What Employees Want – Job Applicant Preferences And Habits In 2019

Attracting and retaining the right talent remains one of the biggest challenges faced by companies today. Whilst being the preferred employer has never been easy, rapid societal and technological changes are making it even harder to find the right mix of work benefits to offer to applicants and potential employees.

To succeed in this environment, companies need to know where their job applicants are located, what exactly they are looking for in an employer and how their preferences are changing over time. A recent survey by Renaix, an international recruitment consultancy, answered some of these questions by polling a diverse group of 5,000 job applicants. This is what employees want.

Work benefits ranked by applicants

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  • Almost a third of all respondents picked flexible working hours as the most important work benefit that they would like to receive. The result is unsurprising considering the general trend in lifestyles where freedom and flexibility are dominating over other considerations. Another reason for this emerging as the top pick overall is that it is not just millennials who want this, but their more senior colleagues as well.
  • Career development ranks second with close to 19% of the respondents choosing it. Young professionals are obviously keen to fast-track their careers and establish themselves in their respective industries.
  • A generous pension scheme and plentiful annual leave are next with 14% and 12% of respondents choosing these options respectively.
  • Remote working comes in next with over 9% of the votes. Remote working was uncommon just a few decades ago. But with high-speed internet now prevalent, it is becoming increasingly popular.
  • Performance bonuses and private healthcare round up this list in terms of employee preferences. Bonuses are a strong preference for younger professionals but seem to lose their shine over time.

How work preferences change with age

Age seems to be the single biggest predictive variable in determining which option an employee is likely to choose. For example, career development, performance bonuses and remote working options are the most important benefits for younger professionals. As we age, there seems to be a marked shift towards other benefits like a generous pension scheme, more annual leave, and better healthcare options.

The high correlation between certain preferences and age means that employers need to have a different approach for the various age groups. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, a more dynamic system is called for, one that offers customised benefits likely to result in higher employee morale and satisfaction. Healthcare and pension become more important considerations as we age, and employee benefit programmes should reflect that reality.

By having a degree of dynamism in benefit programmes, employers can get better results without any cost increase. Paul Jarrett, Director, Renaix, said “Flexible working is a high figure across the board, and not just for those in their early to mid-career who are commonly tasked with caring responsibilities at this time.  Younger age groups appreciate the work-life balance flexibility brings.”

Looking for jobs – “Google it”

When a company’s brand name becomes a verb, it’s a strong sign of its market dominance. “Googling it” has become the primary method of seeking information for our generation and job applications are no different. Almost 28% of all survey respondents picked Google as the primary platform of choice when it comes to looking for jobs.

Online job boards are a close second with 26% of job applicants using them as their primary means of applying for a job. This seems impressive but unlike Google, this market share is divided amongst an endless list of companies specialising in various industries and niches.

Recruitment agencies and executive search firms account for over 18% while LinkedIn is the preferred platform for an impressive 11.5% of the people. Lastly, almost 14% prefer to contact the company directly.

One thing is clear from these results – most applicants are now looking for jobs online. There is also a clear correlation between age and a preference for specific platforms and younger professionals are increasingly opting for online options. However, this might also have to do with the fact that seasoned professionals have more industry contacts and therefore are likely to contact them directly.

Either way, knowing where prospective job applicants are located is key to getting the best candidates to apply for the roles that you have on offer. Drilling down even further and looking for industry-specific trends might also be worth it for some companies.

Other interesting trends in job applications

  • Job applicants say that they expect to hear back only 43% of the time. The optimism is higher for younger professionals with the expectation being closer to 50% for those under the ages of 24 and diminishing with age. Even if a candidate is not selected, leaving a positive message might build long term goodwill at almost no cost to the company. If it is likely that the applicant will stay in the industry, this is almost certain to pay back at some point in the future.
  • Only 64% of the respondents think a cover letter is still useful. Again, younger professionals are more likely to dispense with cover letters compared to their more experienced colleagues.
  • Interestingly, almost 13% of the respondents admitted to lying on their job applications!

Attract and retain

The core concept of attracting talent hasn’t changed much in the last few decades. Go where potential applicants are and offer them what they want. What has changed, however, are the exact specifics of what potential employees want in a job and how they want to apply to it.

Flexibility in terms of working hours seems to be the most sought-after work benefit for now but it is also important to tailor these benefit programmes based on worker age and seniority. The challenge with a dynamic benefits programme is that it is hard to put a monetary value on certain benefits to make everything “fair”. However, the potential windfall of achieving this seems attractive enough to justify the effort.