How can SME businesses compete with corporate businesses in the war for talent?
by Heat Recruitment
by Steve Preston
In an increasingly candidate-driven market, CEOs of small to medium sized businesses are working overtime to attract the top performers to their organisations. As if a skills shortage wasn’t enough, the challenge of recruiting a well-seasoned professional is exacerbated by the existence of multinational, corporate giants, big businesses whose brand acts as a talent magnet due to their size and status alone.
Forced to compete with the deep pockets and well-established reputations of their corporate counterparts, SMEs must take a tactical approach in the war for talent. Fortunately, winning over the best candidates in the market is easier than you might think.
A strong Employer Value Proposition
Up against colossal industry titans, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to compete on salary alone. Rather than holding you back, let this inspire you to build and communicate a compelling Employer Value Proposition that sets you aside from the competition.
Remember, candidates are motivated by a number of factors when making the decision to accept an offer: some care greatly about the work the business does and its level of corporate social responsibility, others are driven by culture and environment. Many will value a business that promotes a healthy work/life balance and builds flexible working into its proposition.
Understanding what attracts top talent to apply for a job is essential if you want to gain traction on your recruitment marketing efforts – after all, recruitment is a two-way street. As much as you need to know what makes a candidate right for the role, they need to be sure that the employer they choose ticks all their boxes.
An opportunity to make an impact
Joining a corporate business certainly has its advantages. Not only can the name make a candidate’s CV more appealing, it may enhance their personal brand in the long-run. However, for ambitious professionals eager to make a difference in their next role, a role in a big business does have its downsides.
Generally, the company will already have established set processes; it will have a strict chain of command and new entrants will start their job with all the tools they need to perform their responsibilities exactly as the company wants. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course – it’s just that there usually isn’t much room for new members of staff to shake things up and make positive, long-lasting changes unless they are brought in at executive level.
SMEs, on the other hand, can usually offer their candidates more freedom in how they achieve results. For candidates who seek a role in which they are trusted to use their skills and experience to find the best route in hitting their targets, an SME is the obvious choice.
Some candidates can also find themselves pigeonholed into dealing with certain elements of the process, and therefore limiting their level of exposure to all elements of the job role. This is quite typical of corporate entities where they breakdown job roles into two or more areas, with the individual sectioned off into one specialism. An example could be where a corporate firm has people specialising in niche market sectors. The upside is the candidate has a higher degree of specialist knowledge within this particular field, the downside however is that it can limit a candidates’ future marketability as those sectors may only represent a small fraction of a potential employer’s client base. Therefore, it’s worth highlighting the pitfalls of becoming ‘too specialist’.
A positive candidate experience
When candidates apply for roles at large, corporate firms, they expect – to some degree – to be treated as a number; they aren’t particularly surprised to pass through a formal process and jump through multiple hoops to even get to the interview stage. SMEs can use this to their advantage by creating a highly personalised candidate experience, one that treats applicants as talented individuals as opposed to a name and CV.
When it comes to recruitment, sustaining momentum is key. Knowing your competitors have a highly formal process, you can quickly gain the upper hand by holding informal interviews in a casual setting. This is your chance to have a free-flowing, conversational interview with your candidates, something they are unlikely to receive from your corporate counterparts: use this an opportunity to get under the skin of what they seek from their Employer and you will already be one step ahead of the competition when crafting your offer.
Furthermore, while candidates will seldom meet the CEO of a big business during their initial interview, SME leaders can enhance the candidate experience by playing a role in recruitment and making a connection with the candidate from an early stage.
Sure, corporate businesses may have the upper hand when it comes to perks and remuneration packages. However, with the right strategy, small to medium enterprises can snatch the best talent available and show them that size isn’t everything.