Why Money Can't Buy Candidates

April 4, 2014 at 6:00 AM by Kathleen de Lara

If your recruiting pitch puts a halo over a competitive salary, you're doing it all wrong.

"If people come for money, they will leave for money."
— James Treybig, CEO, Tandem Computers

Attracting candidates with compensation may seem like the way to go, but luring talent with surface perks can bring down your company's values, potential for growth, and culture.

To add, if your recruiting pitch leads with salary numbers and sparks a swift increase of talent in the pipeline, you may be drawing in the wrong kind of candidates — the kind that take extra time and costs to filter through, reject, and replace.

Babak Nivi, founder of AngelList and Venture Hacks, said it best:

"Money by itself can only motivate the quest for more money. We are motivated to perform when our work expresses who we are, when the business' goals are intrinsically meaningful to us, and we feel that we are valued as people, not simply as economic agents."

Unfortunately, many recruiters and interviewees believe that negotiating a job offer is synonymous with negotiating a salary. Look out for candidates who onboard primarily on the basis of snagging the best salary from their list of contenders. This can be a telltale sign of an employee who's in it to do more for more, (not necessarily of a higher quality), and to leverage their work as justification for a very generous bonus. 

"By itself, money motivates the wrong people to do the wrong things in the quest for more money," Nivi said.

Losing sight of your company's values for the sake of being compensated creates culture clash and inconsistencies in management and execution processes. This affects how and when the company succeeds. Are the triumphs now indicative of a team that's stable enough to adapt to what the consumers will need? Using incentives to drive productive behavior fails to instill commitment and long-term effective habits. It works for quick, straightfoward tasks, and having more of a good thing doesn't always translate to being more motivated. 

A solution? Draw in talent with the opportunity. Lead your pitch with the candidate's ability and channel for career growth through building a product that helps others, being part of a company that treats its employees well, and attesting to that with the support of smart, motivated coworkers. Then, follow up with details on the role, perks and benefits. Understand the candidate's intent and drive for being part of the company. What are his or her plans for the team? The product? The company? How does the candidate envision their impact on the industry in five years? 10 years?

Money can be a strong motivator for a candidate to join your team, but it shouldn't be paramount. Clearly communicating the company's values and foundation for success appeals to qualified candidates' desire to learn, create, and influence development. It's not a manager's job to pay people, but to grow a team who can make the company better. 

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