What Candidates Want From Employers in 2021

Prior to 2020, unemployment was at an all-time low and companies were frequently talking about the “war on talent.” However, almost overnight, the economy took a downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many leaders quickly concluded that we had flipped back to an employer’s market.

However, a high number of candidates flooding the market doesn’t mean that competition isn’t still tight. Even in an oversaturated talent market, the best candidates will always have options. In fact, thinking otherwise could do more harm than good, as you might miss out on key talent that can help your organization bounce back as the economy begins to rebuild.

As recruitment and talent advisory professionals, we spend much of our day talking to candidates, learning about their motivations, and what they want out of their next career move. That’s why we wanted to share the up and coming trends you can expect to see in 2021. From our many conversations, here are the top features candidates want from their next employer:

  1. Job stability
  2. Growth and development opportunities
  3. Meaningful and challenging work
  4. Total compensation
  5. Flexibility and work-life balance
  6. Autonomy

Job stability

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to global economic uncertainty. Now more than ever, candidates are prioritizing security and stability in an employer. Candidates want to know how the pandemic has affected your industry, and what you are doing to ensure your company comes out on top at the end of all of this.

Growth and development opportunities

Prior to the pandemic, lack of growth and development opportunities was a leading reason why employees left their previous job. In fact, research by The Harris Poll found that one in three employees (34%) quit their last position because they “didn’t learn new skills or better their performance.”

And today growth and development is more important than ever as people are more likely to associate growth and development with stability. Showing candidates that your company is invested in their growth will allow them to see a potential future with the organization and ultimately provide a sense of future job security.

Meaningful and challenging work

Great employees often leave a company when they feel as though they are being not challenged enough within the workplace. When people report feeling undervalued at work, they’re not only referring to the volume of work but also the type of work they’re doing.

Many employees want to do work that is meaningful or challenges them to expand their skills. When work is no longer stimulating, they’ll seek new opportunities. In fact, a study by BetterUp Labs found that 9 out of 10 professionals said they would sacrifice up to 23% of their future earnings for work that is always meaningful.

Total compensation

According to a survey by Glassdoor 48% of job seekers cited attractive benefits and perks such as gym memberships and PTO as a top factor when applying to new roles. Other important factors included high salaries (46%), work-life balance (43%), and the flexibility to work from home (41%).

Ultimately, candidates are no longer solely attracted to a high salary; rather, they are actively seeking a comprehensive total compensation package.

Flexibility and work-life balance

Even prior to COVID-19, candidates were actively seeking out flexible work arrangements. This year as stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures were implemented, many organizations were forced to move to a digital work environment.

While some employers were previously skeptical about letting employees work from home full time, the pandemic has proved that people can do it, and many employees will continue to expect it well after the pandemic is over.

However, as the lines between work and home continue to blur, today’s candidates are seriously evaluating a company’s culture when looking at new positions — they want to see that work-life balance is a genuine priority and they want to understand how remote employees are supported.


Employees thrive in environments where their managers trust them and they have sufficient autonomy to do their jobs. And when leaders micromanage employees, workers feel anxious, and they are unable to work effectively, according to 15Five.

Particularly when many employees are working from home, employees want to know that their manager is able to trust that they will do their job effectively, even when they can’t keep an eye on them in the office.

Although we may be in an employer’s market today, global economists predict that the economy will bounce back faster than expected. Employers who want to come out on top as the economy recovers must continue to manage candidate expectations or risk losing out on great talent.

We hope these insights give you some ideas on how to position your organization in front of candidates. And if you need extra support to attract and hire the best talent, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.

About ML6

ML6 is a recruitment and talent advisory firm located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We provide customized solutions to support our clients throughout the employee lifecycle. We help our clients attract and retain talent by advising on people programs, processes, and best practices.