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Protected: What Are Applicants Actually Looking For?


Brittany Vogel

January 10, 2023


While HR needs to understand the company’s needs when hiring, they also should be able to understand what will attract the right applicant to the role. Looking beyond the role itself, what benefits are going to attract a qualified job applicant to one job over another? The standard medical, dental, 401K, and paid time off may not be enough for applicants when other companies are turning towards less ordinary job perks such as gym memberships, pet-friendly office spaces, and even tastier, complimentary in-house catered meals. Who could turn down Lassie and a free meal? 

Open-to-work applicants face tedious applications, waiting, time-consuming interviews, waiting, the professional equivalent of ghosting, more waiting, and often a cookie cutter rejection. While this process can weigh on job applicants, the possibility of a new job, an exciting role, higher salary, and better benefits is an appetizing opportunity. 

When the options for benefits are so vast and can vary from potential hire to future applicant, how should a company decide what benefits to offer? This study aims to lend HR a better understanding of what job applicants are looking for by going straight to the source – the job applicant. From salary transparency and remote work to hiring practices and benefits, below is a survey of applicants’ moods in hiring from the lens of the job applicant and based on their own opinions. 

So Many Applications!

Let’s get to know our applicants with a look into the hiring process, starting with the first step: the application. Time spent on applications can vary from 30 seconds with a “one click apply” to hours spent trying to show a company who the job applicant is and what value they can bring to a role. Across the 50 states, it takes an average of 5.8 applications before a job interview, with Maine requiring as low an average as 2.5 applications and Alaska as high as 35.6 applications. Those states may seem extreme, but New York has 11.6 applications and California at 12.1 applications, both averages ranking just above the national average, as opposed to Florida which has a whopping average of 17.9 applications. That is a lot of applications to chew over, but with every application is the hope of greener pastures, a more satisfying job experience with increased salary and exciting benefits. 

Why Are They Late?

Jumping ahead in the application process, now the applicant has an interview. Time has been devoted to scheduling and the applicant has (probably, hopefully) spent time preparing. The date of the interview arrives and the applicant is patiently waiting outside an office or in front of a screen waiting for the interview to begin. Will the interviewers be late? 36.88% of applicants are self-reporting that interviewers are often late. When you break it down by gender, male applicants experience late interviewers more often than female applicants. Meetings run over, things happen, people are late. How has this impacted the job applicant’s view of the company? Can the offer of professional development, family planning, delicious catered meals, and other appetizing benefits salvage what may have been an incidental mishap? 

I Wonder How I Did?

After any interview, a question hangs in the air: how did it go? A survey of job seekers across the 50 states shows applicants waiting an average of 5.8 days to hear the results of an interview. The lowest being an average of 2.29 days in Kansas, and the highest with Montana having candidates waiting an average of 12.43 days. The national average of 5.8 days may not seem like a lot of time, but when a great opportunity is on the line, it can feel like forever. 

Is This Good Pay?

Let’s skip the meal and go straight to dessert with pay ranges. A survey of job applicants shows that just over 50% feel that current pay ranges on job descriptions are fair. A deeper look into this question by gender reveals that 56.13% of male identifying candidates feel like current pay ranges on job descriptions are fair. There is a discrepancy between male identifying candidates and female identifying candidates, with female identifying candidates overwhelmingly rejecting the idea that current pay ranges on job descriptions are fair.

Is there something companies can do to balance the scales? With budgetary or other restrictions concerning pay, benefits can make a role more enticing. What kind of unique benefit can your company offer – how about a yoga class with that complimentary gym membership or complimentary catered meals? 

Job Description Red Flag

Playing time traveler, reverse time to before candidates fill out an application. What makes an applicant attracted to one job posting over another? Imagine a job applicant devotes time to submitting an application for a job. A few emails have been passed back and forth, time is set aside for an initial call – efforts have been made by both parties to coordinate the hiring process, only to end abruptly due to the compensation range. While a great benefit can help make a candidate choose to submit an application, the salary may be one of the most important determining factors when applying for jobs. Is salary transparency an important factor to candidates when deciding to apply for a job? Wouldn’t it be nice if candidates knew the compensation range up front? Job applicants agree, with 58.44% of candidates avoiding jobs without compensation range in the description. 

Should I Work From The Office Or Home

The option to work fully remotely or on a hybrid work schedule might be a tasty option for over half the surveyed candidates. However, 64.17% would accept a position even if remote work was not offered. Candidates will not always find the perfect position, but one that offers other tempting benefits may energize their excitement and reinforce their decision to take the role. Consider giving candidates something to sink their teeth into with unique benefits like complimentary in-house catering, wellness benefits, and relaxation spaces. 

Catered Lunch? Sign Me Up

Speaking of juicy benefits, 67.27% of job applicants in the tech field said they are more likely to apply for positions that offer catered meals. Who doesn’t love delicious, complimentary meals? Benefits are an important part of the hiring package and something that discerning and well-qualified applicants have come to desire and even expect. Something as simple as a meal shared among coworkers can increase employee satisfaction and make your company an inviting and delicious opportunity. 


HR must consider who is the best hire for the company, but what about the best company for the applicant? This survey gives insight into what job applicants are looking for in a job and company, from the hiring practices to the salary and benefits. With an in-depth look from the perspective of a job applicant, HR can begin to understand what it takes to attract the perfect applicant for the role. 

When given an understanding of the hiring process from the job applicant’s point of view, the importance of benefits become clearer. Giving job applicants things to enjoy, beyond the role and the salary, makes their everyday work life more appetizing. Creative benefits such as catered meals can make employees see the role in a new and exciting light. Imagine taking a break from work to enjoy an exquisite and complimentary meal provided by your employer. Just something to mull over, HR. 


All participants were screened using a two-pronged approach: (1) description of selection criteria with a requirement for self-acknowledgement and acceptance, and (2) directly asking each participant to confirm each criterion, namely they have “searched for a job” in the past year. The term “searched for a job” was defined as “an instance of active contact with a potential Employer to apply for a job, and includes a contact by phone or in person, by submitting a written application, or by attending a job interview.” A total of 985 attempts were made to take the online study, with 20 eliminated for: (1) not searching for a job in the past year, (2) failing captcha, (3) not completing the survey, or (4) a mixture of these. Additionally, 12 response sets were eliminated for having duplicate IP addresses, for a total of 32 eliminations, yielding a final completion rate of 96.76%, and a final n = 953. This study employed an online survey using a convenience sampling methodology via Click worker’s database, with a subsequent posteriori exploratory, correlational data analysis methodology employed after completion of data scrubbing via Microsoft Excel and data visualization via Tableau.

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