Steven Raz, co-founder and managing partner of Cornerstone Search Group, a life sciences executive search firm, agreed that fit is important, but not at the expense of being qualified.

“When we are sourcing for candidates, there are two important factors: Can they do the job and do they want to do the job? The first level is a technical assessment, meaning, do they meet the qualifications? Once you have determined that they have met the requirements, then during the interview you can assess if there is a cultural fit,” Raz explained.

He added, “Clearly from a long-term standpoint, the candidate’s expectations and motivations should be logical and match up to the company’s vision and plan for this person. Both the company and the candidate should be as aligned as possible about the expectations for the position from day one, as well as what the future looks like.”

Candidate Sources

The survey also found that:

  • More than two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents said their best candidates typically are active job seekers.
  • About half (52 percent) use their own professional network first when sourcing candidates.
  • Only 6 percent said they rely on internal referrals.

“Having a solid professional network has been and will always be critical for those sourcing candidates,” said Khan. “However, we also recommend that organizations create an internal mobility program to tap into the gold mine of key talent that already exists within the company.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy​​

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