Running A Business

The Small Business Guide to Winning Top Talent in 2019

Jun 04, 2019 • 9 min read
Shaking hands with a new hire
Table of Contents

      In recent years, studies like this, this, and this suggest recruiting and retention is consistently among the top (if not the top) challenges small business owners face. With the US unemployment rate at a 49-year low, it’s only going to get harder for small businesses to find, employ, and maintain top talent.

      To win the recruiting war in 2019, entrepreneurs need to get strategic with their talent hunt. This guide is here to walk you step-by-step through the recruitment battle: from discovery to application to competition to retention, you’ll learn everything you need to know to build an invincible workforce.

      At a basic level, here’s what the strategy will look like:

      1. Use prevailing recruitment channels to find qualified candidates
      2. Attract and enchant with a complete company profile
      3. Get creative with your benefits and compensation

      Ready to make recruitment issues a thing of the past? Let’s get started!

      Find Top Talent with Modern Channels

      Today, it’s not enough to have a careers page on your company website and expect the applications to start rolling in. Unless you’re Amazon, Google, or Facebook or you rank as a top business to work for in your locality (and you probably wouldn’t need this guide if any of those were true), candidates will likely never find you—you must find them.

      And we’re not just talking about any ole candidate, here. We’re talking about exceptional, qualified employees who will match and surpass your job expectations. To find those diamonds in the rough, you can’t just write a polished job description (more on that later) and blast it out to every job board on the internet. Bad idea—that’s a surefire way to receive an overwhelming number of unsuitable applicants who’ll chew up your time. To save time and money, you’ll need to find a delicate balance between using hyper-focused and generic job boards.

      Industry-Specific Job Boards

      Different from job boards and job search engines list jobs for a variety of occupations, industry-specific job boards provide listings for specific types of job seekers.


      If you’re looking for freelancing talent, Upwork is the place to go. Upwork provides a platform for small businesses to find freelancers like designers, programmers, developers, writers, marketers, and legal professionals to complete specific projects. It’s a great way to test the waters and give different specialists a chance to prove their worth. Plus, if you find a freelancer you consistently prefer working with, you can always approach them with a full-time or part-time offer.

      Every month, more than 50 million developers visit Stack Overflow to find answers, share their knowledge, and build their careers. Developers and tech talent already live on, so if you want to recruit web developers, software engineers, or any other tech-savvy professional, Stack Overflow is the place to go! is the world’s largest internship marketplace bringing students and employers together. Employers can find job seekers based on whether they’re looking for paid internships, summer opportunities, or entry-level jobs in a wide spectrum of fields.


      Dribbble lets you access designers’ portfolios and profiles to find the perfect fit for your brand. You can use Dribble to post jobs and find and connect with the top creative talent.

      These sites are just a sample of niche-specific job boards. You can find similar job boards for everything from cooking to public relations to law and beyond.

      General Job Boards

      The internet hosts an overwhelming number of job sites, but the best job boards and job search engines have tools that will allow job seekers to search based on the specific job they’re looking for, location, compensation, and experience. By narrowing down applicant search results, you’ll receive better-qualified candidates.


      More than 250 million people visit Indeed every month, helping you find an enormous amount of talent in every field. In addition to reaching a massive audience, Indeed has 2 fantastic features: Indeed Resume and Sponsored Jobs. Indeed Resume helps you find candidates across your industry and location by targeting your search based on title, education, skills, and more so you can find and start a conversation with the perfect candidate. And if you’re desperate to fill a position, Sponsored Jobs makes sure every candidate sees your job posting by moving it to the top of all relevant search results, leading to up to 5 times more clicks.


      LinkedIn is a popular social media platform that combines professional networking, headhunting tools, and a powerful job board into one amazing recruitment tool. With more than 560 million users, LinkedIn boasts the largest potential candidate pool. You can use LinkedIn to search profiles, post jobs, and message candidates directly. The best part about recruiting through LinkedIn is the fact that users are regularly checking and updating their profile, regardless if they are actively seeking a career move. This feature is fantastic because it gives you an opportunity to reach a massive portion of the US workforce who are already employed but may be susceptible to change given the right offer and circumstances.


      Glassdoor isn’t your typical recruitment platform. It’s a review website where employees and former employees review companies anonymously, revealing insights into what it’s actually like to work for specific businesses. This information enlightens job seekers about what they can expect from a particular company in terms of salary, work-life balance, benefits, culture, and much more. Companies can also post job openings, which, in combination with the transparent reviews, makes Glassdoor a super effective recruiting tool. Well, so long as your reviews are positive…

      Again, these job boards are just a few of the best out of thousands. Remember, you want to hire quality over quantity, and you should take the same mindset with the number of places you list your job openings.

      Make Your Company Shine

      Now that you’ve found the talent, it’s time to entice them to join your company. This step is where you need to answer the question: “Why should I quit my job and work for you?” You have many opportunities to answer this question, but the 3 most important places are the job post, your company profiles, and your website’s careers page.

