Values-Based Hiring Guide: How to Win the Hearts & Minds of Today's Top Talent
by Marc Eichner
The Impact of Values
The impact of values is best explained with a story. Here is the real story of a high potential, the protagonist wants to stay anonymous, so let’s call him Benedikt.
“I learned it the hard way. 5 years ago I got severely sick and it took me several years to recover. In my search for a cure I realized that the reason I got sick was not bad luck. It was that I was not living the life that fit me. At work I was confronted with leadership that made me feel like a replaceable part of a machine and the little time I had left for my private life I spent on recovering from work. In other words I felt stressed all the time and my immune system weakened.
But what made me stay? I felt I had no choice. Even though I was amongst the Top 0.01% of top performers at university, it took me 1 year after university to find a job. Why? I didn't want to work 60 hours per week and I wanted a job where I actually could learn fast, use my intellect and take lots of responsibility from day 1. Having founded startups, most jobs felt too narrow for me. It seemed impossible until I found a job that would send me around the world after week 3 completely on my own responsibility. Finally! How exciting!
But it came at a cost. The only thing that counted at the company were results - which is not bad per se - I love generating results and helped to rescue a company from imminent insolvency within 6 months. Amazing! But the decisive difference is HOW the work environment is designed to support creating results. In this company the way to motivate employees getting results was pressure and hierarchical distance. This created an atmosphere that killed creativity and turned employees into personal risk managers.
The worst thing? I can’t remember one time where I was asked how I felt, if I needed something or anything else that would indicate an interest in my well-being. I played many times with the idea of handing in my resignation, but I felt I had a lack of options. I felt the business world was just not ready for what I needed, but I needed money, so I continued.
I changed jobs, just to realize that it did not change the game. It was the same system wrapped into different corporate colors. The only difference, the new managers did not understand how to use my talents. I felt trapped. Boxed in. Running in a hamster wheel. Taking the same grey metro every day to go to a grey office with grey pc screens that caused everyone in the team headaches.
Surprise! Then it happened. I got sick. My body forced me to stop. To get out of this business world that sucked my energy. After week 8 I was laid off via mail. I felt angry but I understood it. It was an economic decision. I was a liability to the system so I had to go. But my job was not important anymore anyhow. I was suffering physically and had to get my health back.
In my recovery period I had plenty of time for deep reflection. I realized I had created my own downfall because I had not respected my core values. For choosing my next employer I would never compromise on these five values ever again:
Freedom - I want to work when and where I’m the most productive. My future employer understands the power of mutual trust and the efficient collaboration it enables.
Community - I want to have colleagues who have my back, with whom I can celebrate successes and that can become friends. I want a positive work environment and feel a sense of belonging.
Impact - I want to work at a place where transformation happens, where I can use my talents to the fullest. My employer is going to practise positive and adaptable leadership enabling me to create impact.
Integrity - I will not compromise on my important values. My future employer cherishes individuality and differences and smartly into a system that is more efficient and human at the same time.
Inspiration - I want to have a deeper purpose than increasing the turnover or cut costs. I want to spend my time working on something that really matters. My future employer is going to tackle a major problem the human world faces.
When I was clear about my values I started to apply again. Having my values ready for assessment helped me to communicate what I wished for. And I was surprised how well the interviewees responded to how I imagined my workplace. This helped me to find the right company where I feel amazing.
Now my work provides meaning and I’m looking forward to going to the office almost every day. My energy level is sustainably high and my stress level much lower than it used to be. Sometimes there are still peaks of stress, but that is on me. I’m still in the process of learning to set boundaries and communicate my needs on time.
I love my co-workers. Everyone is super open minded and most of them have become my friends. We even went on holidays to South America together. It’s super fun to work and the results that we are creating as a team are beyond everything I have experienced before, ever.”
Cool story, Marc - I can feel with Benedikt, but what does that have to do with recruiting?
We’ll get to that. But before, let me tell you what the most important factor for creating high performance teams and companies is. It’s not the salary or the benefits, it’s not the experience, not the talent and it’s definitely not the skills of the employees. It’s what you, me and everyone else use to guide action.
