After recently watching a TED Talk called “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” by Simon Sinek, I was struck how the same concepts are immediately applicable to our job posts and how we pitch the jobs we recruit for.

In the video, Simon Sinek shared his golden circle and the following definition of terms:

What – What we do

How – How we do it (and our differentiating propositions)

Why – Why do we do what we do

He further says that the great leaders and inspiring speakers go from the innermost circle out…and everyone else pretty much goes from the outside, moving inward, and stopping at How.

Now let’s go to our job postings and how we pitch jobs to potential applicants (including the top talent), because I think he is right.

Most job descriptions and initial conversations start with what kind of company this is, what kind of job this is, what are the job responsibilities, and what kind of skill set we are looking for.  Sometimes we go into how the company is different and how this job is differentiated from any other of the same kind of job at a competitor (of at least the same talent).

For example, we would start with something like “here, you’ll be part of an inclusive, collaborative culture that rewards you for your contributions” and “this role will leverage extensive knowledge of Java/JEE capabilities/front end frameworks.”

We talk about the Whats for the job, the department, and the company.  We might even get into the Hows of our Employee Value Propositions (EVPs) and differentiators of how our company, that department, or that job is different.  And then ask or imply, “are you interested in the job?”

Perhaps, we should think about starting from the Why.  People don’t really buy what we do, but why we do it.  What is our purpose (as a company or a job within the company)? It can’t be a profit (company) or implement a new system (job)…those are results and not a purpose (a reason to get up in the morning).

For a cause we believe in, the money is not as important…the hours are not as important…the travel or commute may not be as important.  Simply, the negatives you might see in a job as a recruiter may not be that important, if the Why coincides with the potential candidate’s beliefs and whys.

Questions to ask about the company, department, and job would be why do we do what we do, what do we believe, what is our cause, and why should anyone care?

For example, I am an employee of UnitedHealth Group and here we hear about “helping people live healthier lives” and “making health care work for everyone.”  From my conversations with candidates who have gone through everything on our website…these two really resonate with some people.  These are two great potential Whys.

Once we identify the Why or Whys for our companies, departments, and jobs, the initial conversations with potential candidates should start with Why.  The job post should start with Why.

Then the job posts, conversation, etc. can move onto How.  How is this position accomplishing or furthering the Why.  The projects within the position should be tangibly and easy shown to accomplish and further the Why.  You disclose the cause and then show how this job furthers the cause.

Then to keep employees engaged after being hired, they should be reminded of the Why and be given the results of what they did in their jobs to further the Whys.  I think that would be key to keeping people motivated and engaged.  To be shown the fruits of their work in terms of how it furthers the cause.

We do not want to give our Why and then have the new employees never directly see how their work is furthering the Why.  If it is not directly seen…they might start to question if what they do really has a purpose and is furthering the cause they thought they were working on.  If you are going to do this, don’t start with Whys (as we have been saying) or you will just disappoint people when they don’t see how their work is furthering the Why.

But after seeing Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, I think that pushing the Why first is a good idea.  Market the job posting and talk about the position like you are recruiting for a cause.

See his TED Talk -


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Comment by Daniel Fogel on August 24, 2015 at 10:29am

Eric - Thanks for posting.  Loved Sinek's Ted Talk and his book as well.  Starting with the why I think ties into the passion the company began with in the first place.  I think it's a great opportunity to see how the candidate matches with the culture that firm started with as well. It also gives us as recruiters a chance to leverage some storytelling aspects to engage potential candidates.


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