Jobseekers are getting more picky in what they want out of employment

It wasn't easy during the five years of the global financial crisis for New Zealand employees to advance their careers or achieve pay rises.

Pete Macauley, regional director of recruitment consultancy Michael Page, says the GFC meant the values of a prospective employer had less significance for jobseekers than the basic needs of a good salary and career progression. He says only 25 per cent of candidates ask about a company's values first when inquiring about a job. Most are interested in progression, promotion, remuneration and learning and development.

Scott Freeman of recruitment company OCG Consulting says that as a result of the improving economy they have noticed people moving away from the lower motivational drivers such as food and shelter and being much more focused on "fulfilment", "of which values are a key part".

Values differ for every individual, says Macauley, but common trends are for businesses focused on people - ones that encourage learning and development, progression and promotion, show pride in their service and brand, are team oriented, and know how to have fun.

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Jobseekers also look for values such as social responsibility and ethics, and they want an organisation to display those values externally - to "live and breathe" them.

Macauley and Freeman have experienced jobseekers turning down a prospective job when they have discovered it is not aligned with their personal values. Macauley says his consultancy has found the most unpopular industry to be the tobacco business, with more than 50 per cent of candidates refusing to work in it. He says the tobacco industry is very good at providing promotion and progression for career-oriented people, but due to its stigma and their own thoughts and observations, many won't consider it. Fast food comes second with up to 20 per cent wanting no part of it, and 10-15 per cent of people don't want to work in the gambling industry. Some don't find the public/government sector appealing, and other industries that don't tend to align with people's values are oil and gas, alcohol, and testing on animals.

Freeman agrees that some industries are unpopular because they are viewed as contentious or declining, but adds that a company can be in a great industry but still have a poor reputation because of other factors - much of it traced to poor leadership.

Macauley says it's difficult to identify the particular industries people are attracted to as it depends on the individual, but people tend to like big brands, businesses regularly promoted in the media, growing and innovative businesses, the new tech companies and those doing well on the global stage and getting a lot of PR. "People also like valuing something and having fun," he says.

"Often it's not so much industries but companies within industries that people are attracted to," says Freeman. "These are the ones who are seen to be caring about their people - who provide training, development, reward and recognition, tailored for each individual. These companies work hard on their employment brands and start by asking, 'how satisfied are our staff and what are we doing about that?'"

Macauley and Freeman say there is no evidence of any difference between men and women when it comes to aligning personal and corporate values. Macauley says organisations want to appeal to both genders. Freeman says values may vary and will depend on the stage of a career. "For example, the person who is at the beginning of their career may be looking for a company which explicitly expresses 'performance and accountability' as key values while a returning-to-work mother might look for 'openness and trust'."

Freeman notes it is important for jobseekers to find the right "fit" within the culture of a company. "Culture sounds simple but the best companies work hard to define, maintain and develop their cultures. Culture is a mixture of things including symbols, stories, rewards and measures. When combined, they all lead to a 'feeling' that pervades a company. Again, it depends on the stage of someone's career but typically a culture of trust, openness and success are a good place to start."

Macauley says cultural fit has always been important, but candidates can be more picky now that there are more opportunities. "Culture and values will become more important as we continue to face a talent shortage."

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He says all the things relevant to working life - passion, pride, productivity, culture and success - are intertwined with an organisation's values. "If an organisation has a set of values, their people should be displaying those values."