Since 2010, more than 15 million private-sector jobs have been added to the economy. As the economy continues growing and the talent market gets tighter, employers will have to compete in new ways in order to survive.
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) could be hit especially hard during this time. Unable to offer compensation and benefits on par with larger competitors, these companies must find other ways to bring top talent aboard.
Here are a few ways SMBs can get a leg up on their bigger competitors:
1. Replace Outdated Technology
In our day and age, there is no reason to have this issue. While large companies may have to deal with tedious implementations and service-level agreements with extremely long shelf lives, small companies don’t necessarily find themselves in this boat. This means SMBs can adopt and deploy lightning-fast, inexpensive (or free) applicant tracking systems (ATS) with all the bells and whistles. Meanwhile, the big guys are waiting for the implementation “next quarter.”
Automated responses; integration with local, niche, and national job boards; recruiting metrics; and job ad builders – these are all features SMBs can avail themselves of in the latest ATSs. Even if you can’t afford a career site or search engine optimization on your postings, recruiting technologies exist that can help for pennies on the dollar. Check out recruiting and HR tech groups on Facebook, Quora, LinkedIn, and other sites to get a practitioner’s view on how these systems work in real time.
2. Make Offers More Quickly
The time it takes companies to make offers seems to be getting longer and longer. Today, it takes 23 days to screen and hire candidates on average.
I can understand lengthy hiring processes when it comes to larger companies: They have protocols to follow, budgets to balance, and internal recruiting to do.
Smaller companies, however, face no such restrictions. 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 as a candidate.
3. Onboard Better
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.
The new hire’s first day on the job isn’t the beginning of the onboarding process. We begin our onboarding with the job advertisement, which keeps the flow uniform and ensures the candidate knows what to expect. Being a family business, we like to showcase how candidates can develop within the agency.
Getting employees excited about working for you is one of your best defenses against counteroffers. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s important to recruit before you even 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. If you fail to actively build your talent pipeline, you will end up settling for second-rate talent. Those who are available at the exact moment you need them tend not to be exactly the people you or your company need.
4. Build a Brand Based on Something Real
Cultivating an attractive employer brand is tough. Even tougher? Maintaining that brand when it’s not grounded in the real strengths and weaknesses of your workplace.
Embrace what makes your company unique. This is particularly important for small brands. 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, and an intense learning environment.
Knowing what makes your company unique starts with talking to your employees. They can report on what it’s really like to work for your company, and they know what kinds of people will be happiest in your culture.
Once you’ve identified what makes your brand unique, place these values front and center when you talk about openings at your company. Every job advertisement is an employer brand promise. If you can’t live up to that promise, you may find yourself with some disenfranchised employees.
A version of this article originally appeared on Forbes.