Competition for the best and brightest talent is nothing short of cutthroat. No matter how cliché it sounds, professionals know that the backbone of every good business is a great team. In the rapidly growing and competitive tech market, how does a small business recruit and retain talent while competing with larger firms who can boast both brand recognition and deep pockets?
Based in Pittsburgh, a city increasingly recognized as a hub for tech companies, ShowClix, an event ticketing company, deals with this question daily. As the company’s young CTO, I quickly realized that without the brand recognition, big budget and other benefits of larger organizations, we needed to be creative to attract and retain talent. After eight years recruiting top candidates for ShowClix, these are my suggestions for ways that small companies can compete with larger brands in their markets.
1. If you build it, they will come.
Show off your strengths to stay involved in your industry’s community throughout the city by sponsoring conferences or hosting meetups and networking events.
ShowClix uses our strength -- technology -- to actively build our brand through events around Pittsburgh. Going one step further, help set your company apart from others by hosting unique networking events at the office. People love the opportunity to mingle in an informal setting, and it allows you to meet others in the industry as well. Bottom line: staying visible in the community creates natural, word-of-mouth conversations and helps boost your company’s reputation as a trustworthy brand.
2. Small team, many hats.
There are a variety of advantages that tech talent can expect when working for a tight-knit team. For example, at many larger firms, jobs are often segregated and extremely specific. Smaller companies however, allow talent to broaden their skillsets by wearing multiple hats and taking on a wider set of responsibilities. Offering candidates a broad experience and opportunities to learn will open them up to new skills and career paths. Additionally, allow your talent to lead. Hold internal monthly meetings for the entire team to identify problems, set goals and recognize team members. Doing this shows trust in your employees and their voice, which in turn gives them a sense of ownership of what the company produces. When employees feel like they own something, they become invested in the company’s success.
3. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Your job as a recruiter doesn’t end when talent accepts an offer. Monitoring your employees is just as important as looking for new ones. I make it a point to know what each employee is working on, how often and for how long. Meeting with them for regular check-ins also helps to guarantee I’m the first to know if they feel overwhelmed, bored or stuck. Try to think, “Are they feeling challenged? Are they excited about the work they’re doing? Have their professional interests changed?” People change and so do their goals. Make sure your employees feel they are still on track to hit their personal career milestones.
4. Don’t force a square peg into a round hole.
Sometimes talent just isn't the right fit. Take the time to find a solid combination of skills, and stay honest with your candidate about what the company can offer in terms of salary, culture and professional growth. Be sure to focus on the company's mission, values and benefits, and even share success stories of similar candidates. You know that you want the best talent, but a major part of that definition of “best” should be someone who aligns with your culture. Focusing on the applicant’s long-term goals will give you better insight into what they want and what you can offer, ensuring a better match.
When looking to attract top talent, you should keep in mind that small companies still have major benefits to offer hard-working employees. I have found that you have an opportunity to provide candidates with the makings of a more personalized, intimate career path that many companies cannot. Standing by your company’s culture and values will ensure perfect fits that help your organization remain successful as it grows.