5 Recruiting Strategies to Make Your SMB Irresistible to Applicants

April 2, 2014

Lately, it seems like everyone wants to work for one of the big guys.

Google and Apple and all those other places that are known for their trendy offices, free food and mountain of perks get thousands of applicants every day.

Because you aren’t always in the spotlight or can’t spend money in the same way, it’s hard for your small or medium-sized business (SMB) to get the attention of great talent. But don’t despair, you can compete with the big guys.

Following are 5 key recruiting strategies that will make your SMB irresistible to applicants:

1. Make your culture matter

Culture is what truly separates an okay job from a great one. People want to be around and work with others who are like them.

It can be difficult to clearly state your company values and vision and share that messaging throughout the company. It is even harder to have those values reflected in performance and behavior. But if you want to hire the right people and enjoy incredible retention, you’d better get it done! 

The right person will be drawn to who you are, as much as or more than to what you do. Every touch point matters. Every email, phone call, person-to-person conversation is a chance to share who you are, and give another reason why people would want to a part of something great. 

So, be real. Just like you can see through a candidate’s white lies they can see through yours. Sharing who you are will attract the right people, and they’ll stick around for a long, long time.

2. Get your people involved

If you can nail number 1 above, your people will be excited and focused on helping your company grow. Everyone knows that referrals from your current people result in the best possible candidates for your open positions. We trust what we already know, and hiring is easier when your employees are your greatest advocates. 

Also, there is a reason companies use incentives to get referrals from employees—incentives work. Just be careful with “best practices” around incentives and other hiring trends. Just because something works for Fortune 500 Company XYZ, doesn’t mean it will work for you.

Your team is smart, or you wouldn’t have hired them. So collaborate frequently to review and refine your hiring process to make sure it’s meeting specific goals. In case you didn’t know, goals matter.

3. Take a few chances

Sometimes you have to take a risk and make a bet. Don’t be tied down to how you think you should be hiring. Or doing what other companies are doing. There’s not just one way to be successful. Find ways to hire that work best for you. That could mean guest-blogging, attending niche career fairs, or thinking outside of geographic limitations and other demographic norms.

Also, a plethora of tools (yes, a plethora) exist that can help you.

Find the right technology and go for it.  Technology adoption isn’t as rapid among SMBs, so be a game changer and adopt hiring solutions that will make you better. For example, if email is your sole hiring tool, you have a problem.

Think through how you currently recruit, onboard and train for specific roles. Could you adapt that to a global talent pool? Competition is fierce. If you approach hiring with an out-of-the-box mentality, you can have a real competitive advantage.

4. Show off your company

Yes, sometimes you gotta be a bit of a social bragga and flaunt your social swagga. Go win some awards and benefit from the press that goes with it. The Best of This or Best of That usually includes some great PR, a few blog mentions and other social love.

Brag a little about your customer wins, partner wins, and product wins. It’s a chance to let people know you’re winning, and everyone wants to be on the winning team.

You’re going to review a candidate’s social footprint, and they’re going to review yours. Take the time to make sure your messaging is consistent on your Facebook profile, Twitter feed, blog, careers page, and anywhere your company is mentioned online (that you have control over), especially your LinkedIn Company and Career Pages.

Take advantage of your employee’s social reach as well. Applicants will look at employee LinkedIn and Facebook profiles. If applicants don’t like your employees, they won’t like you. You obviously don’t own your employees’ social media profiles, but you can definitely influence somewhat the content they share relevant to your company. If you nail your culture, employees should be happy to help.

Quick Tip: We’ve had exceptional success with our careers video. It’s a great way to make your culture stand out and attract the right person. It’s hard to nail the message and get it right, but the effort is worth it.

5. Always be better

Attracting bright, talented individuals that want to learn, grow and give back is easier when you are a company that promotes learning, growth and giving. 

Sharing the message of continual learning and growth lets applicants know that their personal improvement is a key characteristic of what you seek. And be direct, even blunt, about the expectation that they continually learn. This message will be refreshing and the opportunity will be even more attractive to the right person.

Then practice what you preach! Your team should be frequently revisiting processes, talking about what’s working and what’s not, and consistently making incremental improvements around hiring. Recruiting and retention is too costly not to give it a lotta love.

Everyone gives lip service to how important hiring is, but very few companies engage in the process with effort to match the importance. Take the time, make the effort and win.

Ben Peterson is co-founder and CEO of BambooHR, the leading online HR software for small and medium-sized businesses that have outgrown using spreadsheets to manage their employee information.

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