Recruiting on a Budget? Here Are 7 Ways You Can Beat the Big Companies to Top Talent

Talent can make or break a small business, which is why it's critical to do all you can to recruit the right people.

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By Sarah Mayer

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Finding the perfect job candidate can take a lot of work for a small business or startup. With the current competitive market, small businesses find it harder to attract top talent than larger, more established companies. In a survey of small business owners by NFIB Research Foundation, 44% of respondents said that they had few or no qualified applicants for open jobs.

Small businesses might struggle to find top talent for plenty of reasons, such as increased competition, social media inactivity or failure to connect with recruits on a personal level. If you want to attract top employees, your company must have a clear and unique identity and be able to demonstrate its differentiators and core values.

Here's how savvy small business owners can start being strategic about attracting qualified employees.

Related: How Small-Business Leaders Can Recruit Like the World's Top Companies

1. Focus on flexibility

People care deeply about flexibility at work. The ADP Research Institute conducted a survey that found 67% of employees feel more empowered to work in flexible arrangements since the start of the pandemic. Successful companies, including American Express, the largest credit card company in the U.S., have followed this advice by offering flexible hours, working arrangements and contracts.

Consider being flexible with policies and practices that affect work-life balance. This approach demonstrates that you care about your employees' overall well-being and helps attract talent who might not have predictable schedules or work arrangements.

2. Foster a community

Creating a sense of connection is crucial for small businesses that want to attract competitive talent. An ideal workplace is built on a shared purpose, mutual trust and care for the community around it. It's not just about the money for employees; it's about finding fulfillment in their work and enriching their lives.

One way to set yourself apart when building your community is to look to the local, larger community at hand. Small businesses are known for fortifying communities all over the country, connecting people through shared experiences and helping regional economies thrive. By creating a sense of community within your business that's connected to the one outside of it, you capitalize on local talent while providing a fulfilling work environment that retains employees.

Related: 4 Ways to Level the Playing Field of Small Business Recruitment

3. Make a good first impression

Small business teams might find it hard to set aside the time necessary to write detailed job descriptions because of the pressure to complete other tasks. However, the first step in attracting skilled workers that fit your precise needs is writing an accurate job description. A job posting, description included, is often the first impression a new job seeker has of your business. So, make it a good one.

Not only does an effective job description include a list of required skills and expectations for the role, but it also gives the reader an insight into your company culture. Do you care about work-life balance? Is your compensation competitive, and does it include the preferred benefits? Do you understand the nuances of employees' lives? A good job description will communicate those answers when crafted with the seeker in mind.

4. Nurture company culture

A company's culture establishes expectations for how employees interact and collaborate. Whether you build your culture through concrete practices or relaxed camaraderie, a strong company ethos can serve as a way to break down the barriers between teams that are siloed and provide guidance for decision-makers.

Warby Parker is a great example of building a solid company culture that retains employees. The whole team is involved in a new employee's onboarding and training, fostering stronger relationships and increasing a new hire's sense of belonging and support.

For a small business, even little things such as flex time, a casual dress code or pet-friendly offices can impact staff morale and loyalty. Creating the right company culture will help spread the word about your business and why top talent should want to work for you.

Related: How Small-Business Owners Can Build a Strong Corporate Culture

5. Offer real benefits

Although there is no federal law mandating that small businesses (i.e. those with 50 or fewer employees) offer health insurance or paid leave, regulations on employee benefits can vary from state to state. Plus, creating a more comprehensive benefits package is a great way to attract the best workers. Employee benefits improve your worker's productivity, health, well-being and job satisfaction.

Almost half of the employees surveyed by SHRM said that health insurance was either the top deciding factor or a positive influence when choosing their current job. What's more, 29% of employees said that their overall benefits package was a significant factor when deciding to look for work elsewhere. Benefits matter to your employees, so they should matter to you.

6. Consider hiring remote workers and freelancers

A small business can employ forward-thinking strategies faster and more responsively than most established enterprises. Keep an open mind when looking for a "specific" kind of employee: independent contractors and remote workers are becoming more common these days.

Many skilled and talented people are available for hire as freelancers or contract workers. Even among traditional employees, it is important to consider allowing people to work from home as more people expect this option from employers. Remote work can be one of the key benefits of working at a small company.

Related: 3 Powerful Techniques to Effectively Manage Your Remote Team

7. Drive home what makes a small company unique

A great advantage for small businesses is the ability to respond to creativity with agility. Big companies can be hesitant to make significant changes, but small businesses can take bigger risks while affecting fewer people. This can make employees and job seekers more excited to work for your business. According to Gallup, when a worker perceives their company as agile, they're likelier to believe that the organization is a good fit for customers, ahead of competitors, financially secure and prosperous.

The ability to be agile encourages new ideas and helps businesses adapt to new innovative solutions quickly. A company's ability to quickly and effectively adapt to its changing needs is key to its success, especially when adding new employees to the mix.

It's more critical than ever to find the right people with the right skills for the job. So, you need a solid small business recruitment strategy when seeking new talent. A group of skilled and enthusiastic employees will flock to a company that appreciates and nurtures their talents. In return, they'll bring new skills and energy to your business and ensure you can compete in today's market.

Sarah Mayer

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Interim Executive Director of LaunchCode

Sarah Mayer is interim executive director of LaunchCode. She inhabits the role after serving on the board of directors and engaging with LaunchCode through her past role at The Boeing Company, where she held roles in engineering, IT, product support, manufacturing, marketing and program management.

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