Better work-life balance tops list of seven job candidate preferences

Criteria, a research and talent success company, has published its 2022 Candidate Experience Report. It shows the top job candidate priorities for 2022, a year of the great resignation, the US’s lowest unemployment rate since 2019 of 3.5 percent (tying a 50-year low), high wage increases, and even higher inflation. What it concludes is that better work-life balance tops the list of seven preferences identified by job candidates.

Criteria’s results are based on a survey of 1,967 job candidates from around the globe, representing a wide range of industries and backgrounds. About 59 percent of the respondents were from the United States.

Criteria asked candidates to rank seven major qualities an organization can offer in order of importance. Below are the top issues identified in Criteria’s report:

No. 1 – Candidates want better-work life balance. According to the Criteria survey, candidates ranked work-life balance as more important than compensation, work culture, and benefits when it came to deciding to accept an offer. Thirty-three percent of respondents said they have turned down a job because it didn’t offer flexible or remote work options. Criteria’s findings match the findings of several other researchers that have published reports in 2022, such as Pew Research and The US Labor Department.

No. 2 – More opportunities for career advancement. The Criteria survey did not offer much further analysis on this point. To learn more on how employers can beat the Great Resignation with career pathing, developing employees, and providing them career advancement, click this link.

No. 3 – Better compensation. Money still matters but not as much. Criteria found that most job candidates are very confident that they will be paid enough in their next job, with 48 percent strongly agreeing and 31 percent somewhat agreeing. Asian and black candidates were more the most optimistic than other ethnic groups and Caucasians. Confidence waned with age, however, with younger candidates exhibiting higher confidence than older candidates.  Gender confidence proved not to be a factor. What is interesting in these results is that “better compensation” comes in third after more opportunities for flexible work options and career advancement. Employers should take note.

No. 4 – Better manager and team. Like many other studies, the criteria study found that the team leaders that build trust within their teams have the most effective and innovative teams.

No. 5 – Better work culture. Criteria asked candidates to share three words to describe their ideal workplace, and the most frequently used word by a landslide was “flexible.” However, they also listed several other happy “f-words,” including friendly, fair, and fun. Research published early this year by MIT found that a toxic work culture is ten times more likely than pay to cause employee turnover. Learn more about the preference of a thriving work culture over compensation from MIT’s research and the definition of a thriving work culture here.

No. 6 – More sense of purpose at work. Criteria does not expand on the finding of purpose at work. Longstanding and current research, however, has found that purpose and contributing to the higher good of society is important to workers, especially younger workers, enabling the organization to attract and retain great talent.

No. 7 – Better benefits. What benefits do employees want? The Criteria survey did not have its own list. However, SHRM has published a list. Leading the list published by SHRM in 2021 includes better health, vision, dental, and mental health benefits and telemedicine. Other top benefits include work-life balance (which Criteria identified as No. 1). More paid time off which is more than more vacation. It also includes parental leave and leaves to care for children and adult family members. Improved retirement benefits, such as 401(k) match, also is on the list.

In addition to these seven top priorities of job candidates, Criteria found other interesting findings, which include the following:

  • Fifty-four percent of candidates have abandoned a recruitment process because the salary didn’t meet expectations. But that wasn’t the only reason. Fifty-three percent abandoned a recruitment process because of poor communication, and 32 percent because the recruiting process took too long. This highlights the need to have competitive salaries by region and industry, and that recruiters and hiring managers lean out their recruiting processes to move quickly and keep candidates informed throughout the process. For example, a previous study by Appcast found that 92 percent of job seekers quit the application process if it takes too long to apply online for a job. Another study by Aptitude Research found that 82 percent of candidates surveyed stated they wanted more feedback during the interview process.
  • Ninety-four percent of candidates say assessments demonstrate their potential well. And 74 percent agree that assessments help them demonstrate their potential beyond their experience. Asian and Black candidates were more likely to feel this way compared to White candidates.
  • Fifty-one percent of candidates prefer game-based assessments. The Technology and Retail industries were the most likely to prefer them, and Asian and Black candidates were more likely to feel this way than White candidates.
  • Fifty-two percent of candidates feel that AI-based hiring can represent them accurately. However, the higher their education, the less confident a candidate was about AI.

Although inflation has slowed down the US economy, the job market is still hot. Companies need to continue to improve their recruiting processes and focus on the top seven priorities of job seekers. Keep in mind that nothing is more important to prospective employees than a healthy work-life balance.

Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting and managing partner of InnovationOne. He works with companies to transform HR and recruiting, implement remote work, and develop extraordinary leaders, teams, and innovation cultures. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Hack Recruiting: the Best of Empirical Research, Method and Process, and Digitization. Subscribe to his weekly blogs at 

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