Q&A When Hiring, How Do I Compete with the Big Guys?

Q&A When Hiring, How Do I Compete with the Big Guys?

by Jeanne Knutzen | March 1, 2016

0 HIRING. EMPLOYEE SELECTION, Management.Supervision, Temporary and Contract Staffing

Hands Up


Question – I own a small tech company located in Redmond.   How do I compete for employees against the big technology companies in our area?

Answer-   The bad news about your scenario is all too familiar.  Not only are you dealing with a huge shortage of talent in the technology field, but most of the  big guys – Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc. – all the “bigs” – have been draining the talent pool for quite some time.  They are hiring more temps, more contractors, more employees in a week than all small businesses combined may hire in the next three years.

For as much as we love having them in our back yard, our technology giants, the “bigs” have fundamentally changed the landscape of the Northwest candidate market.

The good news is that not all employees – not even the technology ones – want to work for one of the bigs.  In fact, many have openly expressed their preference for a smaller, more up close and personal work environment where they know they can make a difference.

For small employers, one of the first steps in your competitive strategy is to recognize that the Microsofts of the world may not be your adversary.  The good news is, for the candidates you want to hire, you are more than likely competing with the technology start up down the street.

Here are some things we know are important to employees who have either left jobs or have turned down job offers with the bigs, and are looking for something different.   These are things they tell us are most important to them when looking at job opportunities with smaller employers.

They highly value flexibility – work/life balance.

The employees in your target audience don’t want to work 12 hours a day.  They may have already done this for another employer, or know intuitively that it won’t work for them to be away from their families for long periods.  Target the “family friendly crowd” and you’re likely to find some employees who would welcome the chance to work for an employer who understands their family responsibilities and were willing to accommodate them.

Brace yourself – the kind of flexibility important to these employees isn’t just changing their work schedule from 8 to 5, to 9 to 6.   It means letting an employee leave early on Thursdays to go to their soccer game, trusting they will come in early or stay late on Friday to complete important work.

They want to get involved. 

“Making a difference” to your target employee isn’t just a buzzword, but at the core of who they are and why they work.  Make sure that what your company does – its products or services – is defined in terms of who it helps and how it contributes to the well being of others.  Learn how to engage your employees in doing something “big” that matters!

We’ve frequently seen even the most talented, sought after technology employees take pay cuts to work for a company who has a product or service that matters to them.  Check out the world of non profits and you’ll see what we mean.

They want opportunities to learn and grow. 

All employees want to be part of a company who is always learning, continuously changing.  They don’t want to work where a company’s leaders or its employees stay stuck behind yesterday’s news.

They highly value the personal attributes of their manager…

…and need them to be knowledgeable, engaged and personally supportiveManagers who have found and can retain the balance between supporting the people side of their business while getting product out the door, are a rare breed these days.  Those who have mastered that balance, can attract and retain the type of employees best suited for your smaller work environment.  Leave the dog-eat-dog stuff to the big guys, who I suspect can afford the high costs of turnover that comes along with that style. The candidate you are looking for is actively pursuing a work environment that is just the opposite.

They will need your pay and benefit programs to be in the ball park. 

You don’t need to lead the pack, but you have to be in the game – offer pay and benefit packages that are both fair and competitive.  Yes, some tech employees have a pattern of chasing pay, and will jump ship to work for a “better offer”.  In our mind, these are not the type of employees you should be attracting to your smaller company, where turnover of a key technology contributor can have significant impact.

They like to have “some FUN!”   

Tech work requires mental focus…and tech workers prefer environments where there is a time to focus, and a time to relax and have fun with teammates.  As the leader of a small company or team, it is up to you to create an environment where people enjoy being around each other, learning about their teammates by doing things together other than work.  The type of employee, who works best in your environment, is one who values all of their relationships, including the relationships they have with their teammates inside and outside of work.

Look for a staffing agency who can tell your story.    

Not all recruiters can tell the story of the “smaller employer” and the benefits candidates can enjoy by leaving one of the big guys to roll up their sleeves with a smaller group.  One of the ways you can compete for top talent is to find an agency partner who understands what you do, the type of employees who work best in your work environment, and is enthusiastic about telling your unique recruiting story to potential job candidates. Finding that partner who, as a recruiter, is in a position to talk with large numbers of employees and candidates with your needs in mind, can be one of the best things you can do to compete against the big guys.


Jeanne KnutzenThis article was written by Jeanne Knutzen, founder and CEO of the PACE Staffing Network, a leading Northwest staffing company who has been helping  local employers find and hire high talent employees for over 40 years.  For additional ideas on how you can tackle the current marketplace – find and hire the employees you need for your 2016 business plan – contact the PACE team at 425-637-3312 or email us at  infodesk@pacestaffing.com










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