Feature article

How to attract and keep brilliant but burnt out candidates

Learn strategies to attract and retain brilliant and burnt out talent. Includes insights from the Trade Me Jobs Report.

Did you know that one of the key reasons that employees are looking to leave their current company is burn out? The Trade Me Jobs Annual Market Insights Report revealed that 40% of job hunters were looking for a new role in part because they were feeling burnt out working for their current employer. This was up a whopping 16% from the previous year.   

So, when interviewing for their next position, we can assume that a company’s reputation for managing its people and the real work life balance it offers will be a big drawcard.

Set the right expectations

“It’s a balancing act to be transparent and real with candidates about the requirements of the role, while reassuring them they’ll have the practical support to be both successful, and manage any workload challenges,” says Karyn Gould, Senior Consultant with, K3 Human Resources. 

“It’s about setting clear expectations. What does it look like when we’re busy? How often does this happen? What are the expectations at the time?” she says. Then, also, where is there any flexibility, when the workload is lower? 


Karyn works with finance teams, who know the month end will be a busy time, when things need to get done by the deadlines; but in the middle of the month, the workload is less time-pressured. So, people have the option to flex their hours, and add in a daytime gym session or a child’s sporting event. 

Utilise current employees

Karyn also likes candidates to be invited into the work environment during the recruitment process, to meet some peers and be given space to ask questions of non-managers. 

University of Otago senior management lecturer, Paula O’Kane agrees that employees can be a great way of showcasing culture. She says testimonials from existing employees can be used to communicate what the work environment is like and their experiences of the organisation. “This is likely to be a powerful message to potential employees.” 

High pressure short term isn’t necessarily a turnoff

Higher levels of autonomy, trust and control can reduce stress in higher pressure jobs, says Paula. 

Organisations should be as honest as possible with candidates. If it’s a high stress environment, you should be making that clear, she adds.

Employers might let candidates know that ‘Right now we’re stretched, but here’s our plan for a year’s time.’

Make sure the role is designed right

Aotearoa businesses are behind the eight ball when it comes to building smart workplace cultures, says Mary Buckley, director of Culture by Design; a company which helps organisations with this.

In the last decade, the tolerance for burnout, stress, harassment and bullying, is just not there and “it’s all part of the global quiet-quitting trend,” she says. 

If you want to answer a candidate honestly, when they ask: 'Will this job burn me out too?',  she suggests asking yourself the following questions: 

  • Are you clear about what the role means and is trying to do?

  • Is it reasonable to expect someone to be able to do it in 40 hours?

  • Does the candidate you want to appoint have the skills, knowledge and abilities to be successful in the role? 

Have a very strong narrative for job candidates about how you avoid burnout at your company, advises Mary. For instance: 'Here’s how we prevent burnout, with really strong leadership that's supportive and provides clarity. We check in to make sure you have what you need and that your role is designed well and we have an egalitarian culture of collaboration and communication. We love the open mindset and we role model that as a business.'

Your leadership approach is so crucial to avoiding staff burn out, stresses the Culture by Design director. 

Human connection is key

Team development is key to warding off employee burnout and something employers should be open to discussing with job hunters. Teams are often put together without equipping them with human insight and behaviours that can prevent unnecessary tension, stress and burnout, says Mary. 

Showcasing your team strategies help showcase a way your company prevents burnout. 

“The whole point of team development activity is that when the team has an awful day, they’ve got advanced resilience to get through it without ending up in chaos. It’s why the interpersonal stuff can help avoid burnout,” says the Culture by Design director.

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Gill South
Gill South