candidates sitting waiting for interview
Small businesses experience challenges compared to larger businesses when it comes to recruiting talent. Fortunately, taking the right steps can improve these odds. — Getty Images/ katleho Seisa

As a small or mid-sized business, finding and hiring qualified candidates is likely one of your biggest challenges. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in the United States, the number of job openings – 7.1 millionas of February 2019 – far exceeds the number of hires (5.7 million).

Even if you manage to recruit your ideal employees, you might struggle to keep them around.

"With low unemployment, turnover is higher than it has been in decades, and employees [can] choose where they work," said Lenny Yanovskiy, senior director of strategic solutions for ADP’s Recruitment Process Outsourcing business.

Given these circumstances, SMBs must work to improve their recruiting strategies, candidate experience and onboarding processes to encourage job seekers to choose – and stay with – their company over their competitors.

CO— recently spoke with Yanovskiy about the current challenges small and mid-sized businesses face in recruiting top talent, and what can be done to improve their success rates.

Why do SMBs struggle to attract and retain talent?

It's easy to blame recruiting woes on the current labor market, but that's just one piece of the puzzle. Budgetary and resource constraints often hinder a small company's ability to keep up with the HR expertise, technology solutions and data analytics that larger organizations have at their disposal.

Yanovskiy cited some specific challenge areas for SMBs:

  • Compensation. Even if SMBs offer benefits, training and growth opportunities, they may not be able to compete with large corporations on base salary.
  • Technology and tools. SMBs may not have access to tools like applicant tracking systems, chatbots, candidate relationship management systems, etc.
  • Subject matter expertise. Most SMBs can't afford in-house diversity experts, data scientists, compensation analysts and other specialized talent acquisition roles.
  • Visibility and branding. Lack of brand awareness can make it hard to get candidates to even consider applying to SMBs.
  • Compliance. SMBs must keep up with complex regulations around candidate management, anti-discrimination, pay equity and more, which can be difficult and time-consuming.

It's easy to blame recruiting woes on the current labor market, but that's just one piece of the puzzle.

Tips for companies that want to recruit top employees

According to Yanovskiy, there are a few things employers can do to boost their chances of finding and keeping the best candidates in their field:

1. Evaluate your candidate experience.

SMBs should evaluate their candidate experience, including how easy is it to find and apply to jobs, how visible your brand is and whether your career site is mobile optimized.

"Consider role-playing what a typical candidate has to go through ... to get hired with the company," said Yanovskiy. "The easier you make it for them to apply and get hired, the better your chances are of filling your key positions."

2. Build your employer brand.

“Employer branding is another critical element in attracting talent. Companies must consider how they are perceived by candidates and actively work to create a public-facing image that is authentic, convincing and visible,” said Yanovskiy.

Give candidates an accurate, authentic picture of what your company culture is and what it’s like to work there. You can share employee testimonials, create videos of employees at work and promote employee stories on social media, for example.

Your brand messaging should also be convincingand clearly communicate why employees want to work there. Yanovskiy advised conducting a survey of your existing employees to understand what attracted them to the company.

Finally, make your employer brand visible to your target audience with an up-to-date career page on your company's website and relevant social media messaging. You should also monitor and respond to employer reviews on sites like Glassdoor.

3. Study the ROI of your talent sourcing channels.

Many SMBs advertise their job openings on several different platforms. Consider the cost of these channels and how productive and effective each one is.

"Companies ... [should target] channels that yield more qualified candidates," said Yanovskiy. "If a career fair or a particular job board yields low results, reallocate the focus to other sources for candidates.

“Don't overlook your current employees as a source of talent, either,” said Yanovskiy. “An internal referral program can encourage your staff to serve as brand ambassadors and drive candidates to your business.”

4. Get outside help if you need it.

“If you lack the budget for an in-house HR manager or recruiter, a consultant or third-party outsourcing service can help fill in your human resources gaps,” said Yanovskiy. “Recruitment process outsourcing providers, for example, often offer options for clients of different sizes, so you're likely to find a solution that suits your needs and budget.”

"Recognize your limitations and be willing to work with external partners where you need help," Yanovskiy said. "While outsourcing options may seem costly at first glance, they often provide an excellent return on your investment in terms of productivity savings, filling open positions fast and with quality candidates, and ensuring compliance in the recruitment process."