Hiring 4 min

How to Recruit Like the Big Guys on a Small Business Budget

January 15, 2019

Like any human relationship, bringing on a new employee is part strategy, part serendipity. But for a small business, there’s a third challenge in the mix: your time and budget are both limited.

Smaller organizations don’t always have an HR team like large companies do. Your recruiting strategies may be undefined (or scribbled on a cocktail napkin). You can’t offer huge bonuses or envy-inducing benefit packages—yet, you’re fishing in the same talent pool as companies that can offer these things.

How do you capture the attention of the best job seekers and compete with big business at the same time?

Attracting Talent to You

While some businesses may put a careers page on their website and wait for the applications to start coming in, there are a variety of other ways to attract new talent to your small business for free. Here are a few ideas:

  • Blog about it. Future employees are bound to check out your website, which means they’ll be looking at your blog for clues about life at your organization. Show them your positive qualities through blog posts (plus, a blog gives you “keyword juice” for local job hunters).
  • Be authentic on social media. The more you can show what day-to-day life is like at your organization, the more your potential candidates will be drawn to working with you. Make a name for yourself on social media, grow your following, and the applicants will find you.
  • Put it in the email signature. Ask your employees to put a “We’re hiring” link in their email signatures that directs to your “Careers” page.

The Job Description

A powerful job description can impact the quality of candidates you attract more than you may realize. If it’s too ambiguous, you may bring in the wrong types of talent. If it’s too specific, your new hire may assume that it isn’t their role to offer ideas or take on new responsibilities and end up stifled in their ability to grow and learn.

Know what you really need. An administrative assistant at a small business may describe anyone from the person who helps with basic office tasks to someone who serves as a strategic partner or project manager-in-training. Get really clear on how each role will benefit your organization, and describe these roles and their responsibilities clearly in your job descriptions.

Put “what’s in it for them” front and center.

Since you may not be able to afford fancy benefit packages or other perks like a bigger company would, highlight the unique benefits that only a small business can provide—the ability to do multifaceted work, flexible schedules, sharing in the successes of a growing company, faster advancement, or your unique culture.

Write it like a marketer. Rather than focusing on what you need out of your job candidate, focus on how the applicant will benefit. Since you’re competing for talent with bigger companies, you’ll need to make it clear that you care as much about giving as you do receiving.

Finding the Right Platforms

Once you’ve identified your needs and crafted the perfect job description, it’s time to decide where and how you want to advertise the job opening. Many small businesses make the mistake of sharing the job opening anywhere and everywhere—resulting in hundreds of job applications which can take days to sift through.

Instead of setting yourself up with weeks of extra work, move slowly and deliberately. Choose one or two platforms rather than casting a wide net. Handpick candidates on your platform of choice, whether it’s LinkedIn, Upwork, ZipRecruiter, or an industry-specific recruiting platform, and invite them to apply to your job.

And—speaking of inviting your candidates—rather than posting a job to a massive website like Monster or Indeed, seek candidates out directly. It may take a little more time, but you’re likely to get better results.

Other Tips and Tricks

Here are a few more tactics for ensuring a seamless recruiting and hiring process, even when you don’t have much budget to spend:

Forego the expensive software. There are a plethora of applicant tracking systems (ATS) and other tools for HR professionals out there, most of which are designed for large corporations who manage hundreds of applicants a day. Instead, find one that better fits your small business needs and budget (like BambooHR.)

Referrals are ideal. They say “like attracts like,” and it applies here, too. Create a simple employee referral program, or simply ask your best employees or contractors if they know of anyone who fits your job descriptions.

Don’t burn bridges. While your small business may lack renown, you can make up for it in attentiveness. Respond to each candidate right away, both when they apply, and  when you make a final decision. Keep in touch with candidates you had to reject—today’s runner-up may be the exact person you need six months from now.

Keep hiring top-of-mind when networking. You and your coworkers undoubtedly attend networking events like professional conferences and trainings. Squeeze more out of these events by keeping talent acquisition top-of-mind, and briefing your team on how to manage potential recruits.


Jonathan Herrick is co-founder, chief sales officer, chief marketing officer, and chief high-fiver of Hatchbuck, an all-in-one sales and marketing platform based in St. Louis. His extensive experience in digital marketing and sales strategies has been a driving factor in growing Hatchbuck’s sales by over 2,000 percent. A purpose-driven leader in all aspects, Jonathan has a passion for cultivating his team’s culture, spending time with his family and working to make a difference in the St. Louis community.

Guest Blogger