Talent Circles

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How to Recruit and Hire Effectively in Small Markets

By Jessica Miller-Merrell 

Having spent a great deal of my talent acquisition career in small niche markets, I know firsthand how challenging it can be to hire and maintain a workforce. Small markets are complex, sometimes defy logic and are often less tech or social savvy than their big city counterparts. Recruiters who work in these markets face different obstacles than their big-city counterparts and must develop specialized strategies to handle them.

This is exactly what I experienced in 2001 when I was recruiting in Garden City, Kansas, a small, rural, farm town of about 50,000 just west of Wichita. I followed in the footsteps of those before me and promptly blew my quarterly recruiting budget on newspaper ads because it is what we always had done there and was the one thing they knew to do. With months of hiring needs ahead of me and no money left in the budget, I was forced to go back to the drawing board and get creative. Out of necessity, I got innovative and began sourcing using Internet dating websites. The traditional way of doing things wasn’t working and I needed a new plan that could produce results.

The truth is, no matter the budget, there are talent pool limitations in small markets that make you sometimes feel like you’re simultaneously barely treading water and facing an uphill battle. However, you can find things that work for your organization. Through the challenges I faced and the out-of-the-box solutions I found, I learned to love recruiting in small markets.

Here are four lessons I learned along the way:

Research the local economy
Even if you think you know the area, you may not know what you really need to know as a recruiter. Develop a relationship with your local chamber of commerce and talk to them regularly. Ask questions and understand the standard of living, commute times and what other employers are doing. Also, don’t be afraid to share what your challenges are, because they may just be able to help you develop a solution.

Talk to your employees
It seems simple, but talking to your employees and keeping an open mind could make all the difference in the world. You may discover a morsel of information that sheds light on a problem. Many years ago, a simple question transformed my recruiting strategy at an inner city store in Kansas City, Missouri. I realized after talking to my employees that I needed to recruit and schedule staff based on the bus schedule. So simple, but it was the key to everything.

Build a network
It sounds easier than it actually is, but building a network in a small market is essential since people are so connected and relationship centric. You can do so by using an online talent network like TalentCircles, or doing in-person networking. Find that one person in the community who seems to know everyone, develop a relationship, bend over backwards for them and watch the referrals roll in.

Go guerilla

Depending on your business, guerilla tactics in hiring could be a game changer. Don’t be afraid to get on the ground and get your hands dirty. In smaller marketers, I shopped for employees at competitors, handed out business cards and encouraged my hiring managers to do so as well. I even went so far as to bring kitchen design plans into other home improvement stores, not to put those design plans into action but instead to find the best talent for my own company’s home improvement store. As long as it’s ethical and effective, go for it!

TalentCircles is the most comprehensive candidate engagement platform on the market. Take a product tour or request a live demo today. 

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology anthropologist specializing in HR and recruiting. She's the Chief Blogger and Founder of Blogging4Jobs and author of The HR Technology Field Guide. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmillermerell.

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