It’s values. If you want to create a high-performance environment in your company, one of your most important jobs is to create a company culture that attracts the talent that your business strategy needs. Culture and values are something that is still undervalued - pun intended . Values are intangible and seem to be soft. How can they create real results?
But think about it.
In hiring we’re dealing with humans. Everyone on the planet is constantly in the search for meaning. And values help to find meaning. So, communicating values that our ideal employees are looking for is highly magnetic.
Also values are the most powerful source for intrinsic motivation. And that’s what we want when we’re hiring. We want to hire intrinsically motivated people that love to work at our companies and are not just there for the money.
Before we get to value-based hiring, let’s get a better understanding of what values actually are and why they are unleashing so much energy.
What are Values?
I get it, definitions can be boring ! But read this, because it is super important for values-based hiring.
Values are underlying fundamental assumptions that direct or inspire behavior. They assist us in deciding what matters to us. Values are the personality characteristics we decide to live by to direct our behavior. They also characterize the type of person we want to be, how we treat ourselves and the people around us, and how we interact with the outside world.
What’s hiring to do with values? Values are intrinsic motivators. When the candidate's values fit to the company’s, the candidate is more likely to apply, 20 times more likely, in fact. Also it means that once accepted as an employee she will be more satisfied and productive at her job.
Values create meaning, community and stability. They are the foundation for visions and goals. They provide orientation, identity and image. Adopting a values based perspective on hiring helps to tap into one of the most powerful logics of humanity.
What’s Values-based Hiring?
The goal of values-based hiring is creating high performing squads by winning the hearts and minds of top talent whose central values fit to the envisioned culture.
Here is why this works:
When we communicate our values with action, words, imagery or other forms of expression, we attract people that share our values or find them desirable. Also we push those people away that have contradicting values. This effect becomes even stronger the more clearly we communicate our values.
"You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life"
Using this mechanism consciously is amazingly powerful. It’s one of the most important mechanisms for talent marketing, especially now, since Generation Y & Z are craving for meaning.
Do you remember the last job descriptions you saw? How did they make you feel? Most of nowadays’ job descriptions are dull and charmless. Why? Because they focus on communicating hiring needs ONLY in terms of skills and experience. So you’re neither entertained, nor do you actually know if applying is really worth your effort, because you don’t know how the company’s culture ticks and if you would be a good fit.
Today’s talent marketing still focuses on communicating hiring needs in terms of skills and experience, and not on inspiring potential candidates with meaning.
Values-based job descriptions and talent marketing content pull the best talent into the world of the employer. It helps candidates to pre-evaluate the culture of an employer to determine if it is worth the effort to apply or not. Candidates who get inspired by talent marketing content are much more motivated to apply.
"An employer’s attractiveness is not assessed by how positive the culture currently is, but where it’s heading. Top talent choose companies in which they can contribute to cultural transformation." Marc Eichner, Founder VALUED
But there is more.
Advantages of Values-based Hiring
“We have no patent on anything. We can be copied by anyone else. But you can’t copy the heart and the soul and the conscience of the company.”
Howard Schulz, ex-CEO Starbucks
Culture and its corresponding values are not only the companies’ most important key differentiator in the competition for market share. They are today’s key resource for attracting and retaining top talent. The knowledge about a company's culture is the most undervalued yet most decisive factor for talent marketing success as people crave for meaning.
At the same time, values complement skills in predicting the performance of a potential employee in the imagined team setting. Values assessment provides incredible insight into a candidate's attitude, character, work ethic, honesty, dedication, and responsibility. Additionally it evaluates a candidate's capacity for strategic thinking that contributes to the long-term success of the startup or the business in transformation.
14 Advantages for Companies
Values-based talent marketing evokes positive emotions which means people love to spend time with the content. As a consequence potential job seekers will read them even though they are bombarded with so many other job offers.
Everyone knows it.
Marketing that does not evoke emotions is bad marketing. Same goes for talent marketing. And the source for emotion is the communication of values. The result? Conversion rates from job ads via direct messaging LinkedIn funnels increase from the branch standard of 3% to 66%. It sounds crazy, but ⅔ of everyone who has the right skill profile and is ready for a job change applies to a values-based talent marketing campaign.
