Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 26 seconds

In today’s competitive job market, companies are looking for ways to stand out to candidates. New survey data reveals that a competitive salary and benefits are the key to capturing job seekers’ attention.

According to a survey of 507 recent hires, nearly one-third (32%) left their last job in search of better pay and/or benefits. The survey was conducted by Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews firm based in Washington DC.

Salary and benefits, however, are not created equally. Approximately three times as many people (31%) say that salary is their top concern when evaluating a job offer, compared to only 10% who say that benefits are their main focus.

This holds true across all generations, despite reports that younger generations are less savvy about compensation or willing to accept perks in lieu of payment.

Experts say that the preference for salary over benefits may be due to the declining value of company-sponsored benefits.

For example, most employees contribute some of their salary toward their health insurance. Similarly, if an employee can’t afford to contribute to a company-sponsored 401(k) benefit due to more pressing expenses, then he or she will not be able to access the company’s full compensation package.

Companies planning to offer new benefits should also be aware of student loan repayment benefits (SLRPs). This benefit functions in a way that’s similar to 401(k), allowing companies to make or match monthly contributions to an employee’s student debt.

Though adoption remains low at the moment, a growing number of job seekers are aware the some companies offer SLRPs. The survey found that 31% of recent hires encountered or heard of SLRPs during their most recent job search.

SLRPs are appealing because student debt prevents so many employees from fully participating in other employer-sponsored benefits. Today, Americans hold roughly $1.4 trillion in worth of student debt, with most borrowers paying around $400 each month.

Finally, job seekers are attracted to some perks more than others. The opportunity to have a flexible schedule, with the option to telecommute or set individual hours, is the most sought-after aspect of a job offer for 11% of candidates.

Job seekers also want to know that they can learn and grow at work, causing 18% to say that professional development and growth opportunities are the most important consideration in their search.

Although candidates pay some attention to a company’s mission, it’s not likely to sway their decision compared to other factors, with only 5% saying it’s their top concern. The same goes for a company’s vacation policy, which sways only 4% of candidates.

Overall, up to three-quarters of job seekers (75%) are on the job market by choice, so they can afford to be choosy when evaluating opportunities. To appeal to these candidates, companies should be attuned to their top concerns.

Companies that are struggling to hire new employees can also partner with a recruiting firm to receive assistance and insight into competitive market rates.

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