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Talent Acquisition

Can’t Offer Candidates Vertical Career Moves? Do This Instead

If you work at Zappos — the online retailer that recently announced it’ll be stripping employees and managers of their job titles — you may not need to worry about this. But the rest of us probably wrestle with how to convey to a candidate that the position he is applying for or the company he’s applying at doesn’t have much upward mobility. Talk about having an awkward conversation, right?

Wrong! Unless you’re Erin Andrews interviewing Richard Sherman, you don’t have to be afraid that a simple question will spiral out of control into a combustible situation.

Consider these tips before sitting down with candidates to turn potentially awkward career conversations into productive exchanges.

  1. Be honest and don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Truthfully inform candidates from the start about career possibilities. If you tell candidates or let them assume there’s room to move up when that isn’t the case, you’ll lose their trust and can safely bet they’ll be looking for a way out sooner or later. If your company doesn’t offer much vertical mobility, be forthcoming with candidates right from the start.
  2. Set the right expectations up front. Just like in any relationship, both parties want and deserve to know what they’re signing up for. So even if THEY don’t raise the topic of career advancement or training and development, it’s on you to make sure their career expectation matches the reality.
  3. Open the lines of communication. Be open to questions and follow-up, should candidates want to discuss alternatives to climbing up the corporate ladder in order to enrich themselves professionally.
  4. Present the possibility of lateral movement. Lateral moves have gained prominence, particularly in the wake of the economic turmoil this country experienced over the past few years. Offer candidates the possibility of enabling them to enrich their careers by getting to work in different positions or even departments,
  5. Offer the chance to travel. As an alternative to traditional promotions, perhaps your company can offer stellar employees the opportunity to try new assignments in different locations around the country — or the world.
  6. Offer mentoring opportunities. While some candidates don’t have qualms about limited career options, it’s still worthwhile to consider pairing them with mentors internally.

Keep in mind that some candidates — perhaps as a result of the stage of life they’re in — are more than willing to bid adieu to the constant scramble up the corporate ladder and are instead more interested in landing a career where happiness and job satisfaction is the primary focus.

Tell us what you think in the comments below: How would or how have you handled conversations like this with candidates?

Deanna Hartley

About Deanna Hartley

Deanna Hartley is a senior copywriter and community manager on the creative services team at CareerBuilder, where she writes about issues that are top of mind for employers and recruiters – including talent acquisition, employee engagement and retention. An avid social media user, Deanna is the face behind @CBforEmployers on Twitter as well as CBforEmployers’ Facebook and Instagram pages, so it’s easy to stay connected with her. Prior to joining CareerBuilder, Deanna was a senior editor for the Human Capital Media Group, publishers of Talent Management, Chief Learning Officer, Diversity Executive and Workforce Management magazines. Deanna holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She loves caffeine, social media, pop culture and dogs – though not necessarily in that order.


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