More Ideal Employees
More applicants mean more hiring options. But that’s not all. When you’re communicating employer brand values in the whole recruitment process and actively assess the values-fit. You’re winning top-motivated employees that fit the team’s culture and are ready to create impact.
Better Team Compositions
Values-based recruiting helps to build better team compositions that push the boundaries of performance. The skill to collaborate is highly related to values. Teams in which values clash spend more time on non-constructive conflicts than those whose values are aligned.
Reduced Risk of Wrong Recruiting Choices
Hiring the wrong person for the job leads to a financial loss of one year’s salary for the company on average. A thorough values check is essential for decreasing this risk, as it is for the skill assessment. A candidate's attitude, character, work ethic, integrity, dedication, and accountability can be better predicted by understanding their values.
Save time with less invites to interviews
I know it’s tempting.
If you don’t have many options you tend to follow up with the few options there are, even if you feel it’s not a match. Thoughts might pop up like “I might regret not letting the candidate advance up on the next interview round, after all I need to generate results”. But we all know the outcome when we are not fully convinced with hiring decisions. It’s going to be a bad hire.
With values-based recruiting it is easy to decline applications early in the process when your intuition tells you “something's not right”. You have much more talent in the pipe. So why not just take a look at the next one?
Reinforces a Strong Culture
It’s a no brainer. If you hire people who came to your organization because of your values, your organizational culture will grow stronger. This leads to even better results across your whole organization. Here are a few statistics that come with a strong culture:
- 50% lower hiring costs (LinkedIn)
- 55% more ideal hires (SHRM)
- 49% more qualified applicants (SHRM)
- 41% more employee referrals (SHRM)
- #1 factor in employee satisfaction (CultureIQ)
- 4x higher revenue growth (Forbes)
- 12% higher employee productivity (Gallup)
Positive Work Environment
Values-based recruiting looks for values in candidates that are aligned to the positive leadership principles of the company. The result: an elevating atmosphere where people can connect to their creativity, their purpose and to getting things done instead of playing political games. But that’s not all. When people share values they are more likely to bond and build great relationships. An incredible asset for any company.
Better Employee Wellness
When employee’s values are aligned with the organization’s, they are not working against their own internal programs. Which means they consume less energy doing their work and get less stressed. The result: shorter recovery periods, fewer and shorter sick leaves.
Higher Employee Engagement
People that live and work according to their values are sustainably energised and engaged. They believe that what they are doing has meaning. This leads to taking over more responsibility as well as finding and implementing solutions faster. Work feels much lighter and easier. Amazing, isn’t it!
Over the years the cost of hiring has gone up. Less applicants means more recruiting effort, which means more time investment and higher costs. With values-based hiring, candidates have a much clearer picture of what’s awaiting them at the job. They are less likely to leave the company quickly again. When the company’s and employee’s values are aligned, employees are more satisfied and feel a strong sense of belonging. That means they are more committed and stay longer.
If a person neglects her values she looses energy which leads to lower productivity and in the worst case scenario to bad health. If a person lives according to her values she wins energy. She is not only more healthy, she feels happier, more creative, makes better decisions and is more motivated and productive. And all of this for the long-term.
Non values-based talent marketing has another huge problem. Companies with standard talent marketing attract more people that do want a pay raise than those that are super motivated to make an impact. The reason? High performers are very selective applicants.
Strong Employer Brand
Winning mindshare of top-talent as a great employer is the key to lowering hiring costs even further. An employer brand is only as strong as its values are attractive and associated with the brand. Communicating the employer’s values with values-based hiring automatically creates a strong employer brand.
Better Client & Stakeholder Relationships
Because employees feel less stressed and have clear guidelines through the values they can be their true selves and make better decisions. This leads to better service for clients, and better relationships to business partners and other stakeholders.
5 Advantages for Recruiters
Higher Likelihood of Referrals
When employees are inspired at work they are more likely to talk about their job with friends, colleagues, clients and business partners. Combined with incentive programs this helps to spread the word about job vacancies and elevates the amount of applications even more.
