Five Ways a Small Company Can Attract Talent

By Gary Perman

Are you feeling the pain? Is the lack of skilled talent for your open positions bleeding you dry? Even the amount of responses to your job postings is minuscule, and most resumes don’t even come close to the skills and experience you need to get the job done.  In the meantime, your team is over-worked, your product development is suffering, and your market penetration is behind.

Then to add salt to the wounds, if you finally find someone that you like, you risk losing them to a job offer at a larger company.

“The shortage of engineers and the increased competition among corporations for top engineering talent have made filling of both entry-level and experienced positions at the “Blue Oval” a year-round effort,” echoed Laura Kurtz, Manager of U.S. Recruiting at Ford Motor Co.

Remember the “good ol’ days” pre-recession, pre-bubble bursts? When all you had to do was post a job on your favorite job board and your in-box filled with resumes.  And I mean good, qualified resumes. Those days are gone, yet many technology executives still think that’s what happens. Yet, in reality, you post a job and you receive hundreds of resumes, but they are NOT qualified. If you are lucky, a handful are worth talking to.

“The talent market is getting very competitive, so you can’t just rely on business-as-usual practices. We have to go out and we have to seek out passive candidates,” says Ms. Kurtz.

So if talent is hard to find, and big companies are beating us out of the great talent, what will it take to attract and retain great talent at smaller companies?


Here are five important ways to attract technical talent to your company:

·         Show them the important problem they can solve.  If you want to attract an engineer, give them a problem to solve ” it’s in their DNA.  Engineers are wired to solve problems and want to make a difference in the work they do ” create a product, solve a problem, and make something better.  Small companies can use those basic human characteristics to attract engineering talent to their company and use it to keep them. If you want to attract a sales/Business Development pro offer then a challenge, as well as the ability to earn money without capping their ceiling. Great sales people are competitors and love a challenge; to better their numbers, to hunt and conquer new territory, to win new customers. To accomplish what others have not. Show them how they can achieve this.

·         Assess your staff and then assess new candidates with “Core Value Influencer Assessments.” Behavioral and Value system assessments are valuable tools to provide hiring managers with inside information to better match a technical professional with your existing team with closer cultural fit, worth ethic verification, and core value systems that match your team’s.  When you make a good fit in these areas, your team works closer together, they are happier, leading to longer retention.  My experience as a headhunter is that the two greatest reasons technical talent leaves a company is 1) no longer challenged and 2) personality conflicts with their boss.  Penny Fillhouer, a workforce consultant and owner of Because “Fit’ Matters says “by determining workforce “fit,’ a small company can literally save millions of dollars using workforce “fit’ hiring processes and assessments focused on staff and candidate values. Amazon, Yahoo, Integra and Hulu are among companies who have discovered successful hiring and retention using these tools. Such tools don’t have to be expensive either; many are less than $200.

·         Have realistic expectations.  Most job descriptions are written in search of a “Water Walker.’ The perfect person.  Although we all want a Water Walker, talent can do the job and excel at it while growing your company and her own career. Hiring Managers and HR tend to write a job description describing the ideal candidate and ask for the world, when in reality, you don’t need all those skill sets.  Be realistic. Hire 80 percent of the requirements.  An 80 percent employee with a good cultural and values (chemistry) fit is far more attractive, easier to retain, more motivated and will initially cost less as he/she develops to the 100 percent skill set you desire.

·         Communicate during the hiring process.  The most frequent complaint towards the hiring manager and the company? You don’t communicate!  What starts out as an honest priority to hire and interview gets set aside to put out other fires. In the meantime, we risk losing good, hard-to-acquire talent.  Once a person begins the interview process, it is only natural for them to look around to see what else is out there.  A great candidate will NOT wait for you while you go off on a tangent to put out other fires, travel or go on vacation in the middle of the interview process. We all have to do a better job of communicating. Once a hiring manager pulls the trigger to begin searching for technology talent, you MUST make it a priority.  I’ve seen too many talented professionals lost to other companies simply because the hiring manager dropped the ball”¦took too long to interview, took too long to make a decision, strung candidates along because they “wanted to see more candidates” — when the right person is sitting across from them.  This can cost companies millions of dollars in continued search, delayed projects and lost revenue.

·         Sell your company as a smart choice.  Perks are important; additional vacation time, flex time, paid time off, and others. Yet, in addition, we need to SELL our companies and the opportunities they offer.  Large companies can outpay you, out-benefit you, and provide more resources than you can. You will have a tough time competing at that level.  Do you offer career growth?  Do you offer resources a large company just can’t offer, such as an “open door” practice, input to the executive team or even the president? Bonus, equity and commission incentives the big boys can’t offer?  Or travel perks? Do you offer creative, innovative challenges, time to innovate? Ability to think outside the box?  Maybe you offer an individual office rather than a cubical.  Tell your story ” not only do you want to tell the history of the company, it is also important that you tell your story. Tell why you joined the company.  What attracted you to the company? Why do you stay with the company?  If you are the founder ” tell your successes and failures and your company growth. What challenges do you face as a company and for this position? Allow another member of your team to also meet your candidate and encourage him to share his story as well.


Gary Perman in a nationally recognized, nineteen-year veteran technical recruiter specializing in engineering and business development professionals within the alternative energy, transportation and electronics industries.  He is President of PermanTech as well as chair of the IEEE Oregon Section, and a member of SAE among other trade organizations. He can be reached at

Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button