Culture More Important Than Compensation to Executive Candidates


Hiring survey indicates executives candidates are less driven by how much you’ll pay them and more concerned with how they’ll fit into your company

What’s the number one thing on the mind of executive candidates interviewing for a job at your company? It’s your company culture.

Those were just some of the findings in a recent survey of life sciences executives conducted by The Hennessy Group. Nearly half of all respondents (46%) said they were more interested in the cultural fit presented by a company than by the compensation (11%) or even by the opportunity for growth in a new role (36%).

This reflects a continuing shift in the attitude of candidates, says Robert Hennessy, CEO and founder of The Hennessy Group, a retained executive search firm. “Ten or 20 years ago, culture didn’t even register on an executive candidate’s radar. It was all about how much a candidate would make or how far up the ladder they could climb. Today’s executive candidates are different, though. They want to know how they’ll fit in and whether they could settle in for the long haul, and they want to know all of this upfront,” Hennessy says.

A culture-first approach may also be a by-product of a highly competitive labor market. In some segments of the life sciences industry, including biologics and CDMO, talent is anticipated to exceed supply before the end of 2019. Taking a culture-first approach when presenting a new role to an executive candidate may be the only way a company can get its foot in the door.

But to truly be successful, says Hennessy, the cultural difference of a company needs to be exhibited as well as discussed, starting with the first point of contact. Interviews should be focused, concise, and valuable for both parties. Recruiters who ask questions that could be answered by the CV or resume likely won’t earn a candidate’s attention. Representatives of the company who interact with the candidate should have a natural rapport with individuals on an executive level and an understanding of the industry and how the hiring company’s workplace is unique. This is true for everyone involved in the hiring process, whether they’re scheduling interviews, talking face-to-face with the candidate, or delivering the offer.

Only 11% of candidates indicated that their prime motivator was salary.

“What this says to me is that companies need to ensure they’re treating candidates with respect from day one. Timely communications, interview teams who coordinate with one another and are fully prepared, interviews that start on time, they’re all essential,” says Hennessy. “At my own firm, we call this ‘candidate care,’ and it stresses the importance of the candidate’s experience with the hiring process. It starts the moment a candidate is contacted by a recruiter. Every step of the way, you have to show that you respect the candidate and that you value them and the time they’re spending to get to know you.”

What it doesn’t mean, says Hennessy, is that companies should promise a candidate something they can’t deliver. “Honesty is essential. If you’re promising something that’s completely different from what the candidate will experience once they get to the C-suite, that’s going to show. If not on this hire, on the 200 people who hear about the disconnect, and who ultimately influence the next three roles you try to fill.”

You can read more about candidate care and access a checklist to assess your own organization's candidate care here.

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