      Tantalizing Job Description

      The purpose of a job description is to filter out unqualified job seekers while enticing suitable candidates to apply, so it has to be exciting and tempting while also remaining candid and realistic. We’ll be honest—this description is one of the hardest parts of the recruitment process. It’s so difficult that even companies like Facebook end up with plain job descriptions like this:

      “Facebook is seeking a Program Manager to join our Data Center Connectivity (DCC) team. The Program Manager will be a leader in scaling DCCs engineering and design process. Providing key leadership to how we interface with technical requirements from Network Engineering and translate into physical network implementation. The Program Manager will drive success with a knowledge of network and technical operations…”

      To be blunt, Facebook can get away with this because, well, they’re Facebook. But the same dry approach won’t work for small businesses with little to no clout. Drop the cold formality (unless that’s what your company culture is actually like) and let your personality shine with a more fun description, like this one from Wade & Wendy:

      “Are you ready for your mind to be blown? Well: you get to work on creating the personality and language of our artificially intelligent hiring heroes. You’ll have to cleverly write within tight constraints, while driving an awesome, wow-ing experience for candidates and helping really dig deep into the fundamental questions about what makes someone tick. The process of building great teams is broken–do you want to fix it?”

      Now, that might be too cutesy for you, and that’s just fine—but make sure you’re adding some chocolate syrup (and maybe some M&Ms) to your vanilla job description so it makes your company shine.

      Complete Company Profiles

      One of the most important, and easiest, components of your recruiting strategy involves completing your company profiles. The goal here is to help job seekers find all relevant information about your company as quickly and simply as possible.

      If you’re going to list your company on LinkedIn and Glassdoor, make sure you fill out every available section: mission, awards, locations, benefits, photos, culture, size, leadership…everything! Do the same on your social channels, job boards, review sites—any platform where your company has a profile.

      Think of it like your experience shopping around for a specific service. You approach a company and they ask you to list all your information, including a phone number. They promise to call sometime to set up a visit and then eventually give you a quote. Another company lists all their prices online, you fill out some information, check some boxes, and you know what you’ll be paying in less than 5 minutes. Which experience would you prefer? Your potential employees are shopping around for a job—make the experience as seamless as possible.

      Captivating Careers Page

      The ultimate source of truth about your company will be on your company website’s careers page. This page is where you have the complete freedom and creativity to show what it’s like to work at your company.

      Look at Medallia’s page, for example. They have an awesome auto-playing video showcasing the inside of the company, an interactive office map, employee testimonials, messages from the founders, and social media feeds. Aspen Snowmass features a ton of culture information, as well as access to an employee portal, complete transparency around benefits, and housing information.

      These sites are just samples of what you can do with your careers page. Surprise and delight any candidate who visits—this is your chance to captivate them. But your careers page is a double-edged sword. If it’s elegant and fun, you’ll charm candidates, but if it’s lame and dull, you’ll turn them away.

      Lastly, remember to make applying for an open position easy, but not too easy. If you ask applicants for a 1,000-word essay on why you should hire them, you will turn away a large portion of qualified candidates. Yet, if you only ask for name, date of birth, and a resume, you’ll get a waterfall of applications. Find a balance. Maybe ask 2-3 open-ended short-answer questions to make sure applicants are serious and take the time to consider your opportunity thoughtfully.

      Get Creative With Your Benefits and Compensation

      The modern workforce is changing, fast! Decades ago, a week of paid time off (PTO) was a luxury. Then, not long ago, 2 weeks of PTO was pretty standard. Now, 3 weeks or “unlimited vacation” is becoming a workplace norm and employee expectation.

      In the end, it’s doesn’t matter how good your benefits are—it matters how well they stack up against the competition. If you don’t provide sick days but all the other local businesses and competitors do, then you’re going to need to adjust. However, not many small businesses can afford to go head-to-head with big businesses or tech companies with high margins. To compete, you need to find more creative, less expensive alternatives. If your business can’t afford to pay exuberant salaries or annual bonuses, consider what you can offer to compensate: flexible work schedules, remote opportunities, company parties, stock options, wellness programs, office perks (you’d be surprised what a ping-pong table can do), and more.

      The war for talent is on, but small businesses can still compete if they take a strategic, comprehensive approach to their recruitment plan. Use these simple tactics to step up your headhunting, captivate your candidates, and make recruiting an issue of the past.

      About the author
      Jesse Sumrak

      Jesse Sumrak is a Social Media Manager for SendGrid, a leading digital communication platform. He's created and managed content for startups, growth-stage companies, and publicly-traded businesses. Jesse has spent almost a decade writing about small business and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped startup. When he's not dabbling in digital marketing, you'll find him ultrarunning in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Jesse studied Public Relations at Brigham Young University.

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