Businessmen shaking hands

Business is going well, sales are on the up, revenue is growing and you’re busier than ever doing all the day-to-day, plus the more strategic aspects of running your business. It’s clear you now need to recruit some top talent if you’re going to grow the business further and take it to the next level.

But how do you attract the best crop of potential candidates? And as a small business, just how can you compete with the 'big boys'?

The biggest step is realising the huge benefits you, as a smaller business, can offer ambitious, go-getting talented individuals. Here are just a few for starters:

  • Small businesses offer staff greater variety, early responsibility and the opportunity to work on their own initiative – something that larger, more bureaucratic businesses struggle to do.
  • Staff have a higher profile within smaller businesses – they aren’t just small fish in a big pond, if they perform well, it will be noticed.
  • Research has shown that promotion prospects and job satisfaction are often higher with SMEs than bigger businesses.
  • Employees at smaller businesses enjoy a more informal working environment and tend to have closer relationships with senior management and the directors of the business.
  • As a team member in a smaller business, you can feel as though you are making a real contribution to the business, getting your ideas implemented and seeing projects through from start to finish, rather than being a cog in a much larger ‘wheel’.
It is hugely challenging trying to find good candidates for your business and it is not without its risks. And once you have an eye on top talent, as a business owner, you need to be able to persuade the successful professional to come and work with you.

As a smaller business, you don’t have the benefit of a human resources department with the tools and budget to fill your vacancies. What it boils down to is how you sell your ‘employer brand’ to woo the cream of the crop. The following tips will help:

  1. Know your target audience – big businesses know how to adapt their employer brand to different target audiences. What makes a graduate tick is unlikely to inspire a talented professional with many years experience. Think about the kind of person you are looking to attract including their goals and ambitions and develop messages that will engage with the right candidate.
  2. Play to your strengths – so you may not be able to offer huge pay and benefits packages but what you can provide is a varied, exciting, flexible role with significant responsibilities and the opportunity to make a real difference.
  3. Make your website work harder – do you have a vacant positions tab on your website or a ‘we’re recruiting’ message on your news section? If you do, does it ‘sell’ your vision and the values and culture of your business? Do you convey how much you value your team members? Think about how to make your website sparkle with personality so that a talented candidate thinks ‘this is the business for me’.
  4. Tap into your networks – spread the word that you are looking for top talent for your business. Get the message out on LinkedIn and Twitter that you are recruiting. At breakfast networking events, trade shows and conferences use the time to meet and greet potential candidates or people who may know would-be employees and gather business cards from industry contacts.
Reward referrals – consider offering rewards for employee referrals. If one of your staff members or contacts refers a candidate to you, they have probably already laid the groundwork for you and sold in the merits of joining the business. Candidates who come through the door in this way usually have a more accurate picture of your business than any recruitment ad would convey and in most cases, employees will only recommend people they think would be a good match for the business.

By Sue Higgins, founder and managing director, Inspira UK