Not just about the money: how to attract top talent

by Jobbatical June 06, 2016

In the Harry Potter novels, a magical mirror reflects the heart’s desire of whoever gazes into it. Many businesses do this when attempting to attract top talent: gaze into the Mirror of Erised (“desire” spelled backwards) and see what they want to see, rather than focusing on what will attract the best candidates.

Instead of going about attraction backwards, begin with the candidate in mind. And set the bar high.

Would you want to work at your business?

Top talent will have their pick of plum positions. To help them pick yours, create a perks package that speaks to their heart’s desire. How many of these attractive options can you offer?

A compelling vision

What’s your why? The purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to get up each morning will ignite the same kind of energy and commitment in top talent. (Think Apple or Google in the early days. They didn’t have a lot of money to pay nor free lunch!)


Top talent has a lot of choice, so be responsive to your applicant’s questions. Don’t disguise the downside. Is the office less than attractive because your early-stage company is in stealth mode? This might not matter one whit to your candidate — but he or she will sure appreciate knowing such information before making a decision.

Exceptional team members

Smart people love working with smart people. Have you hired brilliance before? Smart move. Introduce your luminous new talent to the other shining stars in your orbit as soon as possible. According to The Happiness Research Institute, congenial colleagues are one of the six principal factors responsible for job satisfaction.

Growth and support

Tech businesses sell a concept, a process, not a product, yet. What’s your value proposition? You want to recruit, hire, reward and boost the best to win their loyalty. Autonomy, meaningful work — and a superstar mentor — may be the most attractive perks you can offer to culturally literate tech talent.

Pedigree versus prowess

Hiring managers often seek talent with degrees from top schools — but is this really necessary? A candidate with bottomless creativity who is allergic to the word “can’t” might be a much better match than someone with excellent credentials and a conventional mind.

Ponder what kind of perks would most appeal to such a talent: chef-prepared meals and snacks? The freedom to work when and where they choose? The authority to make decisions without consulting a “boss”? Such perks can be highly attractive.

It’s not just about the money

Online shoe retailer Zappos has ten “core family values” for attracting and retaining hires who are a shoe-in for excellence. The first is, “Deliver WOW Through Service.” The fourth is, “Be Adventurous, Creative and Open-Minded”. Putting these values together creates a culture that gives employees an extraordinary level of autonomy.

It starts with a very attractive proposition: one week after hire, Zappos offers new recruits $1000 USD to quit! If someone jumps at the easy money, they’re not a fit for customer-centric Zappos. About ten percent take the money and run (probably not in Zappos shoes). Those who remain become the backbone of a multi-billion-dollar business.

Zappos empowers customer service team members to resolve customer concerns. Makes sense, doesn’t it? And the results are indeed extraordinary. One customer’s mother had just died, and shoe return was not a priority. So the Zappos staffer sent a delivery truck to her house to pick up the shoes. The next day the truck returned — this time bearing a huge condolence bouquet from the staff. The customer burst into tears, and subsequently blogged about the amazing degree of customer care.

Your talent is looking for you

Whether the best fit for your needs is currently across town or across the globe, it’s never been easier to hire the world. To attract the perfect candidate, take a detailed look at the perks you can offer.

Share a compelling vision, be honest about any drawbacks, provide first-rate mentoring, and give them creative rein to run with their ideas. That’s hire magic!

Originally published at on June 7, 2016.

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