candidates sitting in a row waiting for interview
From networking through family, friends and like-minded social platforms to offering creative benefits, small businesses can compete with bigger businesses for job candidates. — Getty Images/katleho Seisa

The unemployment rate in the United States is at a nearly 50-year low, currently at just under 3.7%. This is great news for almost everyone — except for small business owners seeking to hire in this extremely competitive job market.

Small businesses looking to compete for talent may find it hard to stand out in the crowd. Many small merchants don’t have the same resources to offer the benefits, salary and perks of a large corporation or a tech startup.

However, that doesn’t mean that a small business has nothing to offer. It’s more about finding the right balance of passion and non-financial perks to keep the right person engaged. Here are some creative strategies to make sure you’re attracting top talent in this competitive job market.

Get creative with your incentives

Many small businesses can’t compete with big businesses when it comes to salary. But, for most job seekers, salary isn’t everything. A friendly, personal work environment with lots of opportunities for advancement can often outweigh a high salary in the eyes of job applicants. According to several surveys, here’s what some small merchants have offered that attracts job seekers:

  • 57% of small businesses say they are offering flexible hours
  • 33% say they are offering flexible work locations
  • 21% say they offer advancement and mobility
  • 18% say they provide generous vacation policies

In addition to these perks, there are many advantages to working at a small organization. Highlight that employees often wear many hats, learn on the job, avoid the bureaucracy and company politics of a corporation, and become part of a tightly-knit team by joining your business.

Put your network to work

Perhaps you’ve already explored word-of-mouth marketing for advertising your products. Word of mouth can also play a major role in recruiting your next great team member.

According to SmallBizTrends, 57% of small businesses make their hires from recommendations or referrals. Your loyal customers, other employees, and friends and family can be a great way to spread the word about an open position. Find someone who already loves your business and bring them on board!

Those who know your business best – your friends, customers and community – should be your first source for finding talent.

Promote job openings in the right spaces

Those who know your business best – your friends, customers and community – should be your first source for finding talent.

A good secondary option for finding the right hire is to find niche communities that can feed interested candidates into your business. Sites like Quora and Reddit, university programs, Meetup events and conferences can be great opportunities for recruitment. Seek out smaller platforms where your listing has a good chance of being seen by someone with the same passion you have for your industry.

Communicate your passion

Research has shown that millennials, one of the biggest hiring groups, seek careers and jobs that have “real purpose.” For this generation, it’s important to feel like their work contributes to something bigger.

Luckily, many small business owners found their business on passion and purpose. Showcasing how much you believe in your company and your mission can be contagious. Find someone as passionate as you are, and you’ll see how hard they’ll work to help you achieve new levels of success.

Move quickly on the right candidate

The days of “hire slow, fire fast” may be over. In a competitive job market like this one, you must move definitively when you meet the right candidate. Know ahead of time the qualities a new hire must have, as well as the training you can offer to help someone get up to speed.

Though you may make a mistake and hire the wrong candidate, it’s better to take the risk on someone you see potential in than miss the opportunity altogether. Get comfortable with the idea that your turnover may be faster until you find the right person. Eventually, you’ll learn exactly what it takes for someone to find long-term success while helping you grow your small business.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published July 18, 2019