5 Ways SMEs Can Avoid Losing Out On Talent to Big Companies

By Sophie Richards on 01 March 2023

Stones stacked in a small and large pile

​We all know it’s tough out there. Finding the right candidate for a role, at the right time, and at the right price, can feel like finding a needle in a haystack.

The odds are even more stacked against you if your business is small, new to the industry or not widely known. You might think: what can we offer that the big defence industry players don’t?

It’s true that working for a big company comes with the perception of stability, generous pay structures and ample promotion opportunities. But the truth is, every candidate is different and the opportunities that an SME employer can offer are often equally as attractive as those of big companies.

So don’t write yourselves off just yet! Here are five easy ways to wow potential employees and ensure you’re not starting from behind when it comes to growing the best team possible.


1.      Focus on what you can offer – not what you can’t (every candidate is different)

As an SME employer, it’s easy to get caught up worrying about financial compensation. Whilst it’s important to know what the market is offering and where you sit in comparison, focus on keeping your salaries competitive, even if they aren’t exactly the same.

A handy way to make your salary package look more attractive is by offering performance bonuses or the opportunity to buy shares. Whilst not rolled into an annual salary, these can make a big impact to your employees’ take-home pay.

Next, focus on non-financial benefits. If you can offer a flexible working environment this will certainly work in your favour with prospective employees. Other non-financial perks might be a strong and inclusive culture, flat organisational structure or tailor-made development opportunities.

Working for an SME almost always allows employees to roll up their sleeves and get involved in more than just the tasks listed in their job description. The opportunity for more innovation and a greater impact can be hugely attractive to prospective employees.

So in conclusion, think about the unique selling points of working for your small businesses, rather than focusing on where you don’t quite measure up.


2.      Get better at communicating your benefits

So now that you’ve identified the benefits you can offer, it’s time to shout about them. This needs to be done right from the start of the recruitment process.

At the very minimum, you should start listing those perks on all your job adverts. Don’t rely on the job title alone to hook in candidates – tell them exactly why they’ll love working for you.

It’s also really important to communicate the benefits clearly to recruiters. Recruiters are an important tool in furthering your business’ brand. They’re out there talking to the market directly while you’re busy doing other things, so make sure the recruiters are letting the market know about all the juicy goodness working for you brings.

3.      Create employee value proposition (EVP) literature to share with candidates before the offer stage

To avoid losing out on candidates early in the recruitment process, it’s a great idea to have a short document (one page is fine) for you to share. This document should include the benefits you offer, information about company culture and the career growth and development pathways, laid out neatly in company colours.

The biggest trick here is to share this document early in the recruitment process so the candidate has the information at their fingertips from day dot. This is especially important if they are considering other companies, which in this market, is likely.


4.      It’s all about the brand

Brand recognition can be tricky for SMEs. The big defence industry companies have internationally recognised brand names, colours and logos. You might think: “we’ll never measure up.”

While smaller organisations might not have the same level of recognition that big companies do, there are some simple and effective tactics for getting your name out there.

Most candidates will go online to find out information these days, so it’s important that your online presence is strong. A professional, clearly written website is a vital first step to compete with the big players. It should clearly show what you do and who you are as a business. Those benefits we spoke about earlier should be listed somewhere on this site.

LinkedIn is a heavily used tool as well, and can be a great way to showcase what you do. You can also engage with candidates directly on LinkedIn, so it’s win win.

The final way to quickly grow your brand is to partner with industry organisations or educational institutions. As an official partner, your brand might feature on promotional material and give you access to a previously untapped market. The broader your reach, the more likely you’ll attract those hard-to-find candidates.


5.      Outsource when it makes sense

A smooth (and speedy) recruitment process is vital for securing those much-needed candidates. Large organisations are likely to have dedicated HR and recruitment functions whose sole responsibility is to bring on new talent. So how do you compete if you don’t have that?

SMEs might not have the same resources to dedicate to recruitment, so it’s worth considering whether this function should be outsourced. Recruitment agencies that specialise in your area of expertise will provide you with intel and sector expertise, as well as lifting the time pressure of recruiting.

A dedicated recruitment resource allows smaller organisations to offer a similar recruitment and onboarding service as big companies, and will help you get more surety in your recruitment outcomes. A smooth process is the bare minimum you should be offering your prospective employees.


So in conclusion, follow these 5 rules to ensure your small organisation doesn’t miss out on the best talent around:

  1. Focus on what you can offer – not what you can’t (every candidate is different);

  2. Get better at communicating your benefits;

  3. Create employee value proposition (EVP) literature to share with candidates before the offer stage;

  4. It’s all about the brand;

  5. Outsource when it makes sense.

Kinexus has a long history of supporting SMEs in defence industry. For more information on the service ​Kinexus can provide please get in touch.

Photo by Vanesa Giaconi on Unsplash

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