The mistakes small businesses make when recruiting and how to avoid them


Every small business understands the key to growth lies in its people – the driving force. By hiring the best talent, small businesses know they can become much larger businesses by outperforming their competitors and pouncing on new opportunities the moment they arise. Sounds like a straightforward growth strategy but, it turns out, it’s not so straightforward to put into practice. 

According to Chris McDonald Managing Director for job site Indeed in Australia, many Australian small businesses aren’t competing on a level playing field with their larger counterparts when it comes to recruitment, and they could be missing out – unless they change their ways.

A set of uniquely ‘small business’ challenges

Chris says small business employers are often challenged by a lack of experience in the recruitment space. “They’re usually very intelligent people who know how to run a business well, but have little knowledge when it comes to recruiting for new roles.

“Sometimes, they don’t really know what they’re looking for”.

And there are other obstacles standing in the way of small businesses and the best talent. Chris says many job seekers are looking for well-known brands or names to bolster their CV. “So, they need to be convinced as to why they should be joining a small business or startup when there are bigger businesses offering huge benefits.”

A crowded recruitment advertising space also creates a lot of “white noise” for small businesses. Many of these businesses have experience using traditional advertising platforms, but they’re usually left spending huge amounts of money with very little result.

“It’s unattainable for small businesses to be paying over $1,500 per job ad with no idea why their job posts haven’t performed,” says Chris.

“Big recruiters with big budgets will also happily post job ads multiple times on advertising platforms that allow them to do so – just to ensure smaller businesses are drowned out.”

While these recruitment challenges are experienced right across the small business sector, some industries are feeling the pinch more than others. Chris says “IT, for example, is struggling more than any other industry because there’s a huge mismatch between the amount of jobs on offer and skills available”.

So, in this increasingly digitised job marketplace, it’s never been more important for small businesses to step up their game in the quest for talent.

Common recruitment mistakes to avoid

According to Chris, it’s essential for employers to understand what skillsets are available on the market before advertising for roles. Chris says far too many employers are searching for candidates with multiple areas of expertise simply because they can’t afford to hire multiple people. “And it’s very hard to find those people”.

“It’s about going through the reality of what’s available to them and understanding what skills they need to compromise on.”

Most small business employers also don’t know how to make themselves stand out in the market when it comes to creating their job postings.

“One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make when crafting job ads is not telling people why they should pick them,” says Chris.

“A couple of years ago, there were more job seekers than opportunities, so they were less picky – but now, there are so many jobs compared to skilled people, you’ve got to tell candidates exactly why they should choose your business in the copy.

“The cost of failing to do this isn’t just financial – it’s also a waste of time waiting for someone. You could easily have 200 people looking at your ad and no applicants if you haven’t convinced them why they should work for you.”

Indeed, there’s an art to creating the perfect job advertisement, but above all, you need great copy to get ahead of the rest. Chris says job advertisements need to resonate with target candidates to stand out.

“By highlighting all the reasons why people should want to work for you, people will click on your post over an employer who has been using the same job copy for the last five years – because it sounds so much more exciting”.

Increase the chance of success with a robust advertising strategy

According to Chris, it’s crucial for small businesses to be across the competition and build an awareness of other roles being offered to job seekers at any given time – because “employees today are turning down opportunities for better offers”.

Employers must know their target audience too. That could mean searching through a database of resumes to get an idea of real-life candidates who would be right for the role and understanding what they’re looking for.

“Look at all the keywords and background skills, then make sure all of that is reflected in the job copy you create. You’re not just looking for the skills you found on a Google search for that field.

“It’s about knowing the keywords your target candidates are searching for because if you get that right, your job post will be a viable contender to any larger competitor in a list of results” says Jessica.

The importance of career development to today’s job seekers shouldn’t be underestimated either. People are looking to expand their skills and experiences with opportunities that promise a clear pathway for growth, which means employers must respond accordingly.

“Highlight how employees will be able to grow with the business because there are bigger players in the market that will be offering clear pathways towards career progression”, says Chris.

“Employers should have a solid understanding of the duties each role will entail and the career pathway. If they don’t demonstrate this in their job posts, they will lose candidates to employers who present a two or three-year path for their employee.”

And don’t forget the small things. Commonly referred to as “company culture”, Chris asserts people are looking for jobs that reflect their lifestyle. Whether it’s Friday drinks, hot-desking arrangements, or regular sporting or social activities – these seemingly insignificant details can play a huge part in a person’s decision to click on a job post.

“And at the end of the day, it’s going to cost a lot more in the long run if you fire someone and start again because you haven’t placed enough importance on the culture element right from the start,” says Chris.


About the author

Chris McDonald is the Managing Director of Indeed, Australia and New Zealand.