6 Small Business Recruiting Strategies to Attract Top Talent

Recruiting isn't just one activity, but the sum of many. The Blueprint goes through six recruiting strategies that will help small businesses attract top talent.

Updated May 19, 2020

According to a recent survey, almost 65% of small businesses say that they're struggling to attract and recruit talented candidates. Recruiting for small businesses is not an easy feat — budgets and time are something that small businesses don't have an abundance of.

However, the cost of not considering and implementing recruiting strategies exceeds the cost of creating them. Without them, top candidates will be drawn to your competitors instead of to your company.

Read on to learn about six small business recruiting strategies and tips on getting started with them.

Here are our favorite ways for small businesses to attract top talent:

  • Write clear job descriptions
  • Create an employee referral program
  • Define your employment value proposition
  • Assess applicants with tests
  • Start succession planning
  • Develop a talent acquisition strategy

Six hiring strategies for small business recruiting

It's easy to look at recruiting as a solo exercise, but there are various small business recruiting strategies that organizations can employ to nab the best candidates.

1. Write clear job descriptions

One thing job seekers and applicants hate is an unclear job description. Active job seekers are likely reading multiple job descriptions on a given day, meaning that they run out of steam quickly and need clear, concise, and engaging job descriptions to make them consider taking the time to submit an application.

If your job descriptions are full of jargon or don't contain straightforward information about the aspects of the role that applicants consider most important (such as salary and compensation information and required qualifications), then potential applicants will lose interest very quickly.

Job descriptions are your first chance to capture the attention of some great candidates, so make sure they're written with the applicant in mind, rather than just posting a wall of text from your HR department.

Tips for writing clear job descriptions:

Here are a few tips to help you entice top talent with your job descriptions:

  • Include salary ranges: Your candidate pool shrinks when you don't include a salary range. Top candidates deserve to know what's on the table, and this level of transparency at an early stage also helps build trust.
  • Personalize the job posting, but keep it coherent: Job postings don't need to be dry — in fact, they present an opportunity to highlight your organization's personality. But job roles that contain words such as ninja, wizard, and hero are extremely unhelpful for job seekers. Firstly, no one will be searching for those terms, and secondly, it doesn't provide an accurate indication of what the role entails.
  • Keep it brief: Again, applicants are short on time, and want to be able to skim and scan your job posting and still be able to understand the role. By sticking to shorter job descriptions, condensing text into bullet points, and offering key information in a coherent way, you'll attract more potential candidates.

2. Create an employee referral program

Employee referral programs are a great source of new talent, and should have a solid place in your organization's talent acquisition strategy.

Not only are employee referral programs often cited as being a cheaper, quicker, and more reliable recruiting tool, but referred candidates regularly stay longer with an organization than candidates who are hired via job boards or career sites.

Workable's Employee Referrals

Workable's interface displays a breakdown of employee referral statistics (Source: Workable)

Tips for creating an employee referral program:

Here are some tips for using your employees' network to identify and find new employees:

  • Keep referrers updated: Don't keep employees in the dark about the people they've referred. Keeping them updated with the recruitment process, even in the event that their referral is unsuccessful, encourages them to make more referrals in the future.
  • Offer incentives: Tiered monetary incentives, based on levels of positions, are often a great motivator in encouraging employees to refer suitable candidates, but you can also think outside of the box with incentives. Think vouchers, additional vacation days, or charitable donations.
  • Make it easy for employees to refer candidates: Many HR software tools help you seamlessly manage the employee referral process by keeping referral requests, referrals, and outcomes in one place. Don't make employees hunt around for a link in an email; dedicate a portion of your intranet or careers page to the employee referral process.

3. Define your employment value proposition

Employer branding is all about how you influence and shape your organization's reputation.

Rather than relying on word-of-mouth testimonies from your current and former employees, employer branding relies on you taking an active role in building your unique employer brand, which is often built on the basis of your employment value proposition.

An employment value proposition is a statement of what a company offers to its existing employees, in terms of how people benefit from working there. This often includes compensation, culture, learning opportunities, incentives, rewards, and so on.

When potential applicants are researching your organization, they want to know all of these things, but they don't want to jump from page to page on your website to learn them. They want to know who you are and how working for you is rewarding to them.

Online payment platform provider Stripe has a great employment value proposition that illustrates their brand:

"At Stripe, we're looking for people with passion, grit, and integrity. You're encouraged to apply even if your experience doesn't precisely match the job description. Your skills and passion will stand out — and set you apart — especially if your career has taken some extraordinary twists and turns. At Stripe, we welcome diverse perspectives and people who think rigorously and aren't afraid to challenge assumptions."

