In many ways, it’s a job-seeker's market out there: Employees often have a choice of opportunities depending on their industry and education level. The unemployment rate, as verified by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is at one of its lowest points in 50 years, at 3.5 percent. In many places, it's the reality that nearly everyone who is actively looking for work is employed.
That’s good news for employees but can pose a challenge for businesses with positions that need to be filled. When you’re a small business looking to hire in a tight job market, you're competing with everyone for top talent in your industry.
That's why it's critical to make your business stand out. Consider a few creative strategies for appealing to top-tier talent in a tight job market.
Play up your size and its benefits
Top talent want to work at certain companies because they have a reputation for being outstanding or specialists in their industries. This is why when you’re looking for new employees, it’s worth taking the time to figure out your brand proposition and what makes your company unique. Emphasize the size of the company and the unique perks you may have as a small business, such as good company culture, ongoing training and education to help them advance their career, and the ability for all staff to interact with all levels of management.
Look Critically at Your Job Descriptions
Gone are the days when you can throw together a generic job description, post it on your website or major job sites, and then sit back and watch the resumes roll in. Take the time to figure out and describe clearly the ideal person for the role, what they would be doing, and the skill set they’ll need for the position.
But Don’t Cling to the Job Description
Think outside the box when hiring. Just because a candidate doesn’t have the exact qualifications doesn’t mean they won’t be a good fit. Are any of their skills transferable? In many cases, it's possible to train someone who has foundational skills but less experience. For example, someone with restaurant or service experience likely has the multi-tasking and people skills to do other high-touch customer service work.
Look Outside Your Immediate Area
It might be more expensive, but if you’re not finding your ideal candidate in your immediate area, look to other regions. You might consider offering moving incentives if you can afford them. If your city has a reputation for something like good schools, a great music scene, national parks or waterfront, or even affordable housing, then mention that in the job description. People want a career they can enjoy in a supportive environment. Use your city or town’s reputation to encourage people to consider your company’s job offer.
If you can’t afford moving costs and related incentives, consider allowing for remote work. Technology has made it possible for people to work anywhere in the world as long as they have a good internet connection. That way, you can access top talent from around the world for your business and may only need to incur the costs of travel for a few face-to-face meetings a year.
Leverage Your Current Employees' Network
Employees can be some of your best brand ambassadors. Spread the word that you’re hiring, and consider offering incentives such as a monetary bonus or time-off if their candidate is hired for the role and stays with the organization for a predetermined amount of time.
Build Your Brand to Make Your Business Appealing
This means making sure you have a good reputation from products, innovation, upper management, etc. Job seekers want to work for a company that fosters all of the above. This could mean focusing on your company culture, promoting within, highlighting employee success as part of your company's success and making your employees feeling valued.
Offer a Competitive Salary and Benefits
A critical way to show employees that they're valued for their work is to pay them a competitive salary. It doesn’t have to be the top salary in the industry, but within a range that acknowledges their skills and years of experience. You can supplement a moderate salary with benefits such as health insurance, retirement benefits such as a company 401(k), or ongoing education so they can develop new skills.
Consider a Recruiter
Putting a job description on job boards is likely to earn you some applicants, but only the ones who are actively looking for a job. A good recruiter will help you tap into candidates who may not be actively looking but might consider a job if the incentive is strong enough. A recruiter can tap into their network and provide a list of candidates who may be right for the job. This will cost a percentage of the job’s annual salary, so make sure you have exhausted all other avenues and can afford to pay that fee before you hire a recruiter.
Don’t let your company size discourage you from going after top candidates. Take an objective look at what your company can offer, make a hiring plan and adjust it as you get feedback during the process. It may take time, but it will be worth it when you get your perfect candidate for the role.