November 8, 2018

How SMBs Can Compete With Large Companies in the Talent Market


Even when the talent pool is plentiful, small businesses find themselves locked in fierce competition for talent against larger companies equipped with more resources. As the US unemployment drops below 4 percent and the economy hums along, that struggle may only get tougher.

To contend with the major corporations of the world, small business owners need to get creative. Here are nine ways they can beat out large companies to recruit top talent:

1. Make the Work Meaningful

Everyone wants their work to have meaning. Not every company needs to be an altruistic nonprofit, but every company should demonstrate to prospectives hire how their work will be valued.

Keep in mind that value isn’t just a numbers game: People find meaning in their work via their relationships as well. Create cross-team initiatives, mentor-mentee programs, and training sessions to signal your commitment to making every new hire a part of the team.

2. Build Wellness Into Your Company Culture

In a survey conducted by Staples Business Advantage, 62 percent of respondents said “the availability of a wellness program is a selling point when looking for a new job.”

Wellness is more than a buzzword. Stress contributes to work absences and motivates employees to look for other jobs. Design a workplace that inspires wellness — more natural light, ergonomic furniture, and private spaces — and find ways to incorporate fitness into daily activities. Give people flexible work options to help them improve their work/life balance as well.

3. Lean Into Being a Small Community

There are advantages to the small team sizes that come with small companies. Members of smaller teams get more one-on-one time with managers, greater visibility within the company, and stronger relationships with their colleagues. Employees at big corporations can feel anonymous and replaceable; those at small businesses feel more valued and integral to the organization’s mission.

From a personal development standpoint, employees who work for small businesses often wear many hats. Hires who want to develop new skills and learn to use new tools may value your small business above larger competitors, because branching out isn’t as easy to do at a large company where roles and responsibilities are rigidly segmented.

4. Maximize Your Compensation Packages

Offering higher salaries is an obvious step that businesses take to entice talent, but most small businesses feel they can’t compete with bigger companies in this arena. Take the time to do the math, however, and you may find that you spend as much money on employee turnover costs as you would if you simply offered more competitive salaries and benefit packages. If it costs about a third of an employee’s salary to replace a departing worker, you may save money over the long term by adding just under that amount to a new hire’s salary when they come aboard.

5. Write Appealing Job Descriptions

Your job ads are your first chance to make a good impression. Any advertisement needs to sell consumers on a product or service, and your job ads are no different. You need to prove to talent why they want to work for you. If you’re not appealing to the talent you want, consider revamping all of your job descriptions to make them more fun and engaging.

6. Broaden Your Pool of Applicants

You can broaden your search without sacrificing quality. Consider engaging recent college graduates through their alumni networks, or searching for remote employees to fill roles that don’t need to be in the office, such as customer support or human resources.

7. Encourage Internal Referrals

Small businesses find more than half of their talent from word-of-mouth recommendations. Create a virtuous circle by asking your highly qualified employees to refer other highly qualified people, and offer referral bonuses to those who help bring excellent candidates aboard.

8. Move Quickly on Good Applicants

It can be tempting to draw out the hiring process until you find people who perfectly align with every aspect of your company culture and vision. While you shouldn’t compromise on finding a fit — especially for your culture — it doesn’t help to be overly selective. That can cause you to miss out on good people who can be creative problem-solvers and take on new responsibilities. Find qualified applicants and move quickly to hire them before they get another offer.

9. Lay Out a Clear Career Path

Employees want to know you are as invested in them as they are in you. Show prospective hires a growth plan that includes them and their contributions, and give them a reason to want to work hard and move up in your company. Even if the role you’re hiring for is intriguing, it will mean little if it leads to a dead end in your new hire’s career path.

A small business can make just as compelling an offer to a talented candidate as any other company. If you invest in your hiring process, utilize your resources effectively, and create a company culture that people want to join, you won’t struggle to attract top talent.

Jared Hecht is the cofounder and CEO of Fundera.

Read more in Recruiting

Jared Hecht is the cofounder and CEO of Fundera, an online marketplace to help business owners secure financing. Prior to Fundera, Hecht cofounded group messaging app, GroupMe.