The official blog of Abacus Group — a place to share our knowledge and thoughts on trends in recruiting

May 15, 2013

The Problem of the Salary-Focused Candidate

When recruiting and hiring new staff, employers are prone to certain mistakes, like minimizing mundane job responsibilities or unfairly comparing all applicants to the role’s predecessor. While these types of errors will inhibit effective candidate selection, the most dangerous hiring mistake is to employ a salary-focused candidate. This is a candidate whose primary motivation for new employment is better compensation. Clearly, all professionals are, to some degree, driven by money for the sake of survival and the maintenance of a certain level of comfort. However, money should never be the largest source of interest; the best candidates prioritize other motivating factors, including learning opportunities, professional recognition and long-term career development, when searching for jobs.

A salary-driven candidate, on the other hand, lacks sincere interest in a position’s nature, challenges or the organization which it serves.  Void of loyalty to the position and the business, the solely money-motivated candidate is the ultimate threat to employee retention and productivity.

There are two specific retention-related risks involved when presenting a job offer to a money-motivated professional.  The first is the acceptance of the counteroffer; this is when the candidate’s current employer refutes the new offer with a pay raise, successfully enticing the candidate to stay. Betrayed by the seemingly ideal candidate, the new employer must scramble to resume the search. The second risk emerges when the salary-driven candidate either rejects or does not receive a counteroffer.  In this case, the candidate will accept the new position, but actively remain in search of higher-paying opportunities. When a more lucrative role comes along, the candidate will leave, regardless of length of stay with the organization.

In addition to the flight risks associated with salary-focused candidates – either before or after employment has officially begun – the money-motivated professional is less likely to be fully engaged in a position, leading to decreased productivity.  When an employee wants a position for reasons other than salary, his or her enthusiasm generates greater workplace efficiency. If the employee has accepted the job offer only for the sake of greater compensation, though, he or she is less likely to take the initiative to work late hours, take on special projects or propose innovative process solutions. This professional, while capable of performing assigned work, lacks the ability to fully engage with the organization to become the standout team employee sought by all hiring managers. 

As employees who are motivated entirely by money present several valid hiring concerns, employers must understand how to identify a candidate who prioritizes income above all other factors.  A candidate who directly asks about salary, hours or benefits, of course, waves a tremendous red flag to the employer, but there are other ways of detecting a candidate’s purely financial focus.  If he or she has worked for several different employers over a short period of time, but cannot articulate valid explanations of the position changes, the candidate may have “hopped” jobs in pursuit of better pay. Similarly, if the candidate can’t seem to provide a well thought out reason for his or her interest in the role being sought, he or she might be interviewing solely for a bump in salary.  With an awareness of these warning sizes, employers can successfully bypass problematic, money-focused candidates to target the strongest, most genuinely interested professionals.

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