When you have an exceptional “must land” candidate, take their breath away with a dream job offer!
Yes, if you’re struggling to sell extremely valuable, exceptional candidates, you should know that, based on all the corporate recruiting data I’ve seen over the last four decades, the #1 most effective non-compensation tool for closing exceptional talent is offering them what is known as their “dream job.” (Note: top-performing employee referrals rank #2).
This employment offer covers a job and its work environment, personalized/customized to the point where it meets at least five of the finalist’s selected dream job factors. These are factors that an exceptional candidate has determined will transform a “very good job” into “a dream job,” a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that literally can’t be passed up.
First, Understand The Tremendous Value Produced By Exceptional Talent
Before you even begin to fill your head with negative thoughts about the complexity of offering dream jobs. You must realize that there is an abundance of data showing the extraordinary value that a single exceptional new hire in a key job can produce.
And the value produced is between 25 and 300 times more than the average hire in the same job.
It’s also true that Google found that a single exceptional employee on a team generally produces 90% of the team’s output. And if you still have doubts about their value, you can learn much more about the value of exceptional employees and new hires here.
Offering A Candidate A Dream Job Is A Proven Recruiting Approach
I have to give credit to the original champions of this dream job approach: the amazing recruiting team at Agilent Technologies, who, back in 2000, were the first to formalize and publicly champion this dream job approach. The effectiveness of this amazing recruiting tool was energized there.
When one of their executives took my suggestion and gave one of their exceptional candidates a blank sheet of paper (with a pillow symbol at the top). And on that sheet, they asked the finalist to literally list the elements of their dream job. And even though the executive initially had doubts, they finally concluded:
“It’s amazing how fast the approach worked and how little they asked for.”
Providing The Candidate With “Prompts” Improves The Results
The team at Agilent quickly learned that all the exceptional candidates appreciated the opportunity. However, some of them struggled with filling in the blank sheet (back then, it was literally a sheet of paper). Because, not surprisingly, they had never been asked before to even think about, much less list, the elements that would make up their dream job.
Finally, after some experimentation, it was realized that adding a list of dream job factors previously chosen by others would stimulate the candidate’s thinking. That “prompt factors” list was developed after a survey of their top-performing employees. Eventually, this list of prompts that covered all common dream job factors was added to the “blank sheet.”
Dream Job Factors That A Candidate Can Ask For
If you decide to provide each exceptional candidate with a list of dream job factors in order to prompt their memory. You will find a complete list of the factors that I recommend below. They are separated into 10 distinct categories, with the most impactful categories listed first. And within each category, the dream job factors that are most often preferred by candidates appear first.
Category #1 of dream job factors – The work that you will do – Remember that “doing the best work of your life” is the top attraction factor for almost all exceptional performers. They might also care about having their choice of projects, the percentage of time set aside to work on their own project (i.e., 20% time), limiting the number of approvals, and a choice in the amount of responsibility that they have.
Category 2 of dream job factors – Increasing your purpose and impacts – The second most important category of factors covers allowing the employee to have a purpose and to make a difference. So let the candidate know that you can provide opportunities to increase their impacts, opportunities to interact with users/customers, a chance to live their values, a chance to have a larger positive impact on the environment, and opportunities to innovate and take risks,
Category 3 – Who you work with – Who you get to work with is #3 in importance. The dream job factors related to “who you work with” can include. A choice of teams, input into your manager, an opportunity to select your own team, and an opportunity to work alongside a friend/top colleague.
Category 4 – Freedom to choose – Dream job factors in this area include choices/input into when and where you work. As well as letting the new-hire decide on how to execute each task, input into your goals, the decisions that you can make, the amount of free time you will have and your ability to work independently when you choose.
Category 5 – Your personal development – Dream job factors in this area can include your own development plan and/or your own development budget. Other factors include a planned career path, a plan to become an expert, a schedule of part-time job rotations, help with getting a mentor, support for conference attendance, leadership opportunities and a learning sabbatical.
Category 6 – Your visibility – Visibility factors might include planned opportunities to interact with executives, to collaborate with other teams, the opportunity to publish and support for speaking at conferences.
Category 7 – The availability of resources and tools – Dream job factors in this area include your budget, your level of information access, freedom to purchase hardware/software and an opportunity to design your own workspace.
Category 8 – Feedback and communications options – You can give the new-hire input into the most desirable mechanisms for feedback and communications. As well as how your performance will be measured and how often you must meet with your superiors.
Category 9 – Compensation options – Dream job factors might include the amount of total compensation, how you are compensated, and the percentage of your compensation that is at risk.
Category 10 – Little things that might matter to individuals – Some might prefer to choose their own title, have input into the amount of travel, the minimization of meetings and administration, and finally, things that you don’t want to do.
Note to the mid-career professional:
I would also suggest that you consider using this list of dream job factors to determine how close you currently are to having your own dream job.
