How to Win in Today's Hiring Climate as a Small Business

By Maren Hogan

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Over 15 million jobs have been added since 2010. While some agree we're incorrectly measuring unemployment, the fact is, employers have to compete in a completely new way in order to survive the (yes, I’m going to say it) talent wars that are coming.

Small companies could find themselves hit hard during this time. Unable to offer compensation and benefits akin to their larger competitors, it’s crucial that these companies learn how to effectively compete in today’s workforce. Here are the things holding recruiters back — and what we can do to fix them:

Replace Outdated Technology

In our day and age, there is no reason to have this issue. While large companies can be faced with tedious implementations and service-level agreements with extremely long shelf lives, small companies don’t necessarily find themselves in this boat. This means small companies can choose one of the lightning-fast, inexpensive (or free) applicant tracking systems that come with all the bells and whistles — and that the big guys say they’ll have “next quarter.”

These systems come equipped with automated responses, integration with local, niche and national job boards, recruiting efficacy measurements and job ad builders. Even if you can’t afford a career site or fancy search engine optimization on your postings, recruiting technologies exist that can help for pennies on the dollar. Recruiting and HR technology groups on Facebook, Quora or LinkedIn can help you get a practitioner’s view on how these systems work in real time.

Make An Offer Faster

I’m not sure how or when it happened, but the time it takes us to make an offer seems to have gotten longer than ever. It takes an average company 23 days to screen and hire candidates. Why? Again, I can understand when it comes to larger companies: They have processes to adhere to, budgets to balance and internal recruiting to do when a new gig opens up. But for smaller companies, no such restrictions exist. If you’ve found someone incredible, don’t wait to send them an offer. When in doubt, remember the “Golden Candidate Rule:” Treat candidates how you wish you had been treated.

The sooner you send an offer letter, the sooner you can begin the onboarding process. At my company, we emphasize the importance of onboarding by keeping the process smooth and similar for all hires. Their first day on the job isn’t the beginning of the process: Rather, we begin our onboarding starting with the job advertisement, which keeps the flow uniform and ensures the candidate knows what to expect. Being a family business, we like to show how candidates can develop within the agency.

Getting employees excited about working for you is one of your best defenses against potentially higher counter-offers. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s important to recruit before you ever have a position open. This can be tough on the old budget, but if you know you’re going to need a first-rate executive assistant within eight months, start that search now. Don’t wait until you’re up to your ears in travel arrangements, merger paperwork and business development havoc. When you wait to extend an offer and don’t actively build your talent pipeline, you will end up settling for second-rate talent. After all, those who are available at the exact moment you need them tend not to be exactly what you or your company need.

Build A Brand Based On Something Real

Researching and cultivating an employer brand is tough. Even tougher? Maintaining that brand when it’s not based on the strengths and weaknesses of your actual workplace. Only 57 percent of employers say that they have an employer brand strategy.

Embrace what makes your company unique. This is particularly potent when you are a small brand. Sure, you can’t give everyone comprehensive medical and a robust savings plan on day one, but you can offer things the big guys can’t, like remote work options, a casual dress code or an intense learning environment.

Knowing what makes your company unique starts with asking your employees. After all, they’ll know what kinds of people will be happy (and not so happy) in your culture. We’ve built it into many of our reviews and added some of our values to the website, job ads and interview processes.

The second step is then placing these values front and center when you talk about openings at your company. When you send a job advertisement out into the world, it essentially serves as an employer brand promise, and if you can’t live up to that promise, you may find yourself with some disenfranchised employees.

Recognizing that small businesses have big benefits to offer is key to winning in the wars for today’s talent.

 

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