Stop searching for goal-oriented candidates

Stop searching for goal-oriented candidates

I have acted as a hiring manager for various level positions for almost twenty years. Many different findings have been made, but today I want to focus on one.

Do you often see I’m goal-oriented/ We are searching for the goal/result-oriented in CVs and job descriptions? I saw this quite often. More of that, for a long time I regularly said that about myself. But later, I discovered that this is more tricky than it seems.

Let's look deeper into people's brains and the psychological aspect of people's motivation. Wikipedia provides such a description:

Motivation is the reason for which humans and other animals initiate, continue, or terminate a behavior at a given time.

Motivation is derived from the word 'motive,' which denotes a person's needs, desires, wants, or urges.

From the first view, it seems completely ok. But the devil is in the details.

Goal orientation

First of all, let’s assume - according to the term explanation, everybody is goal-oriented! And the real difference is made by the goal for which a person is oriented for.

Person's needs, desires, wants, or urges

Source: [Wikipedia]( Source: Wikipedia

Everybody is more or less familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It represents the hierarchy of personal needs, most often visualized as a pyramid with the most basic requirements at the bottom. Until lower levels are not covered, the higher levels will not be the case for an exact person.

In my experience, pyramid order can differ from person to person, but this applies only to high-level elements in most cases.

Let's see how this relates to goal orientation in practice.

I Want vs I Need

Imagine you are performing an interview, and the candidate says he/she/they is very interested in helping people in your product area. Sounds cool and very matching to what you are searching for, right? But after that, a person starts asking many questions about salary, insurance, paydays, etc. There is nothing wrong with these questions, but you need to be aware because if there are a lot of questions like this, a person does not feel safe.

He/she/they wants to belong (3d level in the pyramid) but needs safety (2nd one).

What does this mean in practice? In practice, this can mean that the main goal person will be oriented toward is keeping his\her\theirs position in the company beyond everything else. And keeping safe can lead to a lack of proactivity, standing up for his/her/their own opinion, and everything risky.

Once again - this is not bad by itself, and more of that - it can be useful for your company because such people can be very loyal (until events do not threaten their safety). But if they see (or even imagine) a possible threat, they will act to avoid it but not to meet company goals.

My main point here is that you should be aware of real goals of the person.

If the goal is to work less and get paid more - a person can do everything to be visible and verbal, but the outcome will be significantly low.

If the goal is to be pleased - a person can do overtime work and help everybody around in the prejudice of their tasks.

If the goal is to obey responsibility, a person can make everything to delay decisions, waiting for somebody to decide.

What to do?

Unfortunately, there is no (or I don't know) stable framework for identifying people's subconscious needs during hiring interviews. But I can share some tips&tricks from my experience.

First of all, you will need an Active Listening skillset. Long story short - this is a pack of techniques to improve the information you hear. People often say much more than they want and even more than they say. Nonverbal cues and emotional reactions - there is much information beyond the words.

Don't ask questions. Tell stories and ask for stories. Storytelling is an efficient technique to activate more brain parts. And it works in both ways - it also improves the involvement of the listener and teller. So, by telling a story, you will activate a person's brain, and by asking for a story, you will let him not answer bordered questions but include more personal interests and emotions.

Ask about a person's life and way into the profession - roots can say a lot.


Goal orientation is not so clear-cut since every action is goal-oriented. But the goal can be very different.

What you are really searching for is Business goals oriented person who has all basic needs covered (some of them by your company, by the way). But this is also not the best case. Business goals are quite often described as KPIs. And sometimes, meeting KPI does not lead to company profit and product value.

What is the best case? IMO - end-customer goals orientation is the best you can find. This means that person will think about solving real customers' issues.

But, as I already said, this is possible only when low-level needs are fully covered. And this is not a fixed state. The company should have a process and environment for permanent monitoring of the personal condition of employees for early identification of any changes in their needs.

If the company wants to have really motivated and end-customer-orientated employees, it should be end-customer-orientated by itself and, in the meantime - employees orientated.

Love your employees as well as your customers! ❤️