The Fight for Talent:
What People Look for in Jobs & Locations

Posted by: CHAMBER magazine, fall 2017 Issue on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 12:00:00 pm

In today’s world, the focus of economic development efforts is not so much about attracting or retaining businesses. Rather, it’s a battle for talent.

A community may have the perfect site for a potential business to relocate to, but if you don't have the workforce to support the jobs the business is looking for, your community is no longer a viable candidate.

With low unemployment rates, regions and states around the country are facing a new economic development challenge—a surplus of jobs without skilled local talent to fill them. Adding to the challenge, technology has made finding a job easier than ever, meaning that talent can readily find job opportunities in any part of the U.S.

Economic development organizations (EDOs) are fighting to attract and retain talent in their communities. That’s why it’s more important than ever to understand how talent assesses new job opportunities and relocation decisions.

While our winter 2018 issue of chamber magazine will dig deeper into what the Chamber is doing in the areas of talent and workforce, this issue provides you with insight based on a survey conducted by Development Counsellors International (DCI), a firm specializing in economic development marketing and lead generation, of more than 1,000 working-age individuals across the country.

By providing insights on what people look for in new job opportunities and locations, we can all better market the region to grow and retain workforce to ensure sustainable growth.


For years, it’s always been thought that people, especially young professionals, choose a location first followed by the job. This survey blows that concept up. While location is important in relocation decisions, it’s far from the singular driver; jobs are the real driver. When evaluating a new career opportunity, the salary being offered is the most important factor people consider followed by work-life balance and company benefits. Location is an important factor but not a leading one.

To capture talent, companies need to clearly demonstrate the value they place on work-life balance. DCI also encourages companies and EDOs promote “take-home pay” rather than “average salary.” With “take-home pay,” an area’s cost of living is taken in to account.

When the topic of benefits is explored, respondents reported that while health insurance is the most important job-related benefit, paid time-off in the form of vacation and/or sick time ranked second followed by 401K/retirement plan.

And when it comes to location of a new job opportunity, the overall cost of living, housing costs, housing availability, health care and job opportunity for spouse/partner ranked in the top five in terms of influential criteria.

Job Opportunity Sources

Respondents reported turning to their personal networks and friends when identifying new job opportunities, coming in 10% greater than the most frequently reported resource, company websites followed by LinkedIn. This result illustrates the use of existing residents and ambassadors to promote opportunities in their communities.

No matter how strong the reputation of a community, few people would move to a new location without visiting and experiencing the location firsthand. Word-of-mouth recommendations are also valuable when forming an impression of a community, further reinforcing that opinions from trusted sources such as friends and family are critical factors in location decisions.

With these insights into why and how talent makes their career and relocation decisions, we can more effectively compete for talent. The following strategies gleaned from the report findings can only positively impact our ability to attract and retain talent.

1. Employers are the Biggest Talent Attraction Asset

Most are searching for jobs first, not location. How employers market themselves on top sources is more important than how cities, chambers or economic development organizations market location independently.

2. Don’t Take Tourism for Granted

While attractive job opportunities capture talent’s attention, travel forms their perceptions. Seventy-six percent of survey respondents cite firsthand experience as the top influencer when forming impressions of a community.

3. Local Residents are Our Best Advertisement

Family and friends are highly influential in communicating job opportunities. At the same time, local residents and their use of their personal and professional networks can serve as huge community ambassadors.

4. Money Talks

As the findings showed, salaries and cost of living are huge factors in people’s job search and relocation decisions. DCI recommends that if employers lack competitive industry salaries, market cost of living or housing costs instead and compare yourself to higher-cost competitors.

Important Factors When Considering a New Job Opportunity
1 Salary
2 Work-Life Balance
3 Company Benefits
4 Advancement Opportunities
5 Meaningful or Innovative Work
6 Location of New Opportunity
7 Company Culture
8 Colleagues & Co-Workers
9 Diversity Policies
10 Size of Company

Source: Development Counsellors International,