Less Time For Pre-qualification
In CV’s it’s relatively easy to pre-qualify the candidates’ skill level. For the cultural fit it’s much more difficult. With values-based talent marketing, candidates already get a concrete picture of how it must feel like to work in your organization. That means communicating values actively serves as a passive filter mechanism. People that identify with your company’s values will apply and those who don’t, won’t. So you can focus your time and attention on highly interesting applicants.
Lower Cost of Vacancy
If a job in the middle management remains vacant, it costs the company 1,000 € per day [Adecco, 2022]. In ⅔ of companies the average time-to-hire for leadership positions is longer than 3 months. With values-based hiring you can lower your time-to-hire up to as low as 10 days and thus save more than 80,000 € per vacancy.
Less Candidates Drop During the Interview Process
It’s a pain when candidates drop during the interview process because they got better offers from someone else or just don’t feel inspired by the job offer after having looked into the details. Values-based recruitment massively reduces the probability that this happens, because it… well… inspires.
Get Applications From Candidates that are Happy With Their Current Employer
It’s true, with values-based recruiting you can even activate people to change their jobs that are actually happy with their current employer. They say that they were fascinated by what the vacancy has to offer and had to send their CV. So you get access to a much larger talent market.
That’s it. Do you see more advantages? Let us know in the comments.
The Steps to Win Candidates’ Hearts & Minds With Values-based Recruiting
Here are 6 steps that you can use to optimize your talent marketing strategy and recruitment process.
1: Define Your Organization’s Core Values & Vision
Many companies have compelling values pinned to their lobby walls. For example integrity, respect, communication, excellence. So had Enron whose leaders went to jail and their company bankrupt from fraud.
I’m not talking about defining empty values that sound good. I’m talking about cultural values that are aligned to the company’s strategy and are lived proactively and are celebrated by employees. So here is what to do:
Run a Culture Workshop and include the company management, the management of the departments and key individuals in the departments, employer branding specialists, recruiters and other HR functions. A big mistake is ONLY involving HR. Please, don’t do that! You need all functions engaged, especially the top management.
Here are the 3 simple steps for the workshop:
Define the vision, purpose and the strategy
Define the status quo - which values are lived today
Deduct the target values from the company strategy - find out which behavioural patterns do you need to make the company strategy successful
Knowing the Now and the Future is very important for recruiting. High performing individuals love to see that they can contribute to a real transformation. And that involves culture as well.
Make sure that the values can form a culture that is exclusive. It needs to be not for everyone, only then it unchains its power [Forbes 2018].
2: Define Values for Vacancies
You already have your organizational values. But there is another step in values-based hiring. Think about it. Take two fresh graduates from university. One has studied law, the other informatics. Both of them will have different values, just because they studied in different fields. That means talent marketing always needs to adjust to the different target groups.
Your task is now to deduct the values needed from the business strategy for the law position. What do candidates for the specific position have to bring to the table to support the business strategy best. For the informatics position you’ll come up with a different set of values.
You also want to consider the team’s composition. What kind of character is it that the team could use to further optimize its collaborative skill. This requires an in-depth understanding of the current employees. Tools like the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment that helps teams to understand its dynamics can help miracles.
3: Create a Vacancy Value Proposition
Fruit-basket, table tennis and flat hierarchies as benefits, really? When I read those things the first time over a decade ago, this evoked emotions in me. The wrong ones. First disbelief in humanity, then pity for the people that worked at those companies. But yet, even though these benefits were never a USP, they regularly pop up in today’s job ads.
The reality is that Generation Y & Z don’t see any value in these “benefits”. This shows that there is a lack of understanding of nowadays’ candidates. Companies need to understand better what candidates truly desire and then make one or several individualized job offers for each vacancy, depending on the candidate personas. This is the foundation of any kind of marketing as it is for talent marketing.
But what is it that ideal employees really want? The answer is, it depends. And that’s why listening is key. Here are 4 things you can do to gain more clarity. Conduct interviews with people that are close to the reality of the vacancy you want to fill and get inspired what advanced new work companies are doing:
Ask your best employees what it is that they really love about working in your company and what is missing?
Ask the candidates in your next interviews what it is that is important to them in their life and in their work?
Ask best candidates of the past who you wanted to win but did not accept your job offer, what their goals, wishes and aspirations are?
