Why you need to identify your Employers of Choice

I’ve often talked about the failings of the recruitment industry, despite the fact that I and many other good people strive for the highest standards of professionalism.

But we don’t talk enough about what candidates can do to be professional in their dealings with us.

When I’m working with job seekers – either as a career coaching client or as an applicant for a job I’m recruiting – I find it frustrating when they can’t identify their employers of choice.

It’s like asking someone what they want to eat, and they say “Anything will do.” That bugs me because I can’t pick up the phone and order ”anything” from my local takeaway. It also bugs me because it shows there’s no thought going into it.

And your career deserves lots of thought!

I understand that many good candidates want to be open to opportunities. I also understand that often the culture and the challenge is more important than the name over the door.

But you have to narrow down the field somehow, because otherwise you’re targeting literally thousands of potential employers and that will take far too much time.

How your brain can help

Here’s a fascinating bit of neuroscience that can help you to identify your employers of choice.

Your Reticular Activating System (RAS) works to filter the millions of pieces of information that you receive every waking second. Your brain knows you’d go into overload if you had to process every bit of information, so it only “shows” you what it thinks is important.

A good example of how the RAS works is this – let’s say you’re shopping for a new car. You like the look of the VW Golf and you want it in red. You check reviews online, take one for a test drive and talk about the car with family and friends.

Suddenly, you start to see red VW Golfs everywhere you look! On TV, in the car park, at the lights next to you.

Why does this happen? Because you’ve subconsciously instructed your RAS that a red VW Golf is important to you, so it lets red VW Golfs through the filter.

Now you can get your RAS to help you identify your employers of choice.

Putting your RAS to work

Decide what your initial criteria are. It might be “high growth listed companies”, “start-ups with a social conscience” or “companies with an innovation culture”.

Now let your RAS know this is important to you by talking about these criteria, by searching them online, and by looking for those keywords when you’re reading the newspaper or news sites.

Make sure you notice what your RAS brings you. Write down the names of the companies on a list or spreadsheet headed My Employers of Choice.

Be thorough in your research. You can find lists of companies in your local area – start with a simple Google search of “top 100 companies in [area]” – and you can also search business media for stories about companies with your criteria. LinkedIn makes it easy to search for companies with keywords as well.

Then brainstorm to find other companies that are similar to your initial ideas, so you build a solid list of at least 12-15 companies you’d love to work for.


So if we’re talking and I ask “who are your employers of choice?”, please be sure that your answer shows you’ve put a lot of thought into this critical question.

You’re going to need to know your Employers of Choice if you want to implement my outreach program, so please get started on your list now.

My best wishes for your job search success.



Richard Triggs is the Founder and Managing Partner of Arete Executive, one of Australasia’s leading executive recruitment companies. He has championed the practice of helping people to “headhunt their own job” and you can find more advice about this in his book Uncover the Hidden Job Market (available from Amazon). You can also subscribe to Arete’s newsletter a for useful information and resources.

Richard has an organically built network of over 24,000 connections on LinkedIn and you are warmly invited to connect with him.

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