Tell Them Where They Will Be In 2 Years (With a “Where You’ll Be” Profile)

One of the primary questions in the minds of candidates is “Where will I be two years from now?” Unfortunately, most recruiters and managers respond to that question with meaningless generalities like, “You’ll have lots of opportunities.” In fact, what candidates actually want is a realistic preview of where they are likely to go over the next two years if they join the firm. If you want to dramatically increase your offer acceptance rate, give applicants a “Where You’ll Be” profile!

What’s A “Where You’ll Be” Profile?

A “Where You’ll Be” profile is a sales tool designed to convincingly demonstrate to an applicant the kind of opportunities a top performer might expect at a firm. The profile is a brief preview of the kind of learning, growth, and economic opportunities that a new hire might reasonably expect to have during their first 1-5 years of employment at the firm. It’s designed to excite candidates with some actual examples rather than just meaningless platitudes. Some of the key elements in a “Where You’ll Be” profile include:

  • Skills you are likely to gain/improve
  • The type of projects you’re likely to work on
  • The level of people you’re likely to be exposed to
  • The type of flexible work options you might have
  • The economic rewards you are likely to get

It’s A Profile, Not A Promise

A “Where You’ll Be” profile is designed to show the kind of opportunities top performer might experience in this particular job class. It is not supposed to be a recruiter’s “BS” sheet. Instead it is derived from a compilation of the actual experiences of top performers in this job class. The profile can be developed based on information obtained through a series of interviews, surveys, and focus groups with top performers and their managers (in this targeted job classification). By identifying the actual opportunities that a new hire might experience, you put realism in your profile and you avoid wild “guesstimates.” Since this is a profile of what opportunities top performers have actually had, it makes the lawyers less nervous (of course a disclaimer statement stating that the past is not always a predictor of the future is always attached as part of the actual profile).

Elements Of A “Where You’ll Be” Profile

The content of a “Where You’ll Be” profile should vary with the wants and the expectations of the job applicants. You should start by surveying your top candidates about their job expectations. You then need to provide specific information for each of the areas in which they have a high level of interest in your profile. For example, some of the “Where You’ll Be” areas for a software engineer position might include:

  1. Skills And Learning Opportunities
    • Technical skills you might acquire
    • Software languages you might learn
    • Management and people skills you might acquire/strengthen
    • Classes, industry events and seminars you might attend
  2. Projects And Growth Opportunities
    • The number and variety of development projects you would likely participate in
    • The number and type of projects that you might lead
    • The likely number of horizontal transfers
    • The number of promotions you might get
  3. People Exposure
    • The number of teams you are likely to participate in
    • The number and level of executives you are likely to interact with
    • Key customers, suppliers, strategic partners as well as industry and government officials you will be exposed to
  4. Work Options
    • The likelihood of being able to take part in flexible work options (flextime, work at home, job sharing)
    • The likely number of horizontal transfers opportunities into new (non-software) functions or departments
  5. Economic Opportunities
    • Percentage of possible salary increases
    • The range of likely bonus awards
    • The number of possible stock options they could be granted
    • Also consider including estimates (based on past performance) of the total economic value of their bonuses, stock options and salary
  6. Challenges And Risks
    • The number, type and level of risks they will be allowed to take
    • Opportunities to have their own personal ideas funded
    • Opportunities for public and company wide exposure and visibility
    • The impact on the firm (it’s products and customers) their work is likely to have
  7. Tools And Equipment
    • Software they will have access to
    • Hardware and technology they will have access to

Potential Variations Of The Profile

  1. Provide ranges. Rather than just listing the highest levels of achievement and rewards in the profile an alternative is to list the possible ranges a new employee might expect. My preference is to focus on the highest levels likely to be obtained by a top performer. Although both average and top performers like to know “where they will be,” by listing the higher levels obtained only by top performers you can then use the profile as a motivator to encourage current average performers to become top performers! A profile can also be done for a single “average job” at a firm, rather than doing separate profiles for each major job classification. The obvious disadvantage is that a single profile (that averages all jobs into one) requires such a large degree of combining opportunities that the profile is not likely to excite top performers.
  2. Show them that “people like me” work here. In addition to wanting to know “where they will be,” applicants often want to know that “people like them” already work for the firm. You can help show them that by providing demographic profiles showing that people from similar
    • Schools
    • Neighborhoods
    • Ethnic backgrounds
    • Former employers
    • Age categories

    currently work (and excel) at the firm. In addition, specific “success story” individuals that started two years ago can be profiled to “personalize” the statistics.


Incidentally, the research for your “Where You’ll Be” profile might show that the actual growth and learning opportunities in your jobs are lacking. If this is true, you can use the “gap” data as a starting point for revising your people practices and for making your jobs more challenging and exciting both for new hires and for your current employees. Next employees can be asked to provide information on what frustrates them and what motivates them on the day they start their job. From that list, their manager can develop customized “learning, challenge and growth” plans to ensure that they actually get “where they want to be” within their first and second year. “Where You’ll Be” profiles can also be used for motivating and retaining existing employees that are continually getting external “Where You’ll Be” offers (promises) from (external) recruiters!


If you treat applicants like potential customers you soon realize that it is essential that you provide answers to their questions about your “product.” By providing them with a realistic job preview of what they can expect if they become top performers, you can both excite them and also improve the odds of them saying yes to your offer. The profile can be put on the firms jobs page or be a paper document that is handed to applicants. It takes courage to act “outside the box.” Unfortunately, most HR people lack that courage. If you are going to recruit top talent, you need to take risks and to act differently than your competitors. Cisco has done an “economic rewards” “Where You’ll Be” chart for awhile (don’t they lead in just about everything!). Now it’s time to expand the profile (and add non-economic elements) in order to make it a complete sales tool.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

Check Also

The “No Application Required” Recruiting Strategy (Providing employed top talent with “job search deniability”)

Top employees are reluctant to apply for external jobs because it makes them appear disloyal. …