Tips for your defining your employment value proposition:

You don't need to include everything in your employment value proposition, but you need to include the aspects of your company that you think will have an impact on recruiting top talent.

  • Start simple: If you had to describe your organization to someone in a few sentences, what would you say? Is there something unique about your company that you'd mention?
  • Ask your employees: Your employees will be a great source of information for your employment value proposition. They may have chosen to join your organization over another, and their reasons for doing so will help you define your proposition.

4. Assess applicants with tests

Inviting every promising candidate in for an interview can be time consuming and costly for small businesses. Pre-employment tests help narrow down the candidate pool even further by screening applicants and helping organizations get a better sense of their aptitudes, skills, personalities, and integrity.

This is an especially helpful activity when organizations set out to hire remote employees, as it helps them more accurately gauge their suitability despite the distance.

Pre-employment tests can be a useful filtering tool, but organizations should also be aware of the legal implications. U.S. law states that organizations cannot discriminate against anyone on the basis of personal qualities that aren't job related.

Tips for assessing applicants with tests:

Testing applicants is a great way of comparing seemingly qualified candidates before inviting them to interview. Here are a few tips to help you get started with applicant testing:

  • Define what you're looking for: Before testing applicants, define what you're looking for in a "perfect" candidate. These traits can be based on personality or skills, or both.
  • Look for tools that can help manage the process: If you're asking applicants to provide a writing sample, you might not need a dedicated tool. However, if you need a more standardized way of testing multiple applicants for a developer role, software can help you manage and compare the results of each test.

5. Start succession planning

Succession planning is an important HR function: It should form a significant part of an organization's staffing plan, and should also be tied with an organization's internal recruitment strategy.

Small business recruiting isn't just about looking at external candidates, but also using succession planning to identify and train existing employees who can fill key leadership roles when they become vacant.

Succession planning is an important human resource planning exercise. Not only does it ensure that your key roles can be filled, but that the employees you want to fill those vacancies are prepared.

It's also an important part of workforce planning, helping organizations align its hiring plans with its larger goals and objectives.

Tips for succession planning:

No organization wants to lose their key employees, but succession planning helps them fill those roles quickly and efficiently.

  • Back up succession planning with data: Performance metrics can help you identify which employees are suitable to potentially step into a senior role in the future.
  • Identify potential gaps: Succession planning is almost a perfect circle. Once you've identified employees to fill critical roles, take note of their positions, as you'll need to fill their roles, too.
  • Revise your training, development, and performance processes: Are your current talent management practices robust enough to train employees? Are your performance measures and workforce analytics tools strong enough to identify future talent? If not, think about what tools you'll need to help shape your succession plans.

6. Develop a talent acquisition strategy

Recruitment can be a very reactive exercise — it's all about quickly filling vacancies and new job roles. Talent acquisition, on the other hand, is a strategic human resource management activity that helps organizations create a long-term process and plan for finding, attracting, hiring, and onboarding future candidates.

Talent acquisition strategies are built around identifying future talent needs, normally using a combination of workforce planning techniques and workforce analytics.

Talent acquisition strategies are an important component of the recruiting process, as they help organizations build out a talent pipeline, and help reduce time-to-fill, time-to-hire, and turnover costs — all key HR metrics.

Workable's Content Manager

Workable

helps you discover suitable candidates for current and future job roles. (Source: The Blueprint)

Tips for developing a talent acquisition strategy:

Talent acquisition strategies differ from recruitment activities, but have a large impact on recruiting business plans. Here are a few tips to get you started with a talent acquisition strategy:

  • Consider your overall business goals: Think long term. If you're planning to open up a new office in another state, build that factor into your talent acquisition strategy.
  • Use the data at your fingertips: If you know you're going to fill key leadership roles to support a new office or department, check back on your previous hiring process. How long did the process take, and how much did it cost? Where did the best candidates come from? Use this data to help develop a realistic talent acquisition strategy.

Use a combination of long-term and short-term recruiting techniques to capture top talent

Small businesses can't just rely on one recruiting process, and should consider using a combination of the techniques and strategies above. Waiting for the perfect candidate to fall into your inbox is not a strategy that's going to help your business grow and succeed.

Combining these strategies with the right HR software will help you attract and hire the best candidates.

The Motley Fool has a Disclosure Policy. The Author and/or The Motley Fool may have an interest in companies mentioned.