Winning the Talent Competition

December 30, 2019
Author: Tyran Saffold Jr

A tight labor market and record low unemployment rates continue to deplete the supply of qualified candidates. For smaller firms to compete for talent, hiring managers have to “nail” the interview process quickly to ensure hiring of their most desired candidates. If the candidate agrees to interview for a position at your business, you have already grabbed their interest. The next step is to draw them in enough to want the role and to be a part of your organization.

Small Companies Compete with Big Firms for Talent

Nail the Interview

“Everything went well,” said Stephanie Johnson, vice president of marketing for a small business in Dallas, TX. “Then, the next day I got an email from the candidate stating that she didn’t think it was a good time for her to join a small business. She wanted to work for a more established organization. It was discouraging, but people know they are taking a chance with a startup. It comes with the territory.”

Many small businesses are going through the same situation as Johnson who is in her third month of trying to fill a position in her department. The competition for talent is fierce in today’s economy. When you discover that you have a good candidate, you have to close the deal.

For small businesses, the interview could be deemed more important for the employer than for the candidate. The employee-favored labor market has subsequently created more job opportunities, so organizations may be competing for the same talent at any given time. You have to find the right “fit” for the role and company, and when you do, you have to make sure they want to work for you.

Investigating the “want” for a role can be increasingly difficult, even more so when an established company is also vying for the same candidate. The onus is on hiring managers to “nail” the interviews. Go further to differentiate your organization. Ask them what drives them and illustrate how leaders provide support to their employees. While you figure out if the candidate is a good fit for you, the candidate will also decide if your company is a good fit for them.

Company Culture and Brand Reputation

In a tight labor market, a unique edge is needed when competing for talent. In Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends Survey, 82 percent of respondents believed that a great company culture will create a competitive advantage.

“Having a candidate-attraction strategy that speaks to your company culture will increase the likeliness of attracting and engaging talent who will thrive and stay with you longer,” says brand strategist, Jena Brown.

Create and show a video about the company culture or expose the candidate to different team members. Give them a better idea of what to expect in the work environment. Your business should reflect a culture that people want to be a part of.

Brand reputation is increasingly important for Millennials and Gen Z, which is why it can become a valuable recruiting strategy. Show that your company is involved in social causes or help reinforce the purpose and value of their work. Knowing what drives your candidate is important, and if you can lead them to their purpose, the advantage can impact their desire to be a part of the company.

If your candidate is undecided between two roles at two different organizations, a positive impression of your company’s culture and brand reputation could be enough to tilt the odds in your favor.

Access to Leaders

The chance to have coffee with the CEO or lunch with a VP of a company are things that much of the American workforce will not experience. The allure of connecting with members of the executive team could be enough to get a candidate to commit. In fact, more employees desire that connection. A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review noted 52 percent of employees felt that “not having time to meet with employees” prevented effective leadership. In addition, 91 percent of employees say communication issues can drag executives down.

Receiving unique business insights from a CEO or close mentorship from another member of the executive team could be a perk. This exposure can be highly attractive to a prospect, especially if they have aspirations of running a business.

Opportunities for Career Advancement

Within small businesses, there is potential for accelerated career growth. In established companies, it could take longer for newer employees to advance.

Many small businesses will force employees to stretch beyond their comfort levels. Employees are hired for their skills and experience, but soon realize that more will be expected from their role. That, in turn, will facilitate the expansion of current capabilities. In addition, it may help the employee stretch to create their own unique advantage.

Whether they were hired as a writer, but eventually learned strategic marketing, or a research analyst who developed into a coder, the opportunities to showcase various talents at small businesses are unlike others at established firms. Shine a light on opportunities for employees to show off their capabilities and create their career journey. More importantly, smaller organizations with fewer employees provide a greater chance that individual voices will be heard. Everyone wants to be a part of something, but in a small business, they can be a part of building something.

Compensation Competition

Once you find talent, it is important to pay them a competitive rate. If you offer a $50,000 annual salary for a position when the median pay is $65,000, there is a strong chance that you will lose the candidate to a competitive offer.

As a recruiting tool, benchmarking salaries to your industry and market enables employers to get a leg up on the competition. With reliable data, companies can present the best offers to candidates. Labor economic and compensation analytics will level the playing field and open opportunities to strategically plan for, recruit and retain talent. Knowing compensation mid-points for modern job titles and benchmarking against your local market can be the insight you need to secure your most desired candidate. To learn more about compensation planning, check out LaborIQ at

The interview process is like a courting session. In a tight labor market, you may have to do a little more “woo-ing” and strategic planning to ensure you find and keep the talent you desire.