SMEs are expected to drive much of the forecast jobs growth over coming months as the economy continues to pick up.

But recruiting the right people has always been a challenge for growing businesses, who often can’t compete with larger organisations when it comes to salaries and benefits. Indeed, in a recent survey conducted by Conference Genie, over a third of SMEs from across a variety of sectors identified recruitment as their biggest HR challenge.

As a new report from the CIPD (Recruiting and Developing Talented People for SME Growth) points out, recruiting the right people is imperative. An applicant tracking system can help with this. A wrong hire not only costs the business money, but can also be extremely disruptive. It suggests that SMEs, however, may need to be more creative about the way they build their employer brand and attract new recruits.

Here are some suggestions to help your business stand out from the crowd and attract the best and brightest talent:

Build your social media presence

Your LinkedIn page is often the first place prospective candidates will go to check you out, so make sure it is engaging and up-to-date. Facebook and Twitter are also a great way to spread the word about job opportunities so you can attract the widest pool of candidates. Make sure the messages you put out emphasise what’s great about working for your business – and if you can come up with a clever campaign that goes viral, all the better. Don’t just focus on social media when you have a role you need to fill; keeping an active presence will help you build a community of people who feel connected with your business and could well turn out to be just the talent you need at some point in the future.

Focus on Values

Making sure the people you bring on board are a good fit with your culture and values is key to a successful hire, so don’t forget to talk about your values in your recruitment campaign. The Generation Y employees entering the workplace now place particular emphasis on working for companies whose ethos they share, so spend some time thinking about the messages you want to convey about the qualities and behaviours you value and what’s it’s really like to work for you.

Nurture your reputation

In today’s digital age, there is nowhere to hide – and paying attention to your reputation as an employer is vital. Sites like the Glassdoor (a kind of Trip Advisor for business) make it easy for people to find out what you are really like to work for and how well (or otherwise) you manage your recruitment process). Entering awards can be a good way to build your reputation and get formal recognition as a great place to work. But it’s how you treat people that will really make the difference. Treat people well and word will get around. Treat them badly, and the information will spread like wildfire.

Use your employees as ambassadors

Happy employees are your greatest advertisement, so try and think of ways you can use them in your recruitment efforts. You might consider putting interviews with graduate employees on the jobs section of your website for example, or producing videos or podcasts with employees talking about what it’s like to work for you. Don’t just limit the content to career-related information. Research has shown that many people also look at the social opportunities offered by potential employers, so if your business has clubs or societies or a lively programme of social events make sure you talk about those too.

Emphasise opportunities for development

People are often attracted to SMEs because they perceive there will be greater opportunities to get closely involved in the business and develop a wide range of skills with talent management. If your business believes in developing people and giving them opportunities to get involved in projects or secondments, ensure you highlight this in your conversations with candidates. A people management software can help with tracking training and development. Sometimes, ambitious people will forgo the bigger salary and corporate trappings for a vibrant and exciting environment where they will be able to grow fast alongside the business.

Build external links

How well known is your business in its local community? Getting involved in local chamber, charity or networking groups can help you build your reputation and provide another vehicle for spreading the word about the kind of people you are looking for. Building links with local schools, colleges and universities is important too – it will help you build a community of prospective employees who know what you stand for and may want to come and work for you in the future.

What do you do to attract the best candidates to your business? We’d be interested to hear your views.

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.