Did you know that one of the top reasons a startup fails is because it hasn't hired the right team? Hiring the right talent — which may not always be the most qualified talent — is immeasurably important for a small business, so how do you do it? HR professionals have a few tried-and-true talent-acquisition strategies that help them find and retain the best candidates, which are not always what you think.
Offer a Competitive Salary With Good Benefits
Forget the free snacks and bagel breakfasts. That stuff is nice, but it’s not going to attract the top talent if you’re offering that in lieu of a competitive salary and a good benefits package. Qualified candidates are all about the bottom line. You might get them in the door with a cool company culture, but they’ll bounce before the application process is through if the salary is bad.
Remember that negotiations are important. The best talent will probably negotiate your salary offer, so don’t start with your biggest and best number off the bat, and remember that 401(k) matching never hurt either.
Beware (or Embrace) Glassdoor
Talented people are thorough in their job search. They’re not just looking at job boards on LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster or even Craigslist, though you should cast a very wide net and post your job description on a variety of websites. The best candidates are looking at your employees and how they feel about working at your company. There is nothing more disheartening than looking at a promising job opening and finding out on Glassdoor that the company has a high turnover because it has a toxic work culture.
Good reviews on Glassdoor can sway employees into considering one job offer over another, so you might want to ask current and former employees (well, just the ones who left on good terms) to review your business and do some damage control on the negative reviews, like owning up to mistakes and actually changing the policies that drive talent away.
Craft a Broad Job Vacancy
Talented people know they’re in demand. They’re not just parsing through job boards applying to anything and everything. These types of candidates want to know for sure that a company is a great fit before they even waste their time interviewing. For this reason, a broad job description can impress the most qualified candidates during their job search.
The best job descriptions won’t just focus on what a business needs from a candidate —they will also focus on why the candidate needs the business. Of course, it should clearly list the required experience, skill sets and expected duties, but it should also go into detail about company culture, work-life balance and any other perks employees might enjoy. If you’re offering a competitive salary, clearly list it in the job description, or the best candidates may think you’re purposely avoiding salary talk because you plan to cheapen out.
Remember that company culture is important, so always mention it in a job listing. You can train a candidate to do a job, but you cannot train a candidate to fit in.
Offer Referral Incentives
Forget job boards. Before you even start listing a brand-new open role, it’s a great idea to tap your current employees. Think about it this way: The great talent you’ve already found likely surround themselves with a like-minded group of people in the industry outside of work hours. Everyone has a past, and if you’ve hired great people, that past probably also includes a whole lot of talent. You can do this one of two ways: by offering a referral incentive or getting employees directly involved.
Offering employee incentives for referring potential candidates is one of the most effective and efficient talent-acquisition strategies. Some companies offer current employees a few hundred (or even a few thousand) dollars if they refer a successful candidate to human resources. This can even save a company money during the recruiting process because you’re not wasting hours parsing through hundreds of resumes from job boards and interviewing hundreds of candidates. Instead, these hires are carefully curated from your employees' professional networks.
Companies can also broaden their recruitment strategy by giving employees recruitment cards along with their business cards. This way, if an employee meets someone impressive in real life, he can give that person a direct line to hiring managers. This works especially well if you also offer employees an incentive for referrals.
Work Social Media Into Your Talent-Acquisition Strategies
Social media is a powerful tool, and the best HR departments use it during the hiring process. First, there’s a reason LinkedIn is one of the leading platforms for recruiters. In addition to being a job board, you can easily browse the resumes of top industry talent and reach out via direct message. Even without LinkedIn, you should still be using Twitter and Instagram to stand out in your recruiting efforts.
Before you start the onboarding process, you should also have HR look at the social media accounts of the people you’re recruiting. If there was ever one way to dodge the bullet of a bad hire, this is it. Social media can give you a lot of information that candidates don’t reveal during their interviews, and it’s not always flattering.
Offer Your Employees Flexibility
If you’re having trouble finding and keeping quality candidates, you may want to consider offering a more flexible position. We hear about trendy Silicon Valley startups offering remote-work options, unlimited time off and other flexible perks, but there’s really something to that. People want to work for companies that don’t micromanage them and trust that they’ll do the work they’re hired to do. According to a Randstad report, 82% of people like having the ability to work remotely because it allows them to have a better work-life balance, but it’s also good for the company too.
Though you might think that flexible work hours make employees lazier, it’s actually the opposite. Flexible workers generally achieve more, take less time off for illness, work longer hours and are happier at work. It’s a win-win situation, and it will certainly help you retain talented employees for the long term.
Keep It Short and Beware of Red Flags
Recruiters often lose top talent because their interview process is way too lengthy. By the time they’ve interviewed hundreds of candidates, the best ones have either lost interest or moved on. For this reason, keep the interview process to only a couple of weeks and limit interviews to just a handful of the very best candidates. If this overwhelms you, you can enlist a recruitment agency to preselect the best talent.
Once you finally do get to speak to that small handful of candidates, you can quickly rule out some by identifying common interview red flags. The candidates should clearly have researched your company before their interview and should be able to provide details and examples of the work they cite in their resumes and cover letters. Also, pay attention to the way they talk to lower-level employees vs. top-level employees. If they’re checking their watch or ignoring questions from lower-level employees, they may not actually be a team player.
It’s important to not rule out employees based on perceived red flags. For example, tardiness may have a legitimate reason, and a lack of eye contact could signal that the employee is nervous because she really cares about getting the job.
- Randstad: How Can You Encourage a Good Work-Life Balance?
- Forbes: Why A Flexible Worker Is A Happy And Productive Worker
- TPP Recruitment: How Many Candidates Should You Interview?
- Workable: Interview Red Flags: 5 Common Myths About Candidates
- TalentLyft: 8 Recruitment Strategies to Attract the Best Talent
- Inc.: 5 Unexpected Ways to Attract Top Talent
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.