Finding new talent – fishing in an ocean with no net?
Updated: Feb 16
As a SME/OMB, it can be really difficult to find new talent and attract them to your business. Don’t be ashamed to say it, it isn’t just you feeling this way. Like with clients, you are competing with the large firms aka the big dogs who can apparently offer free Starbucks coffee every morning, a gym pass, office yoga classes, oodles of career opportunities AND a secondment to their flashy US offices with all expenses paid.. the list goes on. So how are you supposed to find anyone half decent to work in your business, when you can’t offer nor afford these perks?
You firstly need to decide what you are looking for and what you have to offer. From there, you should work out how you are going to advertise the role and showcase the business. Once you have done that, plan out how you will interview them and retain your new talent.
What are you looking for?
You may say “I NEED another me” or “another [insert name of key employee]” but what does that actually mean? Maybe you can’t put your finger on why they are so good – is it personality, experience, skill or natural ability?
What skills and experience do you want the person to have? Are you bothered about experience and it is more about their natural, soft skills? Write down a list of key attributes, competences and experience you want them to have and the things which are desirable. Get your team to look at the list – keep it to a list of 10 points max. Don’t forget, you aren’t perfect either so you may need to compromise on some of the essential points.
What level are you recruiting for? Do you want to consider an apprentice, part qualified or a qualified person?
Unless you really know what you are looking for, you can’t find the right person for you. You can absolutely find yourself “a” person but will they be able to do the job, stay with the business and fit with the culture? Trust me, it is easy to recruit a person but it is damn hard when you need to train and develop someone who isn’t right. It isn’t worth your time nor theirs in the long run. You want to invest your time in someone who will stick around and develop.
What can you offer?
Ok so you can’t compete with the big dogs on all levels but you can offer a shed load of business experience, career progression amongst everything else. List out these things and come up with a shortlist – again ask your team to give you their opinion. A team session to brainstorm these points would be useful as a collaborative approach is much more efficient and effective.
In my career progression, I know you can gain so much business experience in a small amount of time working for a SME/OMB. It trumps the big dogs any day of the week. In an SME, you don’t come to work to do exactly what is your job description. Let’s be honest – it’s just a guide. Ultimately, you go to work to get the job done. That job is whatever is needed by the business to achieve their goals. You may have to fill in for the receptionist as they are off that day and then jump over to dealing with a customer problem. By doing this, you gain so much exposure to different areas of the business. You also have a very busy, challenging and fun role. You will learn what you like and don’t like which guides you on how you want to progress your career. Take me – tax assistant to operations director.
If you have trained someone up in your firm, get them to do a testimonial about their experience working for you and their development path. Potential candidates want to know what it is really like to work for the business. You can also do the same about how you train and develop your people based on your experience. A quick video interview would work for this.
To meet an employee’s basic needs, you need to pay a decent basic salary. What can you afford? Are you going to offer a bonus based on performance/goals being met and/or salary increases based on milestones e.g. training and development? My pet hate is seeing a job advert with no salary on there. Employers want to attract the person to the role based on their desire to do the job and work for the company but it can put people off as they don’t know how much they will earn. Top tip – don’t offer an OTE if you don’t provide SMART objectives which the candidate has to meet to get their extra bonus (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound). If you are going to set unachievable objectives, it is demotivating whilst easy or no objectives are even worse.
Can you offer other perks? Think dressed down attire, flexible working hours, bring your dog to work, the list goes on. Try not to be too gimmicky and don’t offer things you can’t deliver on when it comes to it, like finishing work every Friday at 2 when you know you are too busy for that most weeks!
How are you going to advertise for the role and showcase your business?
It is kinda like writing content for your website; telling potential clients why you are the best accountant ever and why they should work with you. Tell them what your business is all about and experience they can get. What is the culture like, what can they expect from working with you, what do you offer to staff, what do your staff say about working for you….
When you have decided about what you can offer and why they should work with you, how are you going to advertise the role? Boring job adverts in the same old format don’t work anymore. You could do a few videos which are effectively your job advert – people like to get to know you and work out if the business is for them.
Now what’s the best channel to advertise your role… where do your candidates hang out? Are they likely to be social media users, tend to look at job boards… Not going to uni, Kaplan and other apprentice providers have great websites and unique ways to advertising apprenticeships.
How are you going to interview applicants?
I suppose you need to start by working out what you want to find out from them, what you want to test and what you want to explain to them. If it is all about personality, one face to face may be sufficient. Perhaps you want to test their personality – there are plenty of personality tests out there which you can ask them to do to find out more about them. CrystalKnow is a good one for understanding the person’s character more which can help you stay objective in the interview, and can help you consider how you interview the individuals to get the best possible result.
Do you want to meet them face to face or over video? You could consider doing a Skype video call during an evening when candidates are free.
How quickly do you want to recruit? What are your turnaround times? You may lose the best candidates if you don’t make a fast decision or move them to the next stage quickly enough – good candidates get snapped up quickly.
Is a test required? If so, what and how will you test them? If the role requires a certain type of skillset, do you want to test them by using an example task and see how they get on? If they need to prepare for the test, you need to tell them what to prepare for and by when.
What do you want to ask them? You don’t have to stick to the formal, boring standard interview questions – what do you really want to find out about them?
Finally, how are you going to retain the staff?
When you have finally found the perfect person, you need to think about their development and training. How will you induct them to the business, train them for their role and develop them in the future? You could consider asking an excellent team member to be their mentor so they have regular catch ups and learn from this person. This person could be the one who draws up a programme based on their experiences. You can’t just send them links to a few online training courses and dump a few books on their desk anymore. You have to accept it is going to take investment of time, resource and money to make this happen. At the end of it, you want to retain them.
Whilst money makes the world go round, it isn’t everything so pay rises may not tick all of the boxes. Take time to understand and get to know your new talent to see what works for them. They may be in it for the learning and development or enjoy the success of doing a good job. You need to develop a plan based on them as one size doesn’t fit all.
Good luck fellow business owners – you have got so much to offer to new talent. Go out and fly the flag for SMEs/OMBs.