6 ways to attract talent to less-than-desirable companies

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6 mins, 30 secs read time

Let’s face it—not all recruiters have the luxury of recruiting for companies that have candidates knocking down their doors wanting to work there. Whether you’re a quiet company in the Midwest or an unknown tech startup trying to make it in startup-saturated Silicon Valley, you’re faced with the challenge of attracting top talent away from more flashy companies. The question becomes, what are you going to do to stand out?

Whether you’re lacking a desirable location, a hefty employer branding budget, or the backing of a strong talent brand like the Googles and Facebooks of the world, here are 6 strategies you can implement to help you attract top talent to your organization:

1. Make some noise

If you aren’t a well-known company in your area, a great place to start is to generate some buzz! Sponsor happy hours, host tours of your space, or plan some lunch-and-learn opportunities to tell the community the cool things your company is doing, like how your product/service is changing the world or which charities or philanthropies your company is involved in. You can also use these types of events as a way to target the specific groups of people you are looking to hire. Maybe the local chapter of the Society of Women Engineers is looking for a spot to host their next gathering and you have a conference room they could use. Or, maybe there is someone on your team who organizes monthly meet-ups for those in your industry—consider hosting that group and providing refreshments. All in all, get people on site and exposed to your name and company.

Also, to get on the radar of soon-to-be grads, consider partnering with local universities to attend student group meetings. Typically, these student groups love giving their members industry exposure (bringing along pizza and swag can’t hurt either). You don’t have to market these events as hiring events, but rather as opportunities to learn more about your business or industry. The goal here is for college students to discover a new potential employer for themselves or someone they know, and it’s an opportunity for you to start networking with local talent and keep them in the area post-graduation!

2. Source strategically

Use your hiring managers as strategic partners to determine the very best sourcing plan. Not only is it important to learn from your hiring manager about their ideal candidate and what characteristics and skills that candidate possesses; it’s important to chat with them about where you might find this candidate and how you can leverage their network. Is there a specific university that has a dedicated program related to what you’re looking for? Does your hiring manager have any professional contacts who may know the perfect person for this job? Are there third party job boards you’re unfamiliar with that target this specific skillset? Don’t wait; ask.

3. Don’t be afraid to go above & beyond for top candidates

Remember: Your top candidates are likely the top candidates for other companies as well. So, go above & beyond to show them how valuable they are to your organization. Take them out to dinner as part of your interview process and make sure to cover any travel expenses they incur. If they would need to relocate for the position, offer to cover the travel expenses for their family for the interview dates and allow them to stretch out the trip for a day or two so they can get a feel for the area or scope out housing options.

It may also be helpful to strategically include other employees in the interview process or at dinner that you feel could personally relate to the candidate, whether that means similar interests (like surfing), skills (like speaking French), or backgrounds (like attended the same college or both have young children). The connections candidates make with potential future co-workers during the interview process can have a tremendous impact on whether they ultimately choose your offer.

4. Provide an amazing candidate experience

While providing an amazing candidate experience may seem obvious to you, it can be difficult to execute. The candidate experience starts before candidates even submit their applications. To start, ensure that your website has useful information about what it is like to work for your company, make your open positions easy to locate, provide job descriptions that accurately reflect the expectations of the role, and make sure the application process is concise. In my previous role as a recruiter, my manager told me to think of my candidates as my customers and to provide them with the very best customer service. Candidate experience is indicative of employee experience, so it’s crucial to provide an outstanding one.

5. Build a robust internship program

Not only can interns provide a ton of value to your team, they can also lead to great full-time hires. Build strategic relationships with local university contacts to help you distribute information about your company and potential internship opportunities. These university contacts may also help you identify students that have a specific interest in your company. Providing interns with opportunities to work with your team on real projects gives them a feel for what a full-time career at your company would be like, while simultaneously allowing you to evaluate their skills and potential long-term fit. Integrate interns into the team and allow them to make valuable contributions to the projects your teams are working on. Creating an employee-intern mentorship program will give interns the opportunity to build relationships and provide them with someone they can go to with questions and to receive feedback on their work.

To take this a bit further, consider visiting local high schools. Try sponsoring projects or academic contests related to your industry that will spark interest in those students about your company. At some point, these high school students will likely be college students looking for internships; make your company top of mind!

6. Sell your employee experience and mission

The Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is quite the buzz phrase in the talent marketing world right now, but knowing what it is that keeps your employees engaged and excited about the work they do can give you an advantage in looking for top talent to add to your team. An EVP is a statement geared towards prospective (and current) talent, describing what makes your company unique. It helps shape your employer brand and creates a clear vision of why employees would want to work for your company over another. Knowing your company’s EVP gives you selling points to discuss with candidates during the interview or closing process. Additionally, it allows you to focus your talent marketing efforts on the things you know are true about your company. In short, it’s important to paint a realistic picture of the employee experience for your candidates so that they know what to expect.

Finally, don’t be shy about flaunting your company’s mission, especially if it’s unique and thought-provoking. If your company exists to radically change the world, say that! What candidate doesn’t want to be a part of a company that could have a tremendous impact on the lives of millions?!

Final thoughts

My hope for this post is to give you some ideas on how to reach and attract talent without the backing of a well-known talent brand. The key takeaway is to make some noise and let potential candidates know you exist. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to share how awesome you are either!

This is just a jumping off point, as I am sure you all have many other great ideas. Please feel free to share them with other readers in the comments section!

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