5 Ways Small Business Owners Can Source High-Quality Candidates

December 26, 2019
hiring, sourcing quality candidates

Attracting the interest of top talent can often feel daunting for a small business. Without the allure of working for an established brand and the range of perks that big companies offer, small businesses often face disadvantages while trying to find the best employees.

In reality, small business employers offer many benefits—like flexibility, rapid career growth opportunities, and tight-knit company culture, to name a few—that big companies often struggle to supply. For these reasons, recruiting high-quality candidates isn’t out of the question for small businesses. The toughest part may be getting your brand in front of jobseekers to begin with.

Here are five ways to further even out the playing field during your search. Use these strategies for sourcing high-quality candidates for your small business’s team:

Post on niche job boards

You might feel like there are endless job sites to post on these days—and you’re partly right. Beyond huge, umbrella job posting sites like LinkedIn and Indeed, niche job posting sites are now crucial parts of the online recruiting ecosystem. Niche job posting sites offer pools of job opportunities in a given industry, with a given perk, at a given level.

For instance, say your small business offers remote working opportunities. Many job posting sites, like We Work Remotely, Working Nomads, and Flexjobs, aggregate opportunities for candidates looking specifically for remote work.

Meanwhile, job boards like Rainmakers gather job postings based on specific functions—in this case, sales positions. Other niche job board options are focused on the demographics of the applicant pool they attract—The Black Career Network, a job board site who caters to black professionals on the job hunt, is a prime example.

Through niche job boards like this, you can optimize your search by reaching a self-selecting, high-intent audience who wants what your job opening can offer.

Write more illustrative and compelling job descriptions

Job descriptions are an art that few have mastered. Finding a balance between the basics and requirements of the role and the branded voice you want to communicate as an employer won’t be simple. To write a job description that will get top talent excited about the opportunity, you might include visuals like company videos. Also be sure to describe the most alluring perks your company offers—don’t keep your carefully tailored benefits package to yourself!

This being said, it’s crucial to lay out the details of the day-to-day responsibilities for the open position. Paint an accurate picture of what the job looks like. This transparency will help potential employees envision themselves in the role, and it will help establish an employer ethos of transparency—which has proven to be a leading factor in employee happiness.

You should also use your job description to emphasize the benefits of working for a small business—not just the benefits of working at your small business. Take some time to highlight the tight-knit culture and the room for growth that a small team naturally provides.

Offer an employee referral bonus

According to 88% of employers, employee referrals are the best source for high-quality applicants. It makes sense—the people on your team are already great culture fits for your company, and may have like-minded friends or old colleagues. Plus, employees are often hesitant to refer any friend or former colleague who they don’t think would be the right person for a given role. Employee referrals are a self-selecting pool of candidates that are probably a fit for the job at hand.

Offering an employee referral bonus is an effective way to encourage members of your team to refer their outside contacts. Keep in mind that, according to SHRM, “organizations in which recruiters place even greater emphasis on employee referrals, [the percentage] jumps to 35 percent to 45 percent of all new hires.” Just as you reward an employee for a job well done within their role, you should reward them for helping you source a new member of the team. You’ll have additional resources available to create a rewards program, since employee referrals lower overall recruiting costs.

Set up a structure that lays out the bonus amount, whether it’s a percentage of a successfully hired referral’s salary, tiered by seniority level, or simply a dollar amount for any hired referral no matter what.

You should also build a trial period into your employee referral bonus policy—essentially, a period of time that the new hire needs to last before you pay out the bonus. Anywhere from three to six months, depending on industry turnover standards, should suffice. This way, your employees will be even more incentivized to refer hard-working and dedicated applicants.

Overall, referrals will make expensive searches for high-quality candidates more efficient, and as a result, will reduce the costs associated with recruiting and hiring. The referral bonus you offer passes those savings onto employees who work hard to connect your recruiting team with top talent.

Offer an external referral bonus

Why stop at internal referral bonuses? Like employee referral bonuses, external referral bonuses encourage people to refer high-quality candidates who would be a good fit for your small business’s team. With this version, you can reach beyond your team to a wider pool of referrers and, of course, referrals.

Companies such as Toast, Smartronix, and Opower all reportedly offer external referral bonuses of varying amounts, expanding their referral pipelines to include anyone who comes in contact with the brand. First, second, and third-degree connections being able to refer viable candidates will exponentially grow your funnel.

This bonus program will be particularly useful in social posts and networking. Promote your external referral bonus whenever you post about new job openings on LinkedIn. If you’re attending a networking event, be sure to reference the bonus whenever you’re discussing open opportunities at your business. Members of your network, former employees, and friends will be all the more motivated to connect you with their talented acquaintances.

You’ll need to think of a different way to pay non-employees a referral bonus, however, especially if you’re using your payroll software to pay your employee referral bonuses. Will it be a gift card, cash, or a check?

You’ll also need to decide how much this bonus will be. Will it mirror your employee referral bonus? Decide whether or not you want to structure your external referral bonus amount like you structure your employee referral bonus.

Reach out on LinkedIn

Many top candidates are eager to make their current employment situation work. It makes sense that the perfect person for your open role might not be scraping job boards for opportunities: It stands to reason that if an employee is good at their job, their employer will (or should) do their best to keep them happy and engaged.

Your job, then, is to identify some of the 79% of people who will quit their job due to a lack of appreciation, or the 70% of high-retention-risk employees who say they’ll need to leave their current position in order to advance in their career.

Reaching out to ideal candidates on LinkedIn is a great way to get your opportunity within their line of sight. It might seem too bold, but if you avoid presumption or pushiness in your initial message, then candidates will likely be happy to hear from you.

LinkedIn allows you to search for candidates with advanced filters like seniority level, years of experience, industry, and form of employer (think company size, entity, funding round).

Once you find a list of ideal candidates, create a friendly but gracious body text for your message. Preface your initial reach-out with a sentence like, “I’m sure you’re excelling in your current role, but are you open to new opportunities?” Recognizing their current situation before diving into recruiting talk will make them feel more at ease and more likely to respond.

Final thoughts for sourcing high-quality candidates

Sourcing high-quality candidates for your small business sounds a lot more daunting in theory than it is in practice. As these five strategies show, a little creativity and confidence can go a long way in filling your applicant pool with top talent. Then it’s up to you to close the deal with an outstanding candidate experience, a thorough interview process, and quality onboarding procedures.

Randa Kris, Fundera


Randa Kriss is a staff writer at Fundera, a marketplace for small business financial solutions such as small business credit cards. She covers human resources, marketing, and small business trends.

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