How Should SMEs Compete for the Best IT Talent?

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MBN SME Staff Recruitment

The war for talent returns

Hunting for the very best and most talented IT staff for your business is always a tough challenge for non-technical businesses.  Recent surveys have shown that candidate attitudes have focused on finding gainful employment with larger, more sustainable businesses for the last few years.  Certainly, in our experience, a downturn tends to shrink the candidate pool as most people will attempt to ‘stay putt’ until the market picks up.  Clearly, this isn’t of help to those businesses falling into the small and medium sized demographic who may appear to present more risks of sustainable employment.

So what can an SME do?

With many smaller companies that used to have maybe a one or two person IT team finally expanding that to four or five you need some robust tactics to ensure you attract the right talented individuals.

Your job posting is your starting point and should be considered an advert with the dual purpose of not only attracting the best candidates but also branding your business. The best way to go about this is to ‘sell’ the benefits of working with a smaller company.    The principles of a less bureaucratic and hierarchical business will often help but its important to establish a message that conveys your brand values; what does your company stand for, why are you doing something exciting and why they would want to work for you.

Employment propositions are key

To achieve the perfect talent-job match, it is critical that the employee also matches your business culture – for this you need to describe your work culture, and make sure you also mention the people skills that would best match your organisation.  We find that drafting ‘employment propositions’ with our client base is one of the critical success factors for attracting and finding the best candidates.

Remember, the IT skills you require will only add real value if they can match the strategic needs in the business no matter what size the business is.  This means crafting an advert with just enough information to allow a degree of self-selection by the potential candidate.

Use your brand to support recruitment

With your advert ready to go you have to think about how the rest of your business is presented. Investing time and effort can project a professional brand image through a well designed and detailed corporate website.  This is not simply a matter of using the right graphics, colors, images and fonts. You need to set out your vision, mission, values and culture online. You can also enhance the content with team pictures, videos and pen portraits of the management team and key employees. This will add a personal touch to the website and make it look less like a faceless corporation. If your company is passionate about certain social causes, do mention that on the CSR page.  This has helped many small businesses target high quality staff normally destined for large businesses.

Review, interview, assess and test

At this stage, it will rapidly become an exercise of testing skills, competencies, experience and ultimately chemistry.  Make the most of the application, assessment and recruitment process to continue to judge the fit and determine the early development needs of the employees identified.  Use this as a method of showing how your employment proposition is designed to be different to large businesses by showing the business really cares.  At this stage, this is as much about selling to the candidate as it is about wanting to recruit them.

Put your workforce to work!

If you believe in the power of word-of-mouth advertising, then there are no better promoters of your business and your brand than your existing staff. A satisfied employee will bring you to better quality of job applicants thus saving you time, effort and money. Transparency, values, support and thanks is what the talented professionals are after in their quest for their ideal employer today.


Want to know more about how we can help?  Click here for a confidential discussion with one of our consultants who can discuss where you find such individuals and how you can truly compete with large businesses for their attention.  If you’re a potential candidate and you believe you have the right skillset to help a small business grow, contact us here.