LinkedIn Data: What Candidates Say They Want vs. What Their Actions Reveal

There’s a concept called revealed preference, borrowed from economics and marketing. The basic idea is that while people might say they prefer one thing, their actions reveal their preferences in a much more concrete way. 

Say you ask party guests ahead of time if they’d prefer healthy or sweet snacks, and virtually everyone says they prefer healthy. Then at the actual event, the small plate of cookies is immediately devoured, while the tray of crudités goes untouched. Guests’ stated preference for healthy snacks was belied by their revealed preference for something sweet. 

What if we applied the same concept to the world of recruiting and employer branding

Fortunately, LinkedIn has the rich dataset to do just that. Every month, LinkedIn asks thousands of members around the world about their top priorities when considering a new employer — and their impressions of how different companies score on those same priorities. 

To see which stated priorities were backed up by action, we compared what members say they want against where they choose to work. For instance, LinkedIn data reveals that members who say they prioritize flexibility are in fact 13% more likely to work at a company seen as a leader in flexibility. 

Read on for the latest data on what candidates say they want, which priorities are backed by actions, and which priorities don’t align with behavior. By catering your employer brand to what candidates want — based not just what they say, but what their actions reveal — you can better attract the right talent. 

What candidates currently say they prioritize when considering an employer

First, let’s provide the latest read out on what candidates explicitly say they want.

This comes from LinkedIn’s Talent Driver survey, taken by nearly 15,000 members in April 2024 alone. We’ve covered this dataset before — showing how Gen Z has different priorities than Baby Boomers, how the priorities of small business workers differ from people who work in enterprises, and what recruiters get wrong about what candidates want. In the graphic above, we’re simply sharing the latest full results across all respondents.

Compensation, work-life balance, and flexibility continue to be the trifecta of top candidate concerns, as they have been since 2022. The next highest priorities — job security, opportunities to advance, impactful work, and opportunities to learn new skills — are all closely clustered. 

But focusing exclusively on these aspects means you’ll miss a significant portion of candidates who hold other top priorities. And as we’ll see below, some of these underappreciated priorities are strongly linked to where people end up working. 

Which stated priorities actually align with where people work? 

Only 11% of members say “highly talented employees” is a top priority when considering an employer — making it the lowest scoring factor out of all 15 choices. 

Yet the people who do care about it really do act on it, more than any other stated preference. Those who say they prioritize highly talented employees are over 20% more likely to actually work at a company known for having highly talented employees. 

The same is true for members who prioritize the opportunity to work on innovative projects: They’re over 20% more likely to work for a company seen as a leader in innovation.

As recently covered, opportunities to advance is an especially high priority for Gen Z candidates. Today’s research suggests that being known for offering paths to career advancement makes a real difference: People who care about advancement are 17% more likely to work for such a company.

Flexible work arrangements is the third most common priority overall — it’s also the most influential among the previously mentioned trifecta of the top three priorities. This underlines the fact that for many candidates flexibility is a make-or-break factor

Challenging and impactful work, a priority especially valued by Baby Boomer candidates, shows a similar level of influence: People who prioritize it are 13% more likely to work at a company known for challenging work. 

Similar to highly talented employees, having an inclusive workplace isn’t typically a top priority for many — but for those who do value it, it really matters. Members who say diversity is a top priority are nearly 10% more likely to work for a company well-known for inclusion. 

Finally, compensation continues to be the single most common priority, with 61% of people saying it’s a top factor for them. Despite that, people who do consider comp a top priority are only slightly (6%) more likely to be at a company known for excellent compensation. That suggests that a meaningful portion of members who work for top-paying employers don’t think of it as the be-all, end-all factor. As we’ve learned, there are other factors at play that may be more decisive. 

Which stated priorities don’t align with where people work?

Other stated preferences, however, seem to have no connection to where people work. In fact, some even seem to have the opposite effect.

Members who care about helpful managers are actually 7% less likely to work for a company known for good management. In the limited time candidates spend in the interview process, it’s not always possible for them to determine how strong the manager may be. Managing styles can also vary from team to team within an organization.

The other factors with a negative relationship to where people work — clear leadership, job security, and inspired employees — had a much weaker correlation. These factors may be hard to anchor on from the outside looking in, meaning that even if you have one of the best employer brands for leadership, job security, or happy employees, it might not influence a candidate’s career decisions. 

Final thoughts

In the interplay between candidate desires and employer branding, actions can speak louder than words. LinkedIn’s data illustrates that while candidates may profess certain priorities, you can get a deeper understanding of what matters to them by examining their actual career choices. 

By aligning employer branding strategies with these authentic revealed preferences, you can more effectively attract and retain the talent that will thrive in your culture.


Survey answers are from the LinkedIn Talent Drivers survey, as of May 1, 2024. The list of current priorities is based on 14,640 members around the world surveyed in April 2024. The correlation analysis between stated priorities and current companies is based on Talent Drivers responses LinkedIn received from August 2021 to May 2024, along with the member’s current place of work. Companies with fewer than 30 ratings on their perceived performance for a given priority were excluded from this analysis. Companies are considered to be a top performer for a given factor if they rank in the top 25% of companies for that factor. All data is aggregated and anonymized throughout the entire analysis process.