Hire With Purpose: Why You Need to Give Candidates Something to Believe In

It’s not often that you’d put a three-year-old in charge of your hiring strategy. But toddlers do have one particular quality that can help you to be a better recruiter: their insistence on asking the question “Why?”

Answering the thorny question of why your company is in business is not easy. It may require the dissatisfied curiosity of persistent pre-schooler. But it’s a major step to hiring more motivated, loyal and productive employees.


Because it connects you over purpose, and purpose is one of the most powerful motivators in the workplace today.

Why purpose matters

Where purpose is present, performance soars. A benchmark 2016 report into workplace purpose, by Imperative, cited research demonstrating that:

  • 85% of purpose-led companies showed positive growth
  • 42% of non-purpose-led companies showed a drop in revenue

Even more dramatically, a Harvard Business School study found that over a ten-year period, values-driven companies outperform non-purposeful ones by a factor of 12 in their stock price.

How purpose helps

Why does purpose make such a difference? In short, because purposeful companies are more likely to have purposeful employees. And in just about every metric that matters, purposeful employees make better employees.

We touched on this in our infographic on the Emerging World of Software Engineers, which cited job satisfaction and loyalty as two characteristics of purpose-oriented employees. But according to the aforementioned Imperative report, such employees are also more likely to be:

  • Good colleagues
  • In a leadership role
  • Net promoters of their employer

Defining purposeful

If you want to understand what makes purpose-oriented employees perform so effectively, you only need to consider what it actually means to be one.

To be purpose-oriented is to see work as a path to personal fulfilment, strong relationships and a positive wider impact. An employee with purpose prioritises work that matters to them, their company and the world. They are almost certain to be more engaged in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work.

Interestingly, they aren’t just millennials: a higher proportion of both Gen Xers and baby boomers define themselves as purpose-oriented.

By contrast, non-purpose-oriented people see work solely as a source of income or status. They are far less likely to be engaged in their work, like the staggering 68% of US workers cited in a 2015 Gallup survey into employee engagement. Gallup went on to define not-engaged workers in the following terms:

“These employees are not hostile or disruptive. They show up and kill time, doing the minimum required with little extra effort to go out of their way for customers. They are less vigilant, more likely to miss work and change jobs when new opportunities arise. They are thinking about lunch or their next break.”

Not exactly the first words you’d choose for your next person spec. Yet like the majority of employers, are you actually doing anything to distinguish and target purposeful candidates in your hiring efforts?

If not, here’s where you can start:

  • Understand your company’s purpose – While every company knows what it does, very few know what for. But until you can clearly say why your company exists, you have no way of making a meaningful connection with anyone – customers or employees.
  • Bake purpose into your employer brand – Your ‘why’ should be articulated in your company mission statement and you want it front and centre in your employer brand. It should define your values and drive your culture, so that anyone coming into contact with your company can see it at work.
  • Connect with purpose-oriented talent – Create purpose-driven attraction strategies and seek out candidates who share your sense of purpose. Bear in mind these candidates are more likely to be passive, so you can add them to your talent pipeline and start a meaningful long-term conversation even if they’re not ready to jump now.
  • Probe for purpose during selection – Ask questions like “what matters to you?” and “what motivates you?” at interview. And remember that when it’s the candidate’s turn to turn the spotlight on you, you’ll have a much better answer to the question “why should I work here?” up your sleeve.

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