By Alan Davis

Building the Value Proposition

It’s no secret, the market for top talent is more competitive than ever. Companies have to sell themselves on an ongoing basis as the employer of choice. And yet, too often many fundamental elements of enticing candidates are overlooked in the rush to capture any available talent before a competitor does.

Have you ever noticed how many job ads and postings don’t even mention where the job is located? Or those that are simply a wish list of candidate characteristics, with little or no mention of the job itself? Then there are those that describe only the job, without any description of the background requirements.

All these scenarios are common, and each of them can make the difference between a qualified candidate applying, or moving on to the next opportunity.

The Value Proposition

Even if a position needs to be filled “yesterday”, before any contact is made with potential candidates you must ensure that all the positive elements of a position (the hooks) are clearly defined. This critical first step will maximize your chances of attracting the most talented individuals once you place the opportunity in front of them. How can you do this?

Let’s start with our definition of recruiting:

The science of presenting the appropriate Value Proposition to an appropriate person, to solicit their candidacy. So what should the Value Proposition contain? To answer this question, we turn to the basics of journalism, the Five W’s: ‘Who’, ‘What’, ‘Where’, ‘When’ and ‘Why’ – the most challenging part of the equation being the ‘Why’.

The ‘Who’ describes who you are as a company, including the types of products or services that you sell, who your clients are, and your positioning in the market. The ‘What’ describes the job itself – normally starting with an encompassing scope statement describing the objective of the job, followed by a list of tasks that breaks down the objective. It also indicates the structure of the organization, including the level of the position and reporting relationships.

The background requirements are also contained in the ‘What’, giving the would-be applicant the information they need to decide whether or not they possess the basic qualifications. The ‘Where’ and ‘When’ are the easiest. Where the job is located may be fixed, but if flexible working arrangements are a possibility, this is a strong selling point that needs to be presented. If the location of work is particularly appealing, here’s your chance to talk it up. In terms of ‘When’, more often than not the timing is now, or
even better, yesterday!

The ‘Why’s’ can be the most complex and the least obvious part of the Value Proposition. The following checklist compares some of the most frequently used ‘Why’s’.

Company Culture

If you can define your company culture, describe its positive aspects.

Variable Compensation

If your total compensation plan includes a variable component, mention it. Stock Options If the job comes with stock options, you will obviously mention it. Ownership is a big issue for most applicants, especially if you are pre-IPO.


Some people move from one company to another, simply because the technology is more up-to-date, or more in line with their career aspirations. If you really are at the leading edge of technology, sell that fact.


Often, people leave a job when the tools to get the job done are inadequate or out-of-date. This can make a candidate’s experience obsolete. If you have the sexiest tools, mention that fact.


If you are serving a market that is exciting and that has obvious growth potential, it should form part of your Value Proposition.

Future Prospects

If you are recruiting upwardly-mobile people, define the career path for the position.


This is an often-overlooked aspect of the Value Proposition. Many people love to travel on business, but need a realistic statement of the amount. Be sure to quantify travel expectations, and ensure that they are reasonable. Once the elements of the Value Proposition have been clearly defined, and their benefits articulated in persuasive terms, making that critical first contact becomes very straightforward.

First Contact: The Ad, Job Posting, or Cold Call

Whether you are writing an ad or placing a cold call to a new prospect, the key is to pull the most interesting, alluring or unique elements from your Value Proposition to present to them. Your goal is to entice eligible candidates to indicate further interest, so you don’t need to divulge every detail right away. Present just enough to weed out those not qualified, and to make the good ones want to know more.

If you are making a cold call, the verbal Value Proposition should be condensed into a 15 – 20 second sound bite that’s interesting and easy to digest. It may be your only chance to make a positive impact.

How do you test the appeal of your Value Proposition? Why not poll your most recent hires and ask them what attracted them to your company, and to their specific opportunity.

Whether for an ad, a job posting, or a cold call, if you have packaged the Value Proposition appropriately, you will dramatically increase your chances for success.

The Next Level: The Job Description

Once you’ve piqued the candidate’s interest enough to put a job description in front of them, this document must be enticing and complete enough to continue the momentum toward the next level: the submission of their CV.

The job description should contain all elements of the Value Proposition, as well as supporting documentation, such as the organization chart, company annual report, and any marketing literature that may be appropriate.


Attracting top talent is getting harder. Scrimp on preparing your Value Proposition and you may fail to attract key candidates. Even though you’re fishing in the appropriate gene pool, they simply won’t bite unless the bait is right. Let’s face it – they’ve got lots of choice. Why not make it easier for them to choose you?

The Author:

Alan Davis is a 22-year veteran in the recruiting and selection arena and has managed many recruiting campaigns, both in Canada and overseas. He was the architect of the 1992 Canadian Astronaut Recruitment Campaign. His company provides specialized services in recruitment, selection, and interview training.

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