B2B Marketing Blog

SMB Hiring Strategies

Nov 28, 2008 9:05:40 AM / by The Mezzanine Group

Although recruiting and retaining talent can be the determining factor of a company’s long term success, surprisingly - it is still not at the top of the priority list for most companies. According to a study conducted by The McKinsey Quarterly, 75% of executives surveyed said that their companies either don't have enough talent or are chronically short of talent. However, when asked "Does your company make improving its talent pool one of its top three priorities?", only 10% or 20% of corporate officers said yes.

For SMBs, the issue can become more daunting as talent recruitment is often treated as an ad hoc process rather than prioritized as an essential component of an overall corporate strategy. Besides, there just never seems to be enough time. In fact, a recent report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) revealed that vacancy rates for SMBs continue to grow. In 2007, 4.4 per cent of jobs in SMBs were vacant for four months or more and one third of employers were experiencing difficulties finding employees (although this may change in coming months...)

Regardless of the economic situation, SMBs sometimes feel they just can't compete with corporate brands. However, we say, rather than looking at what you can't offer, look at what you can! There are actually several ways SMBs can gain an edge on their large corporate rivals. Employees at SMBs have an opportunity to make a larger impact on the organization as a whole with their accomplishments being recognized much faster. SMB employees also gain more exposure to people at the top and experience faster career advancement opportunities. SMBs should focus on these benefits as well as the ability to provide a flexible work environment when recruiting new talent.

The challenge for most SMB’s is how to streamline the recruiting process, balancing time and resources while ensuring that top talent is being attained. One way to balance all of these variables is to explore innovative approaches to the recruitment process. A new recruitment method recently conducted at Mezzanine involved using group interviews to narrow down and select the most promising co-op student to be the next Mezzanine intern. Working at Mezzanine means working both independently and in closely knit groups on client projects – so it made sense for us to test candidates in both settings.

Group interviews are excellent for highlighting the interpersonal subtleties that simply don’t emerge during individual interviews. It is often these subtleties that underlie group dynamics and play a large role in determining the success or failure of projects. Consider things like:

  • How persuasive is the candidate at influencing others?
  • How effectively do they contribute in a team setting?
  • How do they handle feedback?

Group interviews highlight teamwork, communication, persuasion and leadership skills that are critical in determining the candidate’s contribution to the organization.

In recruiting for our intern we received overwhelming interest, and like most SMBs, time is precious for us. We needed to find the best candidates in the most efficient way. Our first step was to complete 10 minute phone interviews where we asked 1 question related to marketing and evaluated candidates against 5 criteria. We added up candidates' scores agains those 5 criteria and selected our top 5 within each category (BCom and MBA). About a week later, we broke up our candidates among two interviewers and interviewed each candidate individually for another 10 to 15 minutes before bringing them together in a group interview. During the group interview, we completed a case study, dividing the candidates into small groups to answer our prepared questions, coming together to discuss, present and debate the answers. Our experience was that some of our top picks from the individual interviews didn't shine in a group session and vice versa.

If group interviewing doesn't work for you, another way to determine employee potential is to have the candidate complete an assignment in order to get a better idea of their thought processes and intellectual ability as Mark Goodman, CEO of Twist Image describes here.

Goodman also recommends the following in hiring top talent:

  • Have people become their own ‘Centres of Excellence’ – an area they can be the go-to person on and help educate others in the company.
  • Make hiring a 50/50 process – look for candidates who interview you as much as you’re interviewing them. In the end employees who really want to work for you will perform that much better.
  • Don’t allow the function of hiring to get passed down or handed off when things get busy – you’ll get stuck in a situation with a diluted talent pool that is hard to reverse.

When competing with large corporations to hire the best people, SMBs need to think strategically. Through the appeal of a more congenial and intimate corporate culture along with the use of innovative recruitment methods, SMBs can gain an upper hand as potential employees begin to flood the market.

For more insight on talent recruitment:

Secrets to recruiting A-level talent, Canadian Business

The ultimate guide to hiring today's best employees: The new rules of recruiting, Canadian Business

Making Talent a Strategic Priority, The McKinsey Quarterly

The Art of the Hire, Fortune Small Business

Topics: General Business

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