Hiring into SMEs: how SMEs can win the war for talent

3 min read

Finding the right candidate for any position, whether it be a large corporate organisation or a small family run business can pose challenges throughout the recruitment process.

An SME is defined as a non subsidiary, independent firm and with fewer than 250 employees.  An SME can also be defined using financials; the turnover of medium organisations will not exceed €50 million and small enterprises will not exceed €10 million.

Due to the characteristics of SMEs, the consequences of getting a piece of recruitment incorrect could be major. The biggest concern is the the money and time sacrificed trying to find the right person for the role, whether this be through direct recruitment or using a recruitment agency.  Another area for concern in a smaller organisation are the consequences of bringing the wrong person into an organisation. If the wrong person is brought on board, it can cause issues with staff morale negatively impacting working culture and in turn have a big impact on the productivity of the business. 


Perceived risks and obstacles

Hiring the right person can protect a business from some of the issues related to workplace culture, however alongside the aforementioned concerns, there are further challenges that SME cmay find within their recruitment processes.

One of the main once are the challenges associated with having to compete with large, corporate organisations for talent.  Large businesses can offer competitive salaries, generous benefits, training and modern offices that most SMEs can hardly compete with.

Furthermore, these organisations might have an access to more structured and tested recruitment processes, Human Resources departments and other employees solely dedicated to recruitment. Many of SMEs wouldn't have resources on a similar scale.

What's more, it is more challenging to attract senior candidates to small and/or perhaps less established businesses. As some of the senior candidates mentioned, their concerns come down to the team sizes, budgets,  and general stability of a business.


Recruitment Criteria

In order to minimize the risks related to competing for talent or making wrong appointment, it is advisable to establish clear criteria that should be followed throughout the entire recruitment process. 

Firstly, personality is key. It is vital to define what the "right culture fit" means for an organisation looking to make a new hire. While evaluating a candidate, it's important to consider how would he/she fit with the rest of the team and whether they share the organisation's values and goals. 


Tip: Statistically speaking,  common characteristic of a good candidate for an SME environment is someone who is looking for longevity in their next position. 


Second aspect that should be considered is industry experience, which in some cases might be more important than specific set of skills (these can be acquired during first few months in the new role). Having a good knowledge of the industry might come from candidate's previous experience, it could be linked to their education or personal interests and hobbies. It is something that will support more seamless transition into the new role and it will mean that the new hire will have a good understanding of the business and will be automatically more aligned with the company's profile.

Considering all the above, my final piece of advice is to remain open, honest and flexible when it comes to qualifications the candidate might poses, their salary expectations or career background. While all these elements matter, from my experience, there is often more to the story. A candidate might not look perfect on paper but still turn out to be a great fit for the company due to their knowledge, passion and drive. You can teach skills, but passion is a priority that can't be taught.



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