How To Compete with Corporates to Attract the Best Talent

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Entrepreneurs might feel that they can't compete with large corporates to attract the best talent but, as Tara Chila explains, this isn't the case. Small businesses just need to recognise and play to their strengths.

Running a small business in a corporate society has never been easy, but nowadays it seems that it’s harder than ever. It’s up to business owners to make sure that their companies remain competitive, but they can’t do it all themselves.

The foundation for any great small business is an outstanding staff. One hurdle small businesses face is attracting qualified talent away from large corporate salaries.

The first mistake of job applicants and business owners alike is viewing small businesses as constant underdogs. They aren’t.

Small businesses have the ability to offer flexibility, family atmosphere, and more job opportunities than corporate powerhouses. In order to run a successful small business that can compete in a corporate world, female entrepreneurs and business women need to identify the strengths of your company so you can promote them.

My journey towards working for a small business began when I chose to attend a women’s college. There weren’t any football games to go to, no mixers to attend. Aside from the fact that the campus lacked a healthy stream of the Y chromosome, the college I went to was special for its small size—there are about 1300 students total enrolled at any given time. I was surrounded by the most brilliant group of young women every day —we pushed each other to try things we never thought we could do. Sometimes we failed miserably, but mostly our inherent determinedness helped us to discover our hidden talents.

I never expected this mentality, an affinity for small group working environments, would also characterize my post-college career choices. Stepping from 10 or 12 person seminars in college to 5 or 10 person board meetings was a natural progression. But for many young women, working for a small business is as slim a possibility as choosing a women’s college. The stigma of zero-growth and few opportunities for upward mobility must be erased from the small business wrap-sheet because that’s no longer a justifiable characterization. Small companies offer a plethora of possibilities—they just need to be touted more!

Although your company might not be able to match an offer from a corporate powerhouse, you need to recognize your strengths in the negotiating room.

For instance, can you offer more vacation time in place of a larger salary? What about flexibility in hours?

Another important aspect of job hunting for young adults is the promise of useful experience. The primary reason I chose my current job was because it allows me to work on many different projects all at once. I have greater responsibility and a large impact on the business itself, which I find extremely rewarding. I’m also building my resume, one task at a time. Think in terms of what and how you can provide personal career growth—a great candidate will see the experience you offer as a bonus unto itself.

Often the most neglected medium for attracting great qualified candidates is right at your fingertips. Use social media to promote your business and its job listings. Our marketing department has been working on expanding our online presence—we’ve even started using Pinterest alongside more traditional routes like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to promote open positions.

Many candidates turn to social media because it’s basically free advertising, and your small business should see it that way too! Posting jobs on career sites like, Indeed, etc., can be expensive—save money by focusing your efforts on expanding job listings on social media. LinkedIn has a fantastic jobs section—make use of it and in the meantime grow your virtual network by “connecting” with others in your business industry.  

The key to competing with corporate job listings (which often promise a hefty salary) is to make sure copy within the job posting is thoughtful, honest, and informative.

Lead with the benefits of working for your small business. Reference your office culture, growth expectations, etc., if those are strengths! But, make sure you clearly communicate position requirements and responsibilities. The key to attracting qualified candidates is to be as specific as possible. When I was looking for a job, I distinctly remember feeling annoyed if a job posting didn’t list their expectations or requirements—and so, most of the time, I wouldn’t apply!

However, don’t shut out perfectly great candidates by being too narrow minded. For instance, if you’re looking for someone with a little bit of experience, instead of saying “Must have 5 years of previous experience in….” phrase it like “Looking for 2-5 years of experience in….” Remember, you’re looking for the perfect candidate not the perfect fit. Don’t let your job listing limit your candidate pool, sometimes the best applicants are the ones that don’t match all of your criteria!

As the economy rebounds and applicants have more options, it’s up to you and your marketing staff to attract the best candidates. This means being proactive about using social media to promote job openings (maybe, you could apply the money you saved in advertising to increase the benefits package for the open position!) and spending quality time mapping out what your business can offer potential employees. Just like candidates need to put their best forward, businesses need to make a great first impression, too.

Running a small business is no walk in the park—but who said it would be? Half the fun of working for a small business is overcoming the challenges it presents and finding your company and staff’s own hidden talents.

As a business woman you can run a successful small business in a corporate world by simply recognizing your company’s strengths and attracting great employees as a result.

So ladies, dig in your fabulous high heels and get to work!

Tara Chila, blogger for Transit Systems, Inc., writes mostly about moving, business, house & home, kids, and parenting. Transit Systems specializes in a variety of long distance moving and shipping services including furniture shipping.

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