Most small businesses and startups begin as “pie in the sky” concepts. You craft an idea, try to wrangle the capital to bring it to market, and then attempt to build a team that can realize that vision on a regular and profitable scale.

Unfortunately, finding top talent — specifically with regard to candidate engagement — is a struggle many small companies face. Small business hiring can be a tedious process, but companies that focus on engaged applicants put their big ideas on the path to fruition.

Engagement and Hiring Challenges for Small Businesses

For small businesses trying to pinpoint engaged candidates, the overarching issues usually boil down to three elements:

• Resources: Enterprise companies have every tool and medium available to find and engage top-shelf candidates. Small business hiring, on the other hand, isn’t always afforded the overhead or team to engage candidates at every step of the hiring process. Without hiring managers or recruiters following up with qualified applicants, those potential hires can grow disinterested and take their talents elsewhere.

• Capital: Candidate engagement can suffer when small businesses don’t have the finances to attract top candidates. Whereas larger corporations lead with competitive salaries, small businesses have to offer within reason and highlight other elements of the company that might appeal to quality candidates.

• Data: Aside from capital and resources, small business hiring might lack the data and statistical insights necessary for proper candidate engagement. Information that helps better source, connect, and personalize the hiring process isn’t always available to smaller companies struggling to find top talent.

Connecting With Engaged Candidates

Any of the above can help source and keep top applicants in the pipeline, but they might be in short supply for small businesses trying to identify qualified and interested talent for their openings. For companies trying to assess candidate engagement, here are three areas to focus on:

1. The questions they bring to the table. Candidate engagement comes down to a company’s ability to sell itself to potential hires. How well businesses did selling can shine through in the types and depth of questions candidates ask during different stages of the hiring process.

Sure, you’ll want to hear their thoughts on the company, its culture, and the role; but questions that show candidates envisioning how they fit into their potential jobs can be just as illuminating. It indicates these people vetted your website, learned more about what specific roles look like at similar companies, and asked questions that will help better aid their search and your company’s ability to engage future candidates.

2. The detail their answers contain. Tell me about yourself” can be a loaded question with equally heavy answers. Some candidates share too many personal facts; others go into overdrive bashing their current employer while thinking it might score them points with your business.

Companies want interviewees to provide detailed answers to such open-ended questions, but all detail isn’t good detail. When trying to suss out engaged candidates, look for those who use that question to tie back to their professional goals and personal accomplishments. These candidates already see themselves as important cogs in the company wheel, and they’ll comport themselves well with their team and potential clients.

3. The experience they offer. A good rule of thumb for figuring out how to engage candidates is to source those who have applicable traits and backgrounds. Talking with past supervisors, perusing résumés, and looking at previous documented work are great ways to start finding top talent with strong pedigrees.

But, again, listen to what they tell you. Listen to how candidates mention their past experiences during interview answers. Present situational questions that allow them to draw on past work and apply it to your current clients and offerings. Experienced candidates are already locked into whatever role they’re seeking, and they can slip right in to take ownership of any position they accept.

Small businesses may not have all the tools at their disposal to attract, engage, and secure top talent on their own. By listening to potential candidates and using their experiences as a jumping-off point, small businesses can stand out to the level of talent that can turn their ideas into big successes.



Author Abby Carter

Abby Carter // Tech Storyteller

Like most people who gravitate toward writing, Abby has a love for helping people. She takes pride in bridging the gap between people and technology, and enabling others to make sense of the two working together for a greater impact. You’ll catch Abby around town at a local brewery, enjoying the outdoors with her German Shepherd, or cuddled up on the couch with a glass of wine and her latest new read.

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