5 Tips for Recruiters at Small Companies

Don’t let limited resources keep you from reaching your full potential

By Erin Binney May 13, 2016
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BOSTON—“In a small company, everyone makes an impact,” said Steven Kosakow, talent acquisition director at Boston Logic Technology Partners Inc., as he led a concurrent session May 3 at the Human Capital Institute’s Strategic Talent Acquisition Conference. He was referring broadly to all employees, but the statement is particularly true of talent acquisition professionals since they’re responsible for bringing in talent.

Though recruiters who work either as a one-person show or as part of a small team have limited resources, there are several low- or no-cost ways they can ensure that the impact they’re making is a positive one, Kosakow noted. He shared five tips:

1. Build transparency. “Within all organizations, but especially small organizations, transparency is key,” Kosakow said. One way you can help build transparency is by communicating its value to leaders and hiring managers and letting them know that you want to make it a company focus, he said.

Another way is to hire people who value transparency. Ask candidates to describe a time they were involved in a project and something went wrong, Kosakow suggested, and make note of how transparent they are in their answers.

You can also develop transparency around staffing changes by announcing new hires, departures and promotions via e-mail or the company intranet.

2. Learn when—and how—to say no. Have you ever had someone dump 20 hiring requisitions on your desk at once? “In smaller organizations, you can’t do it all,” Kosakow reasoned. “It’s impossible.” But if you simply say “no,” he explained, the person making the request ends up feeling powerless and resentful. Give the power back to the requester—while still setting boundaries—by asking, “Which one is the most important?”

Other tips for saying no:

  • Stick to the facts. If someone asks you to turn around a project in two weeks and you know it will take longer, say, “It will take me eight weeks to complete this project,” rather than “I don’t feel like that’s enough time.”
  • Tie decisions to the implications for the business, not the implications for HR. For example, explain that you are putting certain tasks on the back burner because other agenda items are more likely to help grow the business, rather than just saying that HR has too much on its plate.
  • Keep your “no” short and sweet.
  • Use appropriate body language. Don’t cross your arms or rub your neck, for example, because it can make you appear guarded or defensive.

3. Hire the right people. Predictive index tools can help you build a persona of what the perfect hire looks like in a given position, Kosakow said. But make sure you’re not just “looking line-for-line on a resume, because intangibles are just as important” as, say, where the candidate went to school, he advised. Qualities like grit and the ability to connect won’t come across in a resume, for example.

In addition, take advantage of all opportunities to “sell” the company—whether at a conference, a meetup group or another gathering. Since small companies typically lack name recognition, widely sharing information about your employer may help expand the applicant pool, giving you access to more and better candidates.

Encourage staff to talk up the company as well, and give them tools to do so. For example, remind them frequently of the perks and benefits offered by the company so that they can pass the information on to others.

4. Learn how to prioritize open requisitions. First and foremost, Kosakow said, you need to be involved in the requisition planning process early and know what the process looks like. If requisition planning happens at a particular time of year, for example, make sure you get invited to those meetings.

When requisitions hit your desk, determine how difficult each one will be to fill and which ones are the highest and lowest priority, then develop an execution plan. Tell the CEO what you intend to do and ask, “Do I have your buy-in?” This gives the CEO the opportunity to either sign off on your plan or clarify expectations.

If the bulk of the requisitions are deemed to be of the highest priority or if some are for particularly hard-to-fill positions, you may need to make use of additional resources. This doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money. Some suggestions: Tap into your network, partner with a staffing agency or bump up the employee referral bonus.

5. Address culture for branding and engagement. When evaluating the candidate experience, Kosakow said, remember that it begins when candidates start researching your company, not when they submit an application. Make sure your leaders’ LinkedIn profiles accurately reflect the company and highlight what sets it apart from other employers.

Be aware that a new employee’s first eight hours on the job are the most important, Kosakow said. Someone should take new hires to lunch on their first day and someone should show them where the bathroom is, for example. “Small things make a big difference,” he said.

Build your brand by using social media to communicate what’s unique about your culture and encouraging employees to share the posts with their networks. Include images where possible. “People aren’t going to remember the job you posted,” Kosakow said, “but they’re going to remember an image of people having fun.”

Erin Binney is a staff writer for SHRM.

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