How to Overcome the Hurdles of Hiring to Smaller ‘Big Cities’

By | June 28, 2010

Regardless of a high unemployment rate, top talent will always be in demand among insurance organizations. If your company is based in a smaller city, you may face obstacles such as a limited local talent pool and competition from major metropolitan areas. Don’t settle for subpar talent. Combat these challenges by finding the best talent within your city, while making your organization stand out from similar companies in larger cities.

Recruiting Top Talent Within Your City

Build your brand. Does your company have an employer brand? Can your current employees explain to an outsider the values your company upholds, as well as your corporate culture? Create a cohesive corporate brand and promote it in everything you do. Your corporate brand should be infiltrated throughout all of your company brochures, Web site, job postings and any outside correspondence — and not just when you are actively recruiting.

Internal employees, as well as those in the surrounding community, should know who you are and what you stand for. What comes to mind when the people in your community hear your company’s name? Is your organization known as a friendly company that people enjoy working for or a large company that treats its employees as numbers? Is it a company that is involved in the community or a company that no one knows about? Make your contributions and corporate advancement opportunities known. Openly share your values and mission, as well as exciting events taking place in the company.

Enlist corporate ambassadors. Your human resources department is the face of the company in the initial stages of recruiting. These individuals should serve as brand ambassadors and be able to share – with genuine enthusiasm – what makes your company unique. Your human resources department should attend industry events and constantly be making contacts and spreading the goodwill of your company. Additionally, management – and not just senior management – should be involved in local community networking groups and associations to promote your company’s message. