How to Make Your Business More Attractive to Top Talent

Looking to bring aboard the very best at your company? Here’s what you need to know.

Hiring is one of the biggest challenges facing any kind of company today, especially for startups and pioneering tech companies that earn revenue through new technology. More companies than ever are fighting for their share of the best and brightest in the candidate pool.

Yet thanks to the worldwide effects of COVID-19, many people are rethinking their careers. Some have decided to leave the workforce, while others have advanced their skills in a way that makes them more valuable to modern businesses.

It doesn’t matter what industry or city your company operates in – there are a few key tenets to think about if you want to make sure you attract the people your organization needs to accelerate its growth.

Clearly Define the Role

Before you think about publishing a job post to a hiring website or even informally tapping your network to see if they know anyone that may be a fit, get specific about the kinds of things you need for your new hire.

Do your best to define the job role as narrowly as you can. Even if you’re not 100% sure that a skill will be needed, include it anyway – you can always change it if necessary, and most people seeking out employment at a startup or modern business understand that their job description may change over time. In fact, they likely view that as a positive (we’ll get into this more in another section).

As you’re defining the role, think about questions like:

  • Where will the new hire be expected to work?
  • What are typical working hours at the company?
  • Which skills are must-haves for this role?
  • Which skills are nice but not critical for the role?

Research compensation

Compensation may be the most important element in attracting high-level talent to your company. For better or worse, money is a major motivator when it comes to hiring decisions on both sides of the table.

The key to offering a competitive compensation rate for your business is understanding the real data. You can’t just take an educated guess or try to calculate how much you can afford to pay based on the expenses of the rest of your operation.

The top job candidates aren’t concerned about how much your business can afford to pay for a role – they’re simply looking to get the highest compensation possible.

You can try to attract people with other elements of the job, like talking about your company’s mission or philosophical views. But no matter what else you can offer, research indicates that compensation ranks among the top considerations candidates make when deciding whether or not to accept a job.

Offer equity or stock interest

You may be a new company lamenting a lack of capital available to invest in offering high-end compensation for the role you need to hire. Luckily, there is an easy solution: offer a percentage of interest in your business, or some kind of attractive stock package that allows a new hire to own an interest in the business.

While business owners with a more traditional approach may recoil at this idea, it’s commonplace at most of the top startups around the world. Although it may slightly decrease the financial benefits the business brings for ownership, it also helps motivate employees to do their best work possible once they are brought aboard.

This idea, popularized by business and investing experts like Warren Buffett, is referred to as “skin in the game.” It’s the idea that higher performance results in part from people involved having a larger stake in the outcome. In other words: when a company’s interests align with the interests of the employee, they are more likely to increase performance.

One additional bonus to this approach: if you ever plan on exiting the business or raising funds from investors, it helps to show that you and the top executives at the company have skin in the game.

Give them autonomy in building the role

Besides compensation and being part of an innovative company that is pushing the envelope forward in their industry, one of the other most desirable traits in a job role is autonomy. Most people want to be able to work without having someone micro-managing them.

But as an employer you can take it to the next level by not only offering autonomy in how their role is managed, but how it is defined from the outset. This is one advantage enjoyed by startups and other companies that participate in new and/or rapidly-expanding industries. As a company grows, it may find itself reaching uncharted territory with the kinds of job roles that not many other companies have had before.

This language should be expressed and reinforced multiple times throughout the hiring process: in the initial job description or listing, during the interview, and even after a hiring decision has been made. Research indicates that having control over the kinds of tasks and projects a person handles at work will make them more engaged and ultimately result in better performance for the company.

Start with a paid trial

It’s easy to have a successful phone or video interview with a top candidate who has an extremely impressive resume, great experience, etc. However, you can’t truly know whether or not a candidate is a fit for the role your company needs until they’re actually working with the team.

By the same token, those who are looking for a job may be impressed by you and your team throughout the hiring process, but will not know whether or not the job is a fit for them until they get started. The top job candidates on the market will not be interested in wasting time at a role that isn’t a good fit for them. This is why the idea of paid trials has taken off, particularly if you are looking to bring on an independent contractor or similar role.

To execute a paid trial, simply come up with a few tasks you can envision a new hire working on once they are brought aboard, then create simulation projects for them. For example, you might have a project manager coordinate deliverables between multiple parties involved in a task, or create a hypothetical brief for a creative hire.

Whatever kind of trial you decide to run, it shouldn’t be excessive – the tasks required should take an hour or two at most, and remember to compensate applicants for their time. Also, leave the paid trial until the final step of hiring. It should be more of a final confirmation that you’ve made the right decision on who to bring aboard.

Last word on bringing aboard top talent

The biggest shift you can make to help your company attract top job candidates doesn’t involve writing your job description a certain way, or tapping into a specific part of your network. It’s more about your perspective. You have to think about hiring as if you were in the candidate’s shoes. What elements of a job would be most important for them? Try to leave all of your pre-existing notions about your company and the position aside as you answer this question.

In today’s era of digital remote work, there are lots of opportunities for an agile company to swoop in and take some of the best talent from competitors with much bigger brand names. If you can meet the needs of the people you’re trying to attract to your business, you’ll have a much easier time accomplishing your goals and better serving all customers.

Raj Kunkolienkar
December 7, 2021

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