Karin’s Leadership Articles

tract small companies

4 Ways Smaller Companies Can Attract Great Talent

by | May 6, 2015 | By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning, Communication |

There are four main reasons my MBA students give me for wanting to work for the big guys versus a smaller company: prestige, salary/benefits, room for upward mobility, and security. Tough factors for the small guys to compete with for sure. Interesting, those conversations have been juxtaposed with interviews I’ve been doing this week for a mid-sized client, as we’re looking to take their social media strategy to the next level.

Guess who’s applying? Rock stars from the big guys, yup, even MBAs.

When I ask these candidates, “Why would you consider leaving ______ (insert prestigious, high-paying, great benefits, relatively secure company name here)?” the answer is they want a place where they can move faster (less bureaucracy) and be more creative. They want to work for folks who have a strong vision, but are wide open to new ideas (ahh, the sweet smell of confident humility as a competitive weapon).

Of course smaller doesn’t always equate to faster, more creative, or a culture of confident humility, but in this case that’s the value proposition. And it’s working. Score one for the underdogs. 

4 Ways Smaller Companies Can Attract Great Talent

1. Create a Clear Value Proposition

Most smaller companies work this backward, reactively trying to piece together a competitive offer, or packaging their recruiting story so it looks good on paper. To truly attract and retain the best talent in your industry, you’ll need a deliberate plan.

Start with your vision: What’s most important to your ideal candidates? What do you want to be known for as an employer? Then do realistic assessment of your current state. Nothing’s worse than telling candidates you’re fast and creative, if you’re slow and stodgy. The only way to develop a genuine and lasting value proposition is to have a realistic understanding of your gaps.

2. Sell Your Why

Simon Sinek’s golden circle isn’t just about leadership and marketing, it’s vital in the talent wars. The best and brightest are looking for a “why” that matters. Be sure you can articulate yours.

3. Engage Your Team

The 360 interview process is working great for my client because the candidates get to talk to a lot of fired up people. If your team’s fired up, get them involved to help interview. If they’re remote, video interviews are a great option. Plus, your team will bring different perspectives and be a good gauge of cultural fit. Of course, if your team’s not fired up, you’ve got bigger issues. Call me, I can help.

4. Rock Social Media

Go hang out where the talent is. Most of the folks you really want are not looking on job boards. Showing up strong is an easy way to attract the attention of great people who might not otherwise be looking.

Does your human capital strategy need a tune-up? Give me a call for a free consultation, 443-750-1249.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Steve Borek

    Encourage companies to create an irresistible thriving culture where the current employees are raving fans.

    I recently read an article that the odds of a candidate landing a job with Google is .1%.

    Take into account the number of openings and the people applying, your chances are basically zip.

    Google attracts the best because they have an infectious culture. There are dozens of articles on the web that describes their magnetism.

    Sure they’re the leader in the their field. Though, that’s not enough to attract the best.

    To attract the best, create a working environment where your current team members are your most enthusiastic recruiters.

    • Karin Hurt

      Steve, I so agree with you. A group of my masters students just completed a big project on Google, their culture is amazing.

  2. Alli Polin

    Good stuff! I agree! A few years ago I did a recruiting audit for a small to mid-size company. To understand their employee value proposition, and what needed to be communicated the market and potential candidates, I asked existing employees “why should someone work here?” I’ll never forget the employee who thought about it for a moment and told me, “we can take smoke breaks whenever we want.” Really, smoke breaks? Sign me up! (not) No wonder they were having a hard time attracting talent, their current employees were not engaged with the culture in a meaningful way either.

    This article points to the challenges that many small busiensses face! Good advice!

    ~ Alli

    • Karin Hurt

      Alli, Wow, Love your example. Yeah, if smoke breaks is all you’ve got, you’re in trouble 😉

  3. LaRae Quy

    I love your posts, Karin! They are always based in real situations involving real people, and this is another great example!

    Having worked in both large and small organizations, I find the appeal of a smaller organization rests in the fact that my voice will be far more likely to be heard than in a large one. If you are truly engaged in the WHY of this organization, the ability to have a say in how that is executed is priceless….

  4. John Hunter

    For the right people, giving them a chance to work in an environment that lets them practice their craft and work with other very good people can be wonderful. That is what I did at a small non-profit, where our software development team was amazing.

Virtual Leadership Training Programs


Join the Let’s Grow Leaders community for free weekly leadership
insights, tools, and strategies you can use right away!

Where in the World are
Karin & David?

Other Related Posts