The Job Offer – what do candidates really care about?

The job offer is, in every way, a big deal. Like choosing which college or university to go to, buying a house, moving in with someone, or getting married – accepting or declining a job offer is one of life’s big decisions with implications way beyond the actual contract between employer and employee. Although people change jobs far more often than they did a generation ago, it’s still a decisive moment – affecting their day-to-day life, social life, fitness routines, holiday plans, family – and career path. Even if it’s a stepping-stone job, best done for not more than a year or two, it’ll shape 100% what life is like for that year or two. Everyone gets carried away by the selection process when they’re doing well. We all want to be liked and being offered a job equals being liked. “I’m popular.” “They like me.” “I’ve passed the test.” I’m sure it’s the same for everyone – from a CEO who’s been head-hunted, to a teenager getting their first paper round. Being offered a job is one heck of a pat on the back.

But then, the euphoria wears off – and reality sets in. What exactly is being offered? How much money? Where is it again? How will I get there? What does that mean for being able to get to The Crown and Two on a Thursday at 7pm? Playing five-a-side? Managing the nursery pick-up? Do they do a flat white coffee? Can I really imagine myself sat at one of those desks with all those people wearing ugly fleeces? There are myriad personal things that can affect how a candidate reacts to a job offer. Fortunately, many of them the employer will never need to know about (like a candidate’s view on fleeces!). It is nevertheless worth bearing in mind how accepting a job with you and your organisation, will impact on the day-to-day life of the candidate. Does the job offer appeal to the kind of person you want working for you? It’s particularly important in the charity sector, where the salary may not be as high as a candidate could achieve elsewhere.

Salary

This is obviously the big one and can be a deal breaker – even in the charity sector. The salary should be what the candidate could reasonably expect, based on job title and description.  It also needs to be what the job deserves. If you pay people peanuts, you will get monkeys. We are notorious in the charity sector for being inconsistent about pay. A Marketing Executive at one charity could be paid half what they could get elsewhere. Leave alone what they could get in the private sector. To a degree, it’s the nature of the beast as charities clearly have vastly differing funds and that won’t change.

The Job Offer – what do candidates really care about?

Sometimes though – and particularly with smaller charities – too high or too low pay is simply because the person doing the recruitment is not sure how much to offer.  Our Account Managers are often asked for advice on pay by charities advertising with us. We’re happy to help, and will soon be launching a salary tool on our site offering guidance to recruiters (and candidates) on the pay brackets for similar jobs across the sector. Still, it’s worth avoiding any nasty surprises by advertising the job with either a clear statement of salary or at least a range. If you don’t do this, you risk having wasted everyone’s time. It’s also important to consider how your organisation will look if you treat the salary as a bargaining process. What’s right for the City isn’t necessarily right for charities. In the same way that you’d make a judgement about a candidate trying to negotiate hard on a high salary. They’ll make a judgement about a charity that’s coming in low on something they know deserves a little more.

Location

After salary, this is the next most important thing for a candidate. It’s also something you probably can’t do anything about. Just be aware that a long, expensive commute with a 9am start, could be the reason someone ends up turning down a job. Similarly, a very unattractive location (with nothing nearby for lunch, after-work drinks) or a location in a place that feels unsafe – could be the reason too. If you can’t change the location, you can still mitigate its effect with the job offer.  For example, offering season ticket loans, car-share schemes, cycle-to-work schemes and allowing flexible working. Also, can you offer free or subsidised on-site facilities for food, refreshments, lunchtime activities and socialising? If you’re able to offer benefits to compensate for a poor or difficult location, this could make all the difference.

The Job Offer – what do candidates really care about?

Flexible working

29.9% of our registered candidates have created an alert for part-time jobs. But only 6.14% of our jobs are part-time. Flexible working or part-time hours are clearly a significant prompt to someone applying for a job in the first place. This is a key factor in a candidate’s consideration of the job offer. Commuting can be a huge waste of time and if people can work from home for, say, one day a week, it’s seen as a great employment benefit. Having core hours (rather than a rigid 9-5) is also popular with candidates as it allows for commuter delays, picking up or dropping off kids, or working later to suit plans for the evening. Make sure that the job offer includes confirmation in writing of anything offered during the selection process. Confirming that candidate’s  hours and flexible working arrangements. If you don’t, you risk losing them – or keeping them, but finding out there are issues down the line due to a lack of clarity.

Paid leave

Paid leave, or holiday entitlement, is super important to candidates looking in the charity sector. Working for a charity can exert big emotional demands at times, so how the charity treats paid leave and holidays generally, is important. It’s not just the number of days, but how it’s discussed during the selection process and then represented in the job offer. Are employees encouraged to take all their holiday and is that seen as important for their well-being? How do holiday rotas work and how much holiday can be taken at one time? A candidate may feel they can’t ask these questions in the interview (for fear they’ll seem lazy or like they’re jumping-the-gun), but having a good holiday entitlement that’s actively encouraged, is another thing that could make all the difference. Most people working in the charity sector are women. Naturally, maternity leave can be a key consideration for a woman who may, at some point, want to have a family. Having a family clearly affects men too and thankfully they are increasingly aware that they may need to take advantage of paternity leave. Having reasonable maternity/paternity leave arrangements can be a significant factor in someone saying yes to a job offer – and could be the thing that swings it if there are two offers on the table.

The Job Offer – what do candidates really care about?

Pension scheme, health plan, life insurance, childcare vouchers

These are the traditional employer benefits which seriously affect a candidate’s perception of the job. They’re also the kind of longer-term benefits that say a lot about the organisation as a whole – and whether it’s the kind of place where they could stay and develop their career. They’ll not necessarily make an immediate impact on the day-to-day life of a younger candidate, but they’re a highly valued part of the job offer.

The Job Offer – what do candidates really care about?

Training and career development opportunities

It’s unlikely they’ll be included in the job offer, but training and career development opportunities are an important factor in a candidate’s decision-making. To a degree, career development opportunities can be demonstrated by the organisation chart that should be included – along with the job description – with the job offer. It shows the candidate where they fit and where they can hope to move or develop within that department. More importantly, training and development opportunities should have featured during discussions in the selection process and were hopefully things the candidate asked about in the interview.

Benefits related to the charity

Is your charity able to offer benefits that relate to the cause? This is particularly appealing to the kind of dedicated person looking to work in our sector. So, if you are an environmental charity, you may want to shape your benefits package to suit people who prioritise environmental concerns (with cycle to work schemes, discounts on eco suppliers). Similarly, if you’re a wildlife/animal charity, can you offer discounts on certain animal-related memberships, magazine subscriptions, pet suppliers? Think about what you could negotiate that’ll appeal to the kind of person you want working for you.

It’s common sense. The things a candidate cares about are the same things we all care about when considering a job. It’s money, location plus the other benefits you’re able to provide. Still, charities are different – as are the people who choose to work for them – so imagine the kind of people you’d want to work alongside in your charity. And then see if you can tailor your job offer to fit with their priorities and lifestyle.

Jean Merrylees

Jean Merrylees is a freelance content writer and editor who has previously written for the BBC. Jean is now taking her first steps into the charity sector after spending some time writing for both Diabetes UK & CharityJob.

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