Small Businesses Can Attract Big Talent
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As a small business looking to attract top talent, your challenge is to root out the individuals you want to hire and convince them that your small business offers the opportunities they’re seeking. Finding these driven individuals can be challenging, especially in a smaller city like Memphis where the labor force lacks a large pool of talented candidates.


When small businesses go after top talent, they’re often competing against big companies with industry clout, vast resources, prime perks and deep pockets. That can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. The best piece of advice is this: be proud of the unique opportunity your small company can offer and use it to your advantage.



Not all candidates are looking for jobs with large employers and the biggest possible paychecks. According to a November 2018 survey of job seekers conducted by Clutch, candidates value salary, flexibility and professional development when evaluating a job offer. Small businesses can compete on all of these fronts, if they’re savvy.


With today’s “full employment” economy, the talent you’re seeking probably has a job and isn’t spending time searching job boards for new opportunities. Although they’re not actively job-hunting, these individuals are aware of their skillset and would consider a new opportunity if it provides career growth, advancement or flexibility.


Clearly define the type of candidate you’re looking for and the opportunity you’re offering. This is where networking pays off. Use the people you know to help you find the talent you need. Then reach out to your contacts. And, don’t be shy about asking them to check with their contacts. Many people are eager to share information about a job they consider interesting.


Once you have a candidate in mind, reach out with an informal invitation to discuss your opportunity with a low-key conversation over coffee. Meeting in person sends a message that you’re serious about your candidate, and it can fast-track the relationship.


Your candidate is not a motivated job seeker, so it’s important not to push too hard. Set the tone with an open and honest conversation. Look for clues to the candidate’s level of satisfaction with their current position and use that to your advantage. Here are a few signals to look for.


I’ve outgrown my role. Suggest that your company can offer a bigger role. A leadership position in a smaller organization can give an individual the ability to help lead and shape an entire company. A comparable position in a large business may keep the candidate in a departmental silo, far from everything else that happens within the organization.


The decision-makers are out of touch. Offer your candidate access to leadership. In a small company, candidates can work with – and learn from – the ultimate decision-makers. They get to see how they work and lead their business. Plus, the candidate’s impact on the organization will be visible to the leaders who make salary and promotion decisions.


I don’t have visibility into the business operations. Tell your candidate that your business can provide a broader experience. As a member of a smaller team, candidates will often learn skills and gain insights that go far beyond the official job description. Rather than learning a role, they can learn an entire business, and by extension, understand how small businesses work. Allowing a candidate to have greater visibility across different functional areas of the business provides them with a new opportunity to learn and see the bigger picture of an entire organization, thereby igniting or furthering entrepreneurial ambitions.


It takes forever to get anything done. Large businesses can move at a glacial pace, and an individual’s work may trickle up and down approval chains forever. Candidates can feel like nothing gets accomplished, or that their accomplishments don’t have an obvious impact. Provide examples of your company’s flexibility and nimbleness. In a vibrant small business environment with fewer decision-makers and less bureaucracy, candidates eager to complete projects or win new business can have frequent opportunities to shine.


I need a better work-life balance. Talk to the candidate about flexible scheduling, working remotely and other options that can help employees balance the demands of work and family. In surveys, small business owners consistently rank taking care of their employees as a top priority. When they find dedicated, talented people to become part of their team, those employees become more than essential business assets; they become members of an extended family who are treasured and retained. It’s easy to feel “at home” when working with these colleagues every day. This family-like environment can help candidates find sympathy and flexibility when personal demands require it.


The benefits of a small business can add up to a compelling value proposition for many talented individuals. Don’t automatically assume that a smaller organization is less attractive to top talent, and never apologize for it. Sell the size as an opportunity for the right candidate to join and have a major impact on a team that is poised to do great things.

This article was written by Kristin Lockhart, Vice President of Recruiting, and originally appeared in Momentum Magazine.