3 Misconceptions That Are Killing Your Recruiting Efforts

Doggie daycare and other perks are fun, but they aren't the last word in recruitment -- people are.
Guest Writer

More unique perks are popping up in workplaces every day: Nap rooms. Ping-pong tables. Kegerators (beverage coolers). . . Every company looking to hire great talent at least considers the value of seeking out, and loading up on, the "coolest" perks.

Related: Your Startup Can Compete With Companies Like Facebook for Top Talent. Here's How.

But just how effective is that strategy when it comes to recruiting?

Facebook has taken some heat for the kinds of perks it opted to include in its new housing community near the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Employees can take advantage of a rooftop deck for entertainment, a sports bar and even a pet spa and pet daycare --  appealing perks, to be sure, for young dog owners.

But, what about those Facebook employees who need daycare for children? While Facebook does provide a subsidy for childcare costs, it has no on-site options for childcare. Ditto for Apple's campus, where employees can find just about anything they desire, except (human) daycare.

By taking a different approach based on perks that mutually benefit the company and its employees, Google is reaping the benefits of providing on-site daycare options (which employees pay for). As a result, it's seeing an uptick in its reputation as an employer that truly cares about its staff.

Clearly, leaders at the company have figured out the business case for providing childcare benefits: According to a report by Child Care Aware, this benefit helps working parents miss work less often, work longer hours and stay with their employer longer.

So, what kinds of benefits will actually attract the types of candidates you're seeking, and how can you best align those incentives with your culture and operational objectives?

Employees are adults -- treat them like it.

Employees don't want to be given "perks" like children receiving candy for good behavior. They want a strong culture and a positive working environment. Think of good perks as little things that will actually be beneficial over a longer period of time -- like a walkable distance to lunch and happy hour places, and someplace close by to park a car.

Those benefits may not seem sexy up-front, but three months in, employees will be thinking, "Man, I'm so glad I don't have to worry about that!" Even though my own company has massage therapists come in every other Friday, some people are always too busy to get around to it. However, they do enjoy their parking spots and our great office space.

The key to recruiting is your culture. Culture is about how you work and whom you work with. When prospective employees are interviewing, they want to see people who are like them and whom they can connect with. Your biggest recruiting asset is your pool of current employees, because that is how "culture" is really built. Rad people attract more rad people.

Realign your incentives with your company goals.

If you're still focused on one-off or temporary perks, rethink your strategy. Over the last few years, I've seen several wrong assumptions about what attracts top talent. If you're harboring any of the following misconceptions, it's time to let them go.

Misconception 1: Money is the biggest driver. Hiring for a six-figure job does not mean you'll end up with a six-figure candidate. You'll still have to sift through all the same people to find the best fit. If you rely on the salary range offered to do the work of appealing to the right folks, you might end up investing in someone who isn't a strong fit.

At my company, we've always stated that we pay less than market to start. We let candidates know we are a meritocracy, which means you come in, perform and work your way to the salary you deserve. According to research by IBM, when employees believe they can trust their managers and company leaders, 83 percent view their workplaces in a more positive light.

That's why making this system of rewards abundantly clear from the start has landed us some of the best talent in the business.

Related: 5 Reasons Enhanced Benefits Programs Are Good for Business

We do this because, at the end of the day, we don't really know the candidate, and the candidate doesn't yet really know the role. Contrary to what many people might assume, millennials don't actually take jobs just because the starting salary may be good. Instead, what they crave is engagement and consistent feedback that leads the way to advancement. One young guy I can think of who's been in his role with us for only two months is already itching for his quarterly review.

Misconception 2: Options are important, starting on day one. In startup culture, there's a trend toward offering stock options on an employee's first day, to help new employees "have some skin in the game."

This might not be such a great idea. Consider, for instance, how, in 2015, Twitter paid about a third of its revenue in stock-based compensation -- $682 billion. Inevitably, then, whoever buys Twitter will be responsible for paying the people who own those shares. So, this plan may not be great for employees. Fundamentally, investors and employees want different things. Mixing the two is a recipe for disaster.

Going back to my own experience, we don't give options to anyone, because my partner and I built the company out of the gate. If you and your company must offer options, they should be used as rewards or bonuses, not part of a compensation package.

Misconception No. 3. Things matter more than people. Massages, catered lunches --  whatever the perk is -- it will never hold as much weight as potential coworkers do. After all, people will spend 2 percent of their time on those things and the other 98 percent of their time interacting with colleagues.

There is a basis for these numbers: In a recent study by Fierce, two-thirds of the employees surveyed named their coworkers as the factor that made their jobs more enjoyable. So, always remember to maintain that focus.

Here at Hawke, we have a full-time recruiter who's fantastic -- personable, interesting, multilingual, worldly. And he's he's any candidate's first touchpoint with the company. Then, once job-seekers are determined to be strong candidates, we draw lines to the people it makes sense for them to meet.

When I myself was interviewing a particular person I really wanted to hire, for example, and knew what part of town she was from, I connected her with an employee who went to her high school. I also made a point to have her meet someone who went to college in the same city.

That kind of attention to personal details helps candidates really see themselves at your company. Ideally, your best candidates will walk away thinking, "Okay, there are people here who look like me, talk like me and know the same people I do. This is going to be a rad place to work!"

Related: Why Office Perks Are Traps, Not Benefits

Which brings us back to perks . . . Perks are fun, but they aren't the last word in recruitment. Instead of pointing out all the cool stuff about the job you're hiring for, focus on the challenges of the role, the skill development, the professional development and the people. Get those things right, and you can't go wrong.

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