Ask Sheri

Hiring Top Talent As A Small Employer

Oct 21st, 2015

I'm a small business owner and been experiencing extreme difficulty in hiring qualified applicants for our open positions. We spend thousands of dollars each year on our advertising (web postings, local newspapers, job banks etc) yet when we interview candidates and generate job offers, we are regularly turned down. When we follow up as to why we weren't chosen, candidates admit that they've received a "better" offer from another organization. Our leadership team spent the majority of our last staff meeting analyzing this issue and came to the conclusion that larger companies are most likely more attractive to the job seeker. As a small employer, we are not in a position to offer as many lucrative benefits, perks, bonuses or even career paths as large twin cities corporations, yet we have a wonderful internal culture and rarely lose our current employees. How can we convey these selling points to our candidates so that we can effectively compete against the "big guys", and bring aboard top talent?

Sheri's Response

Working for a small employer has tremendous benefits, all which should be conveyed to candidates at several points in your interview process. First off, I need to commend you at providing focus to the problem by involving your leadership team. Hiring the "right" candidates can be an organizational issue, one that affects your entire future of the organization. One of your next steps might be to go back to your leaders and ask each individual to generate a list of all the positive attributes within your organization. Some of the cultural components I've recognized in smaller businesses include: less bureaucracy, communication opportunities with key leaders/president, informal atmosphere, casual dress, flexible hours, company celebration events, ability to generate impact quickly, change agent environment etc etc. Once you've determined your particular organizational strong points, you should brand this culture in your job opening advertisements, job descriptions and even training manuals. Not only is this effective for attracting newcomers, it's beneficial for your current employees to identify with the internal rewards they are receiving -- I call it re-recruiting your current talent. One other thought is to ask specifically which benefit or perk did you fall short on with your applicant? Was it in any way compensation related? If so, how long has it been since your organization analyzed competitive market data? How do your pay rates compare in your geographic or industry market? Did you attempt to counter offer or were you too far from the number? You also mentioned that you are experiencing low turnover - congratulations! You need to ensure your recruiter or hiring manager illustrates this percentage somewhere along the line in the interview. One other method used by small organizations is to develop a relationship with one of your local colleges or universities, where you can leverage a strategic partnership with their career office or professors themselves in providing key talent for your business. In the end, all candidates are looking for their proper job fit and if you are being turned down, it is best this occurs during an offer stage rather than after you hire the individual, only to see them leave a short time after. I believe once you begin promoting your key organizational attibutes and branding the true benefits of working in your organization, you should have no trouble in attracting and hiring the top talent you are seeking.