The real motivations behind a change:
an often underestimated factor

Everyday, as Consultants/Headhunters, we are called upon to evaluate the motivations that have convinced a certain candidate to answer to our direct contact for an interview.
It is completely normal that when we realise that the candidate in front of us is the right fit with our Client’s culture and values, we are dragged by a certain enthusiasm and we often do everything to involve him/her in the selection process.
However, it is exactly in these situations that our positive feelings about the candidate may lead us to underestimate his/her real reasons for a job change.

The threats of a vibrant market

This is even more risky in a period characterized by “The Great Resignation” (or by “The Great Reshuffle”, in Mckinsey’s words).
In Italy, just in the period between April and June 2021, more than 2.5 million people resigned, with a +37% compared to the same quarter in 2020.
The pandemic has emphasized the perception of the intensity of the work, especially in an interconnected world, where internal competition is becoming stronger and stronger.
It is also interesting to note that this psychological burden is inversely proportional to the effective number of working hours, which are indeed decresing year after year.
Here are some examples based on academic researches:

  • In 1870: 3.000 working hours per capita
  • In 1971: 1961 working hours per capita
  • In 2019: 1743 working hours per capita

The relevance of L&D paths

Economic drivers are very important, but often they do not represent the key factor for a change.
The chance to constantly acquire new skills and a higher autonomy in setting one’s career goals seems to make the difference, instead.
Some studies carried out by Talent LMS & SHRM prove that learning is getting more important than earning.
Therefore, companies investing more budget in L&D will have higher possibilities to hire, engage and retain their resources.

The Psychological impact of a change

It is also vital to undestand how candidates deeply feel about a change in a specific moment.
Are they really ready to embrace a new challange and exit their comfort zone in just a couple of weeks, maybe after 8-10 years in the same company?
We should not forget that, by definition, a change generates a stressful situation that not everyone is really ready to handle in a specific moment.
Indeed, there may be some personal factors that, in the end, determine a certain decision.
So, not surprisingly, some candidates make up their mind exactly when they receive an offer. When they are “back to the well”, they understand they are not really ready for a change.

The impact of work-life balance

Due to the pandemic, we have (almost) all experienced full remote way of working and recovered a better personal balance.
For this reason, it would be ill-advised to underestimate the importance that candidates give to smart-work and flexibility.
At this point, this is a fully-fledged benefit, comparable to a company car or a health insurance.
It may be annoying when candidates ask for the agile policy in the early stage of a recruting process, but we simply have to accept the reality, as things have dramatically changed.
This is especially true for Generation Z, whose main purpose is finding agile companies that not only offer them a good balance between private and personal life, but also share their social and cultural values.

The importance of considering past changes

It is also crucial to retrace the main reasons that led a candidate to change in the past.
Were there real motivations for a change or was the candidate just running away from some failures and challenging situations?
Indeed, it would be frustrating to hire a low performer or someone who simply wants to join a new company every 2-3 years just to earn more money.

Some final considerations and recommendations

An interview is a precious chance for an open discussion and candidates should not be “afraid” of clearly pointing out their expectations about the role and the company itself.
The recommendation for headhunters/companies is to be brave enough to stop a recruiting process if they still have doubts about candidates’ real motivations, even if soft and hard skills are convincing.
It is definitely worth investing more time during an interview on these aspects, rather than loosing the “right candidate” during the economic negotiation or, even worse, after few weeks/months from the hiring.

Article written by Mattia Bovi, CFR Global Executive Search Italy

Photo source: Pexels

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