The Benefits of A Dream Job Process
A “Dream Job” process is a data-driven recruiting approach that should be used by managers in order to attract and land exceptional candidates in key jobs. Being offered a dream job means that an exceptional candidate gets the opportunity to at least partially design their own job and work environment. So when they take the job, they will clearly be doing the “best work of their lives.” Some of the benefits of this dream job process include
- You will land exceptional talent that is currently out of reach – because of the poor design of most hiring processes, I estimate that during these tough recruiting times, over 75% % of hiring managers literally haven’t landed a single exceptional candidate in a key job. Not only will that success rate improve each time you utilize the dream job process. But you will also find that it gives your company a competitive advantage. Even if you don’t pay exceptionally well or if your recruiters don’t excel at selling candidates. And over time, you will better learn which attraction factors also have a high selling impact on average-performing candidates.
- Exceptional new hires will attract other top talent – because whenever any company hires an exceptional talent, the word will spread quickly throughout the industry. And not only will that accomplishment directly build up your employer brand image. But that hiring success will likely cause other top and diverse talent to apply to your jobs. Because they might have the opportunity to work alongside or learn from that exceptional talent.
- Expect an increase in innovation and productivity – of course, the addition of exceptional hires will by itself, increase your team’s productivity. But also the new-hire is likely to get up to speed much faster. Because they will need less onboarding as a result of the fact that their job was designed from the start to fit the person And that coupled with the higher level of performance that you will get from the new-hires that subsequently joined the team because of that single exceptional hire. The productivity and innovation of your whole team will increase.
- Expect reduced team turnover – if you reach complete agreement with the exceptional candidate about the customization of their job. You will essentially eliminate the possibility of exceptional hire turnover in the short term. And as an added benefit, your other current employees will likely now stay longer. Because they look forward to working with and learning from the exceptional new-hire. In addition, they may also stay longer because you have now shown a willingness to redesign jobs so that they are better for the employee.
Tips For Creating Your Own Dream Job Process
If you make a decision to implement your own dream job process, here are some things that you should know.
- Realize that offering a dream job isn’t out of reach because most exceptional performers don’t ask for much – most are pleasantly surprised to learn that when you give exceptional candidates a blank sheet in order to create their dream job. The factors that they select are generally relatively easy for a manager to provide. And fortunately, they seldom ask for large amounts of money without being willing to put a significant percentage of it “at risk” based on their performance. They also hardly ever ask for huge amounts of resources; instead, they ask for flexibility and freedom. The things they do select are almost always related to a direct opportunity to “do the best work of their lives.” And when an employee is doing “their best work,” almost everyone benefits.
- Realize that exceptional performers want different things – it’s a common catastrophic mistake to assume that all candidates are equal and that they all want the same things in a job. In fact, there are numerous studies that show that “the average worker” is focused on having more compensation, benefits, and job security. While exceptional performers barely mention those factors. Instead, they focus on “the work,” their freedom, and their impacts. So, if you want to attract and land exceptional candidates successfully, you must literally learn to completely ignore surveys covering what the average employee wants.
- Limit the offering of dream job opportunities to exceptional finalists in key jobs – because it takes some management time to create each dream job. You should only offer this opportunity to truly exceptional finalists who will work in key jobs. You should also be careful about publicizing this practice because that will raise expectations among individuals and jobs that cannot receive it. In addition, you may also need to disqualify some hiring managers who rigidly demand 100% control over their employees. Because they won’t be willing to provide the amount of job customization that an exceptional candidate will want.
- You can try offering a partial dream job – you might find that offering a finalist just a few of their dream job factors might be enough to at least influence their acceptance decision. Especially if they believe that as they perform on the job, additional dream job factors will likely be forthcoming.
- Work with HR to increase manager flexibility – in most cases, you don’t need a lot of approvals to implement a dream job program. However, it does make sense to work with HR leaders to proactively give hiring managers more authority and flexibility in job redesign and to make job descriptions much more flexible.
- Anticipate some employee concern or jealousy – of course, your current employees will naturally wonder why this new hire is receiving unique treatment. So make sure that you fully explain to all. Why this is happening and how everyone will benefit from the hiring practice. If feasible, you should let your existing employees know that when they also become exceptional performers that they will be offered a similar option.
|If you only do one thing – conduct a quick survey of the hiring managers in the teams with the highest business impacts. And then ask them to give you a rough estimate of the number of “exceptional candidates” that they have failed to land during the last 18 months. And then use that failure number to convince at least one of those hiring managers to at least try one dream job offer. Then use the news of that single success to influence additional hiring managers.
You might think that it’s unusual for any organization to “customize the job” when they’re trying to land an exceptional candidate. However, that’s exactly what happened when the Tampa NFL team rearranged almost everything in order to attract Tom Brady. The same was recently done in order to attract Aaron Rodgers to New York. Of course, the same happens frequently in corporations when they are trying to attract a new CEO or an exceptional head of AI.
However, when this happens in most corporations, it is kept secret, and the public is simply left in the dark about this practice. However, I can assure you that after 20 years of practicing and recommending this innovative recruiting approach. When you have a well-designed offer, the process will literally work every time. Because the process lessens the focus on compensation and it requires little out-of-pocket spending. You will find that the process has an extremely positive ROI.
- Please share these ideas by sending this article to your team/network or posting it on your favorite media.
- Next, if you don’t already subscribe to Dr. Sullivan’s weekly Aggressive Talent Newsletter, you can do that here.
- Also, join the well over 20,000+ that follow or have connected with Dr. Sullivan’s community on LinkedIn.