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Small Business Recruiting Tips for an Improving Economy - Part I

by Hesam Lamei

Over the past several years, I have been extremely lucky to discover and secure exceptionally talented employees for my growing business. I was bombarded with resumes. New employees were excited to become part of a fast growing small business and work together to be part of a successful company, not to mention gain valuable and diverse experience that one can only find in a small business setting.

However, over the past six months, I am suddenly facing a changing talent landscape where recruits are demanding higher salaries and bigger benefit packages, being swept away at the last minute, or even worse, poached by industry competitors. The fact that there is poaching going on signifies there is a lack of talent in the candidate pool. Thinking it must only be happening to me, I hired recruiters to find out if they were facing the same dilemma. The competitive battle over technical talent seems to be in full swing due to a booming industry with growing demand for innovative products and services. So how can a small business compete with such competition? The talent is out there; you just have to know how to attract and retain it. Here is what I have learned through this process and what I can share with you:

#1 Learn to Compete with the Big Boys

Stand out in the crowd. When the economy shifted, unlike big businesses that pulled the trigger to downsize, many small businesses waited as long as possible feeling a sense of loyalty to their employees. Strangely enough, small businesses had the least amount of layoffs during that period between 2008-2013. For employees, compensation was not top-of-mind; job security was. However, with the economy rebounding, many of those same employees who were laid off previously are rushing to find jobs with big corporations. In their minds, these jobs offer both job security and strong compensation. It’s odd to me because these big businesses were in many cases the reason they hit the unemployment line in the first place. Big businesses tend to hire from the talent pool ahead of small businesses, so we need to stand out. How do we do that? We offer flexibility with schedules, a fun and creative work environment, professional development, exciting career growth paths, and have recently added unique incentives to our job offers. For instance, we have started offering two international round trip airline tickets for our top level executives.

#2 Be Prepared & Be Patient

According to recent Aberdeen study "Talent Acquisition 2014: Reverse the Regressive Curse," recruiting faces a new set of challenges, one of them being that today, 60% of companies have a reactionary recruitment program in place compared to 44% in 2012. I see this as a problem because when you find yourself in need, sometimes you make reactive decisions. In years past, it took 30-60 days to secure talent. My advice? Always maintain a pipeline of qualified candidates. And considering the business need is real, don't rush to hire. We have started to continuously scout for high demand roles to keep a constant pipeline for various skill sets. That way, we are never caught off guard. Don’t rush to hire. I have tried hiring someone far from perfect rather than waiting for the truly perfect candidate for the job, and each and every time it has come back to haunt me. While you can train for a position, it’s much easier to find the right person and help them grow in that position.