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If You Wait Until You Need to Hire, It’s Already Too Late: Q&A with Small Business Recruiting Experts

Ahead of their upcoming webinar, The 5 Step Approach to Identifying and Attracting the Right Employees, CareerBuilder’s Senior Director of Talent Intelligence, Sanja Licina, and Director of Employment Branding, Keith Hadley, recently sat down for a Q&A to discuss some of the content of the webinar, as well as offer hiring advice small business owners and hiring managers can apply today.

What’s the biggest obstacle that businesses face today in terms of recruiting the right people?
Keith Hadley:
I think small business are too reactive. They don’t typically have large numbers of vacant positions, so they go from requisition to requisition. And because they are so reactive, they don’t set down some of the basics you need to have in place to attract top talent.
Sanja Licina:
I agree. I’d also add that sometimes the biggest challenges for small businesses are the obstacles they create for themselves, such as the perception that they’re always going to lose out to bigger businesses. Or the thought that they can only recruit in their location or that there’s something inherently about them that makes them inferior to other companies; however, our research has shown that that’s just not the case. I think it’s really important for them to not use that as a deterrent to reach out to the people they think would be the best fit for their organization.

Because in many ways people are attracted to small businesses precisely because they are small, yet small businesses don’t necessarily see that as being an asset, right?
Yes, I know a lot of people who would love to find a lower-pressure job closer to home at a smaller company, where you can be a bigger fish in a smaller pond.

In your upcoming webinar, you talk about the need for small businesses to “tell their story” to appeal to job seekers. What exactly do you mean by that?
Telling your story is about understanding what makes working for your company better than working somewhere else, and then saying it aloud, and saying it with confidence. The medium could be everything from word of mouth to social media – there’s really no limit.
One mistake businesses make is talking about your company from the perspective of your products, your services, your industry, et cetera. That’s the most boring story.  Small businesses need to sit back and say, “How are we approaching talent? What is it that talent is looking for?”  A good story answers the question, “What’s in for me?” because it engages job seekers and makes them want to learn more.

Aside from the chance to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond, as Keith mentioned, what are some other assets small business can leverage when telling their stories?
I think one thing that makes small- and medium-sized businesses unique is they really are like families.  Because they’re small, everybody knows everybody else.  People are very connected, and there tends to be more loyalty in a small business because people are still very much people. And that’s a real strength.
There’s more upward mobility in small business. Smaller organizations can often offer people much higher levels of responsibility much more quickly than bigger businesses.
Another thing is that small businesses are more agile. Right now, I’m working with a big company that is just bogged down in multiple layers of decisions. Our point person on the project keeps giving us “yesses” and then coming back later with a change, because somebody above them in that hierarchy we don’t even know keeps changing things. There are so many layers of bureaucracy to navigate in bigger businesses that you don’t have to deal with in smaller companies.
Yes, and that agility also makes it easier for them to adopt trends a lot faster than other organizations, because they can implement them a lot quicker. That’s a huge strength.

Could you speak a little bit about the importance of recruiting even when there aren’t positions open currently?
Everybody gets that product marketing is an ongoing thing, and they proactively make a plan to put together a marketing presence. Small businesses need to do the same for their recruiting presence and really think of it as an ongoing thing they need to invest money in and focus on. 
Yes, I think sometimes people look at the cost of doing something, but they don’t think about the cost of not doing something. Ongoing recruitment gets more people to know about your organization. When you realize you need to hire somebody it’s almost too late, because if nobody knows who you are and what you’re doing, the time it takes to get someone good is going to be that much longer. But if you’ve already talked with people about the benefits of working for your organization, you already have a lot of warm candidates you can bring on board a lot faster.

Do you believe it’s better to leave an open position unfilled or to hire someone who’s not qualified and hope it works out?
I think it depends on the supply and demand, and understanding how difficult it is going to be to find these people. There’s data out there to show you whether the talent is out there or not, and if you see that there are a good number of people out there who you’re looking for, you need to get smarter about how to get in front of them and how to tell your story better. So in that case, my recommendation would be to wait and hire. Now, if it’s a position that’s extremely difficult to hire for, then you probably need to look at your requirements and determine what it is you’re willing to train for.
But you definitely minimize the likelihood of hiring the wrong person by being proactive and increasing the pool of people you have exposure to, which feeds back into everything we’ve talked about.

Want to hear more? Join Sanja and Keith on Wednesday, March 28 for The 5 Step Approach to Identifying and Attracting the Right Employees. They’ll discuss more best practices for identifying and attracting the engaged, passionate employees who will help your small business grow. Registration is free. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter at #cb5steps

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.


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