Small businesses need to use their size to their advantage when hiring

Journalist Colette Sexton on how small businesses can win the best talent.

As I have previously explained, the jobs market is buoyant at the moment and this means that employees, and not employers, have the upper hand. While this makes it difficult for all businesses to hire staff, it can be particularly hard for small businesses to attract talent when larger companies can often offer more money.

“Small businesses often struggle to compete with larger employers on a number of fronts, including brand recognition, salaries and additional perks including healthcare insurance and free meal catering,” Maureen Lynch, Director at Hays Ireland, said.

But all is not lost, according to Maureen, because smaller employers have their own perks they can offer to potential recruits.


“Smaller employers can differentiate themselves by giving their employees more exposure across different areas of the business. This allows employees to cultivate a broader skillset and work within senior decision-making roles potentially earlier in their career,” she said.

Related: How to attract staff in an intense labour market

Stand out from the crowd

Prospective candidates want to understand why the company is a great place to work in. As a result, companies can leverage their small size to promote a close-knit, friendly culture and an agile business environment, according to Maureen. Small businesses should try to stand out from the crowd by having a well-developed website and social channels promoting their brand and culture as these are often the first port of call for prospective employees.

“Company messaging that is consistently defined and executed instil confidence in a prospective employee as it reflects on the level of transparency between the company and the candidate,” she said.

Small companies can also use personalised recruitment processes to give candidates an idea of the culture. These ensure that the prospective employee gets face-time with their future colleagues and boss to experience compatibility with them. It would also give them a real-life perspective of what working for a small business would be like.

“Genuine interactions, direct access to senior management, a higher chance of standing out among a smaller group highlights the unique attributes of a small business– all very important traits to an applicant looking for a new opportunity,” Maureen said.


While many small businesses cannot compete with perks like free food, Maureen said that they might be in a position to offer a more valued perk - flexible working.

“Flexible working is becoming more common-place across all industries and has become a key factor in employee retention. Employees value flexibility and career progression over gimmicky perks. The smarter employers recognise this and work with their employees to find a way to accommodate their responsibilities inside and outside the workplace. They recognise that this greater flexibility typically results in a significant dip in workplace stress, a boost in mental wellbeing and an increase in productivity, to everyone’s benefit,” she said.

The most important thing for businesses to remember, according to Maureen, is “What most workers want today is flexibility combined with stability and attractive compensation and benefits. Whether it is an option to work from home or an open office environment, candidates value work-life balance and retaining their individuality in the workplace.”

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