Love the Boonies! 5 Tips for Recruiting Top Talent for a Rural Location
Quick -- name the hottest city for marketing tech jobs!
Betcha didn’t name Middletown, Del. Yet, that is where my wife, Beth, and I have run our company for the last 14 years. We have even expanded the company internationally, servicing clients from Canada, Ireland, Mexico, Israel and the U.K. . . . all from Delaware.
When you think about it, there has never been a better time for entrepreneurs to run their businesses from a place like Middletown. We now have tools like Skype and Slack. And, many entrepreneurs service clients all over the word without opening multiple new offices. You can travel. You can pick up the phone. You can use technology to let clients know they are being cared for, no matter where you happen to based.
Of course our own particular ZIP code has advantages: lower taxes, more affordable office space, less traffic and no parking headaches. So, our biggest challenge is recruiting. Yes, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Manhattan are all within a two-hour drive. But convincing someone to reverse-commute to Middletown isn’t easy.
Finding prospects with niche tech skills is particularly challenging. But other entrepreneurs are doing it: Many run businesses from rural areas rather than relocating to a city. You just have to work a little harder. Here is how to find and retain top talent from a rural location.
1. Start the hiring process early.
Since sourcing candidates is going to take your rural business additional time, you have to be proactive and anticipate what you need before you need it. Try to give yourself at least three to six months to fill a role. Recent research suggests that it is taking longer to fill positions than it used to.
You don’t want to feel pressured to go with someone who doesn’t feel right just because you didn’t leave yourself enough time to find candidates.
2. Consider contractors.
Freelancers make up 35 percent of the American workforce, according to a study by Edelman Intelligence, commissioned by Upwork and the Freelancers Union. By 2027, the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers.
In fact, it has never been easier to find qualified independent contractors, and depending on the role you are filling, this can open up your search beyond your small town. There are some roles, though, that are best kept in-house, so be sure to consider the position’s job function.
Is it a critical role? Are you looking for a long-term player? Is it important that this person understand the company culture and feel like part of your team? These could be reasons to opt for a salaried employee.
3. Think beyond digital.
Blanketing the obvious digital job sites and social media pages isn’t enough. Get creative. For example, partner with local resources, such as colleges or business associations, to find and groom talent.
Get involved in community events to build awareness about your company. And ask your employees for recommendations, since they understand your culture and needs. Consider offering an incentive, such as a small bonus or fun perk, should they successfully recruit your next team member.
4. Don’t be afraid of recruiters.
Sometimes, businesses see recruiters as an unnecessary expense, but the right partner can save you a lot of time. Consider recruiters if you need to bring on a couple of people at once, if you are in a time crunch or you have tried, yourself, to fill a role, unsuccessfully.
Take the time to communicate exactly the type of person you need, and give the recruiter the tools he or she needs to "sell" your company.
5. Emphasize your company culture.
One of the biggest advantages small businesses have over their larger counterparts is company culture. A strong culture reduces turnover, improves employee productivity and is even linked to greater profits.
If you want people to choose your office over another -- potentially one that is located in a more desirable location -- you have to create a pretty special workplace.
I was at a summit in San Francisco, recently, where I was chatting with folks from local startups. They actually described their company cultures as straight-laced and corporate. They couldn’t believe some of the stuff we do at our office.
For example, we really like office pranks. (We once had a builder convert a cubicle into a mini home.) We are fans of air horns and glitter bombs. When our director of IT was on vacation, we sheetrocked his door and then spackled and painted. His reaction when he returned and couldn’t figure out how to enter his office was pretty priceless.
Your business doesn’t have to start a prank war to win the race for talent, but it does need to take its culture seriously. Take the time to define and communicate your culture and core values, and then live up to them.
Entrepreneurs can find talent in a small town. My wife and I have done it, and we have never looked back. For many of our employees, our location is a perk, not a negative. Two years ago, we took a hard look at opening a satellite office closer to Philadelphia. When my sales team members realized they would have to fork over a larger portion of their paycheck to city taxes, they suggested we call off the search. And that's what we did.