Have you ever received a call from a salesperson and part of his pitch is that the product or service can, in fact, help you do your job better? Maybe it’s a third-party recruiter who has a “better” network than you. Or maybe the technology that allows you to do a “better” job at connecting with more candidates. Whether the list of “betters” is true or not, the proposition plants a seed. It makes us stop and wonder: if there’s something better, that means what I’m doing could be considered worse!

The same thing holds true for recruiting. We teach our recruiters to find the candidate’s pain and then resolve it. In other words, make the situation better. On the surface, this makes sense. However, if you dig a bit below the surface, the human psyche starts to sabotage things that are better.

What we really want is a way of solving a problem—not necessarily a better way.

This isn’t just semantics. There are times that improvement opportunities work and increase your odds of turning a name on an application into a candidate.
Let’s take a look at a few of the main reason that candidates avoid improvement offers.

1. Improvement can be hard

Most of us on this earth have tried to improve something in the past, and for some reason. it didn’t work. We’ve tried to lose weight and failed. We’ve tried to make money and failed. We’ve tried to get a better job but it wound up worse than the one we already had. As humans, we’ve all experienced the backlash of “better.” Our minds tend to gravitate toward the potentially negative outcomes instead of the positive ones.

2. Ambition vs. desire

All of us have goals, but very few people have real ambition. This is not a slight; it’s just the reality of how we’re wired. Of course, we all want to achieve greatness in our lifetimes. When it all boils down to it, very few actually achieve it because it takes a lot of work.

Improvement opportunities resonate with achievers. If you present your job opportunities as only an improvement to someone who’s not an achiever, the opportunity falls flat. A new opportunity plays on people’s desire for the change they really want in their lives.

Don’t get the wrong idea. Individuals who don’t have as much ambition to change jobs or employers don’t necessarily mean their performance is unambitious. The ambition versus desire concept I’m referring to pertains to making a change.

3. Memories of the past

People need to admit failure before they consider an improvement. In the case of candidates, you must first get them to admit that the choices they made in their past role were the wrong choices. No one likes to admit when they’re wrong, yet roles that promise improvement force us to admit that we’ve made a poor decision along the way.

Even if we don’t consciously come to this conclusion, subconsciously candidates shy away from owning it. This is why so many potential candidates have a gut reaction of “I’m not interested” before even hearing about a new career opportunity. The goal is to justify any past career decisions. A new opportunity does that.

4. Decreased status

Status is one of the strongest forces that each of us faces when we make a decision. Each time we’re presented with an opportunity, our subconscious mind is trying to answer a simple question: is this new career opportunity going to increase or decrease my status?

The status that I am referring to is not how others perceive us, but our perception of ourselves. Almost every decision we make is affected by the same subconscious question referenced above: is this new career opportunity goes to increase or decrease my status?

Fear of decreased status can stop any candidate from accepting an opportunity. There’s a constant balancing act—balancing the hope of increased status against the fear of a decrease in status. If the last decision a candidate made to improve their career didn’t work out, their subconscious will bring back the memories of the pain it caused.

This is why selling improvement opportunities are harder than selling new opportunities. For someone to say “yes” for an improved opportunity, they have to admit failure and feel their own personal decrease in status.

Stay tuned to next week’s blog where I will lay out the reason people actually crave new opportunities and how to use that as a vehicle to help people make the decision to change jobs.