Leveraging Maslow to Truly Appeal to Talent

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides an excellent framework for speaking to candidates in a way that goes beyond regurgitating HR platitudes.

In order to attract talent, you must first understand human beings. Bear with me while I state the obvious, but it seems like HR has forgotten this fact, not unlike when The Learning Channel became TLC. Something just got lost in the acronym.

Something just got lost in the acronym.

Despite its shortcomings, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides an excellent framework for speaking to candidates in a way that goes beyond regurgitating HR platitudes. When you’re trying to reach out to candidates, whether in person or through your careers site, they want to know if your company meets their needs.


Will I be able to afford food and shelter? If I were to use a baseball metaphor, this isn’t even getting to first base. This is just showing up to the game. Offering a living wage is the least you can do. Otherwise, you can stop reading here and start thinking about what you’re doing with your life. Talk to your mom, your shrink, or your priest. ‘Nuff said, let’s move on.


If I get sick, will I be taken care of so I can get back on my feet? This is getting on 1st base. Offering decent health benefits and paid sick days demonstrates that you care about their well being, at least enough to ensure their continued employment with you. You’re saying, “Hey, I like you. I don’t want you to become homeless just because you caught a cold.”

Love and Belonging

Can I see myself being part of this family? Still on the baseball metaphor, this is 2nd base. Things are getting pretty interesting. What kind of inner camaraderie does your company project? Can you demonstrate it with great photos and stories? Can you highlight interesting people the candidate will be working directly with? Can the candidate access these people directly?


When you have bragging rights, everybody’s like this.

Will employment here earn me recognition, respect, and even envy? You’ve reached 3rd base, congratulations! Many companies don’t even get this far because, let’s face it, they’re simply unremarkable. 3rd base is where you get to brag. Show off the great perks, the wonderful office space, and the fancy equipment. Provide the kind of compensation that generates envy in the talent’s own circles. However, esteem is even more closely related to the next need…


Will I do great work here? Ah, the elusive home run. Your company doesn’t necessarily have to make the world a better place, but I’m sure it helps. What’s most important to a candidate is that they feel like they’ll have the opportunity to face new and interesting challenges, to shine doing what they’re good at, and to be all they can be.

Thanks, Captain Obvious!

In hindsight, looking attractive to talent is kind of a no-brainer. What affects your ability to address these needs is your employer brand. Of course nothing will work if it’s in shambles in the first place. It is the very foundation upon which you can build your house of talent.

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