Make a competitive benefit analysis, researching the job ads of new work companies
Now take this valuable knowledge and brainstorm and design company benefits that fit to the true aspirations of employees and candidates and that fit to the values of your company. But be careful, these benefits will be explosive! And I bet the good old fruit-basket will not be one of them.
4: Let the Values Magic Happen
Now we have everything we need to let the magic happen. The core values, the vacancy values, the vision, an understanding of the reality of the target-groups and an attractive vacancy value proposition. What’s next? We need to transform the knowledge into catchy content and publish it. And we need to do it in a way so that this can happen:
This video is an example of successful pull-marketing. When ideal candidates feel that you know who they are, they identify already with the job description and with your company. As a consequence you don’t have to spam their inboxes to get an audience. Instead, they will come to you. Candidates will invest their time and energy to get the possibility of what they imagine is a big chance for the work-life. They will even take time to do assessment tasks that you give to them before they apply.
That’s the power of understanding the reality of the talent you are targeting and offering them a value-proposition they can’t resist. And surprise, it’s actually not magic. It’s just thorough and methodical marketing that leads to a better perceived employer attractiveness and higher performing squads.
When you communicate your values in talent marketing content and job ads, candidates can faster assess if the culture is a match to them. That means they pre-qualify themselves and you have significantly more applications from people who might be a value match and less from those who don’t.
Existential Tip for Values in Talent Marketing
5: Start Selling
Applications are piling up and after pre-evaluation you’re inviting the first candidates to interviews. What do you do? As a modern recruiter you adopt the mindset of a sales expert. Not a sales expert of the 80s doing hard selling. Instead be an empathetic sales expert that listens to what the candidate really wants in life and then connects it to the employer value proposition.
Inspire candidates with a vision of how his life will develop if she starts working in your company. And most importantly. Build trust. Let your opponent subconsciously know that you are sincerely interested in her wellbeing and that you want to find out together if the position and company fit the candidate.
4 Essential Tips for a Candidate Sales Call
- Have a deep understanding of the position
- Be able to talk in the language of the candidates’ world
- Explain honestly where the company is right now and how the vision looks like (strategically, culturally and in the team)
- Communicate on eye-level, always. Never below and never above.
6: Assess the Values-Fit
So, your recruiting pipeline is already full with amazing candidates that love and identify with your talent marketing content. But how do you determine, aside from skills and expertise, if a candidate is a true values-fit?
Here are 3 essential ways for values mapping:
- Deduct a list of values-based interview questions from the company values. They will help you determine if the candidate lives individual values you are looking for.
- Use personality assessment tools which help to get the deep talk started. However, avoid pseudo scientific tools like the Meyers Briggs that comes close to a horoscope. You might check out the Predictive Behavioral Assessment.
- Listen to your intuition. If on paper everything seems fine, but it doesn’t feel right, don’t proceed with the candidate. You have enough applicants anyways and you want to find the best fit.
Key Take Aways
- The traditional approach to hiring is not working anymore
- Gen Y & Z are searching for meaning
- Values are intrinsic motivators and great predictors of performance
- Values-based recruitment communicates company values to attract the right talent
- It passively pre-assesses and actively assesses the values fit
- The results are low talent marketing costs, costs of vacancy and better team performances
- Adopt values-based hiring to make your company ready for the talent market of the future
You made it more than 4.800 words far! I actually didn't think that anyone could do this in this day and age. That means you are very special. If you have read this far, I would love to make your acquaintance. Feel free to send me a connection request on LinkedIn.
Also feel free to add anything that you loved about the guide or that you want to critique in the comments section. After all, we’d love to learn from each other.
- Serial-Entrepreneur & Talent Marketing Specialist
- Featured in Washington Post, Sueddeutsche Zeitung
- Founder of the Monetizing Individuality Community
Adecco (13.04.2022). Cost of Vacancy – auch unbesetzte Stellen werden teuer. Adecco.
Forbes (04.12.2018). Netflix's Company Culture Is Not For Everybody And That's Exactly How It Should Be. Bretton Putter.
McKinsey (2017). Attracting and retaining the right talent. Scott Keller.
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