Where Can Small Business Find Talent?

As much as things change, some things remain the same. That is certainly the case when it comes to recruiting new talent. Word of mouth has been and still is the best source.

Close up Two hand holding smart phone with word of mouth online network word and icons, Digital concept.
Close up Two hand holding smart phone with word of mouth online network word and icons, Digital concept.

In a recent survey by LinkedIn, nearly one quarter of employees who were recently hired at a small or mid-sized business heard about the job through someone they know at the company. Only 1 in 7 found the job through a third-party website or online job board and nearly the same number used a staffing firm.

Of course, many small business employers dismiss social media as a distraction and nuisance.  It’s time to get over it and recognize it as a powerful marketing and engagement tool for customers and employees alike. Social media after all is just word-of-mouth on steroids!

But finding out about a job opening is only a first step. Nearly half the participants in the LinkedIn study didn’t know anything about the company when they first heard about the job. So what do they do?

They “Google” it, of course.  Two-thirds immediately look up the company’s website.  And over one-third read about the company online. After that, many just swipe left (aka delete). A company website is often the first impression and many companies fail miserably.

For starters, many company websites are not mobile optimized or responsive. That’s an immediate turnoff. And when a company has revamped their sites, much more attention was given to the external customer interface than recruitment.

A potential customer gets to interact with products and services, watch videos, read customer reviews, and chat live with “one of our friendly agents.”  A potential employee is offered a boring job description and the opportunity to fill out a non-mobile friendly 5-page application or download a pdf which they can fax back or mail. The closest many applicants get to human contact with a recruiter or HR is an email which disappears in the infamous Human Resources black hole.  Even when a company website allows a candidate to complete an application online or upload a resume, most applicants get the silent treatment, a “non-event” I like to call “ghosting.”

To reach and engage enough qualified talent, here are 3 recruiting strategies you can apply.

  1. Invest in multiple channels to promote your company, not just the job, to candidates. Candidates want to know who you are and what you stand for. Culture and mission are more important than a paycheck for many Millennials and a growing percentage of other generations too. Up the ante and your recruiting success by encouraging employee referrals, job boards, and involvement in professional networks.
  2. Turn your employees into ambassadors. Employee referrals are the number one way professional looking to work in a small or mid-sized business get a job. You couldn’t possibly hire enough recruiters or spend enough advertising dollars to reach top talent. Use your best resource – your employees. Let them be your brand ambassador. And if you’re afraid about what they might say and do to embarrass you, your problems lie much deeper than recruitment.
  3. Company culture matters. Half of professionals who accept a new job offer never heard of the company when first approached. Define and communicate why your company is a great place to work. Demonstrate how the job aligns with a greater purpose and mission. The days of culture, mission, and values being merely words hung prominently in the company lobby but rarely spoken or acted on are long gone.

The poor results gleaned from most recruitment efforts don’t have much to do with strategy, planning, or budget.  The problem is that today’s top talent is more interested in the company than the job and paycheck itself.

Maybe it’s time that management takes a similar interest in the future success of the company and stops looking at jobs as openings filled with bodies.  Jobs don’t care about company culture, purpose, or meaning. People do. Jobs don’t energize or vitalize a company. Employees do. Instead of filling jobs, it’s time management focus on treating talent as the capital asset it is and stop treating employees like you’re doing them a favor.


Ira S Wolfe