• Recruitment

  August 12, 2016

How to Compete with Big Companies when Recruiting

Every independent business owner knows that competing against the big boys for top talent has always been a tough contest to win. With their well-recognized brands and rich benefits packages, large companies seem naturally to have what it takes to attract and retain great employees. But my experience as a recruiter suggests something else: small and midsized companies have as much or even more to offer today’s best and brightest than the major corporations do — they just don’t promote it well.

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3 min read

If you want to win the war for talent, you have to make this fundamental move: get HR to start behaving more like sales and marketing. Everyone’s familiar with the four Ps of marketing — product, place, promotion and price. My advice is to apply those four Ps to attract the fifth P: people. Here’s how.


As an employer, what are you selling? To articulate what makes your organization great and convince candidates to work for you, review the following questions:

What’s at the core of your culture? Promote your organizational vision, values and mission by clearly articulating them in your career ads, on the career page of your website and in interviews. Tell people why you are different from the employer next door.

What is your employer value proposition? Your EVP is the set of characteristics that make your company a more attractive employer than all the rest. Why would a talented person want to join (and stay with) your organization? Maybe it’s your great training or mentoring programs, rapid career advancement opportunities or unique team approach.

Where are you falling short? Employer branding is more than placing cool recruiting ads. It’s a soul-searching process that often uncovers things that need fixing to live up to your brand promise. Ask current staff what needs fixing and put action plans in place to make sure you deliver your promise.


You show up for a job interview, the receptionist is too busy to help you, the interviewer is late, unprepared, and takes a call during the interview. Not good. Candidates form their opinion of an employer before, during and after the interview process. To ensure a positive recruitment process, identify candidate touch points during the recruitment process — such as when you receive a resume, when the candidate shows up for an interview and any follow-up calls you make after the interview — and the impression you are making. What story are you telling about what it’s like to work for you?

Be sure to call every candidate who goes through the interview process and offer them feedback. Every unsuccessful candidate is a potential recruiter who will tell friends about their experience with you, whether good or bad. And while you’re at it, ask candidates for feedback on the recruitment process. What impression did they get of you as an employer? Do they have suggestions for improvement?


Placing classified ads is rarely the best use of your time or money, since passive job seekers (i.e. people who are happily employed) are rarely looking at career ads. I believe finding the right people is about building relationships and a pipeline of qualified candidates. Apply customer relationship marketing techniques to your candidates. For example, once you’ve identified a lead, stay in touch with him or her. You don’t need a fancy software program — a simple e-newsletter, occasional phone call or bi-annual candidate appreciation event ensures your firm is always top of mind.

Tourism Whistler uses a simple candidate-relationship marketing technique to market its job vacancies to passive job seekers. Interested candidates who visit its website but don’t see openings that match their experience are encouraged to sign up to receive alerts advising them of new job postings; currently, more than 600 people have registered. “This pool of passive job seekers are potential applicants and recruiters who tell their friends about our vacancies, furthering our recruitment reach to find the best people,” says president Barrett Fisher.


Candidates are shopping around for the best job fit, and price applies to recruiting from a compensation perspective. Don’t just tell candidates, “We have competitive compensation based on experience.” You need to sell the total package.

Develop a clear statement outlining base pay, incentives, benefits, employee recognition, training and career advancement opportunities. And don’t forget to describe the culture. Think “What’s in it for candidates?” and sell yourself to them. Because many SMEs cannot afford to pay the highest base salary, it is important to remember that base pay is rarely the reason good people leave. They leave due to poor leadership, lack of communication, insufficient training and limited career growth opportunities.

By applying the four traditional P’s of marketing to your human-resources strategy, you will soon attract the fifth P: people, your best source of competitive advantage. That said, a word of warning: make sure you walk the talk. If you promise applicants something you don’t deliver, you will lose them — and their referrals — forever.


Derek Gagné MBA, Owner/Operator at 911 AUTOWORKS
(please note that the original title for the article is The four P’s of hiring: HR takes a lesson from marketing)

go2HR is BC’s tourism & hospitality, human resources and health & safety association driving strong workforces and safe workplaces that deliver world class tourism and hospitality experiences in BC. Follow us on LinkedIn or reach out to our team.

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