By: Samantha Allison on May 27th, 2021

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5 Ways to Hire Candidates When You Can’t Pay Top of the Market

Total Rewards | Talent Acquisition

In today’s candidate-driven market, there is a stigma around securing elite candidates, and that it takes paying them top dollar to come to work for your company. And if you cannot, then your pool of prospective employees starts to dwindle.

I am here to tell you a little secret, and that is, money is not always the most critical factor in the job decision process. Money is negotiable, but what is harder to change and what can really determine a company’s success, are things you cannot put a dollar sign on. There are many ways to attract candidates to your company without paying top of the market. 

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5 things that matter to candidates when seeking a new employer

Here are five ways you can position your company and your open positions to attract prospective candidates:

1. Your Culture

A company’s culture is their heart and soul of the business. It is how your business identifies itself in the marketplace. And in recent years, culture has become a hot topic within the workforce. Because it is an intangible that can essentially make or break a company, companies are focusing a lot of their money and attention on this area.

When you consider eight hours a day, five days a week, you are spending your time working in this environment, it is essential that your employees enjoy it. Because if they do, the result can make a hugely positive impact on your business and can have the power to attract new employees to come work for you.

According to Glassdoor, “employees rank among the most trusted influences when communicating about their company’s engagement and integrity. You might be doing compensation right, but if employees disagree, this could affect your employer brand.”

In order to stand out from other companies, make sure your employer brand and culture is known for a place people want and love to work. Focus on building employee relationships for a stronger team and engaging recognizing and rewarding employees. Make the workplace a comfortable place to give and receive feedback by proactively communicating, listening, and being transparent. Inspire your employees with a compelling mission and purpose, and stay true to who you are. Your company values can make your business a place where people will want to be a part of (regardless of money).

While your culture can help you to attract, it can also be a major detractor as well. If your culture does not reflect positively, it can cause a domino effect. Does your company have a reputation or are there reviews out there online (i.e., Glassdoor) that don’t reflect positively? If that’s the case, it may be time to give attention to improving your culture and employee experience.

>> Download My Free Guide to Executive Recruitment <<

2. Professional Growth & Development 

Professional development opportunities and the ability to grow within the company can be just as important, if not more when securing high performers. A poll by Gallup found that 87% of millennials feel that career growth opportunities are an important quality to find in a position. And with the millennial generation making up the largest population in the U.S. workforce, professional growth and development are key components to focus on.

Generally, large corporations with the capital to pay top dollar, tend to have more restrictions regarding opportunities for growth and a more generic way of working on professional development. This gives smaller businesses the opportunity to take advantage of this potential. As a small business, you have the flexibility to essentially create a wide range of growth and professional development opportunities depending upon your employee’s interests. As an employee, you benefit from getting exposure to develop and train in areas you may not get in larger organizations.

3. What Makes You Unique?

Think about what makes your business special? Why is your company different to work for? Is it your mission? Is it that you lead the market with innovation? Ask yourself, why do people really like to work here?

Figure out what makes you unique and market that as part of your employer value proposition and brand when you are communicating your story to candidates. Maybe your company has exceptionally high ratings when it comes to your employee’s trust in leadership and commitment to your company values and vision. Maybe it's your corporate social responsibility or dedication to being an inclusive employer. Leverage what makes you great and sets you apart from your industry competitors and focus your conversations around that.

If you are struggling to figure these things out, I highly recommend simply asking your team through an internal survey. Your team will help you see your strengths and weaknesses, what makes you unique, and get a better sense of their overall employee experience. Additionally, participating in award-related surveys, such as Best Places to Work, can help you attract top talent (if you produce high ratings, of course). 

4. Benefits and Total Rewards

Benefits nowadays are more than just your company’s Health, Dental, and Vision plans. And yes, those benefits are important, but in today’s day in age, a way to attract top talent to your company is by having a Total Rewards Benefits Package.

Candidates are interested in how your company’s benefits can best serve not only their physical wellbeing, but their future, mental health, and overall happiness as well. When a candidate is in the decision-making process, a determining factor in deciding where they want to work are the benefits your company can offer them. Candidates include the total rewards as a part of their overall compensation. Offering progressive or new total reward services can help sway them your way.

Your company’s benefits package is an area where you can get creative. Ideas such as paid parental leave, unlimited PTO, flex hours, education or certification reimbursement, loan assistance, pet insurance, gym perks, daycare discounts, etc. are all options you can choose to include in your company’s benefits package. Choosing which items, you feel align with your company’s values and sets you apart in the market is key to securing top talent.

5. Compensation Analysis

Finally, I know I said this isn't about salary, but I'd be doing you a disservice if I didn't discuss it at all. I'm not suggesting that you pay at the top of the market, rather consider doing a compensation analysis so you can answer the following questions:

  • Are we offering the market rate?
  • How are we matched compared to our competitors?

Knowing what the market value is for your roles is an essential part of business so that you can make informed decisions when bidding work, extending offers, etc. Having an idea of what the market declares can help put your company on a more level playing field. If you can offer a salary that's in the ballpark of the norm, you can then let your culture, benefits, professional development, etc. do the talking. 

Also, it never hurts to keep an eye on your competitors as you are competing for the same talent. Knowing this information can help you in the future in developing a scalable compensation strategy that can help you rise above your competitors in a fiscally responsible way.

In the end, many factors come into play during the candidate’s decision-making process when considering a new job. As I've shared over and over, salary is not always the primary influencer. 

As a leader, you have the ability to create a candidate experience (and employee experience) that gives them more to think about outside of salary. Ensuring candidates have a full picture of what it's like to work at your business, from your culture, what makes you unique, the growth and development opportunities available, and the total rewards benefits package is all essential in securing top talent.