In my last blog, I wrote about how gaining insight into a candidate’s motivations is a crucial factor in a successful executive search. Knowing what is important to the person and why they are interested in changing roles gives you a blueprint for how to approach your search and a better idea of how successful the candidate will be in the long term. Now it’s time to put that knowledge into practice.

The first step is to review the candidate’s resume. Look for patterns and consider the sum total of the candidate’s work history. How long have they stayed with each position? Do they have progressive career growth or has it been a game of hopscotch? What are the common threads that connect the candidate’s experiences and what story does it tell about them? Keep this analysis in the back of your mind throughout the process.

Next, be an active listener. You can’t understand a candidate if you’re not truly listening to them at all stages of the interview process. Listening and pitching to the candidate’s needs ensures that there are no surprises and increases the chances that you will successfully close the candidate.

With those things in mind, you can prioritize learning more about a candidate’s motivations. Below, I’ve outlined the five most important motivations that you should consider as you get to know them. This will enable you to create a value proposition that speaks to the candidate, and it will help to ensure that they will succeed in the position.

Five Motivations to Consider

Passion, Growth, and Learning

People who are driven by passion or a desire to grow and learn new things share a common denominator – an excitement and an energy surrounding their pursuit. This can be a passion to change the world or an excitement about a new technology. These candidates are curious and enthusiastic about what they are doing and will persist in seeking out answers. It powers their creativity and fuels their desire to take the extra step to go beyond what’s necessary.

If the role is a “been there, done that” role, your candidate will probably not be interested unless that role also fuels their passion in some way. Look for these connections! Similarly, if the role is new for the candidate and sparks their imagination, they’re more likely to be interested.

Company Culture and Alignment

Connections to coworkers as well as belief in the company’s mission are important factors for job satisfaction. People need to feel like they are part of a team that’s moving in the same direction. When there’s a strong misalignment between what people are looking for in the work environment or in their identification with the company or leadership, this can be a strong motivator for candidates to leave.

In such a case, it’s important to get a bigger picture of the situation to understand what didn’t work for the candidate and whether the new role would be a better fit. Perhaps decision making in the company is more top-down and the candidate thrives in a more collaborative setting. This type of person may have more success in an organization with a flat structure versus a hierarchical one.

There’s also a big difference in culture between large public companies and startups. With startups, you’re joining a relatively small team with whom you will need to get along. There’s also much more uncertainty and higher risk than what you would find with an established company.

Finding this right fit helps ensure greater success for the candidate.

Career Trajectory

Most people have a sense of where they want to go in their careers, whether it be job title, areas of responsibility, or span of influence. When candidates hit a roadblock in any of these areas, this can be a strong motivating factor for them to make a change in their career. You could be a phenomenal VP of Finance, but if the CFO isn’t going anywhere, your options within the company are limited. A recent LinkedIn study found that the primary reason people are open to looking at other jobs is for better career opportunities.

We see this motivator as a good indicator of a person’s personal drive and initiative that will likely transfer to the workplace. It signals they are proactively engaged and forward thinking.


Money may not buy happiness, but it is a basic necessity. Depending on what stage of life people are at, they will view the issue of compensation through different lenses. There can be different components to a package – cash, bonus, commission, and stock. Know what’s important to your candidate so that you can put together a package that’s in line with their needs. For example, is cash flow more important to them or are they willing to trade cash for equity?

One thing to watch out for is when candidates are only motivated by money. You want to make sure that this is not the only reason someone is taking the job. Studies find that people who are only driven by money may not be as focused and engaged in their jobs. In other words, it’s not all about the money.

On a related note, new laws have been passed that restrict an employer’s ability to ask about past compensation. You can find more information about these laws and how to adhere to them during the interview process in this blog post.


It’s important to qualify upfront whether location will be an issue for the candidate. Since location correlates with commute time, this can often be a huge disruptor in people’s lives. Some candidates will only consider opportunities within a specific distance of where they live. Others may require that the workplace be located next to mass transit.

Relocation is an even more impactful disruptor. We’ve found this to have the most success when candidates are already considering relocating or have ties to the new location.

Success After the Hire

Understanding the candidate’s motivations not only helps in closing them, but it also creates an environment that ensures their success after the hire. You are hiring for the long term, and motivation is one of the biggest predictors of long-term success and placement. Knowing upfront what drives your candidate will result in higher productivity, performance, and happiness, which is a win-win situation for everyone.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can fill an open position with a candidate whose motivations match the role, reach out to us at 215.568.8363 or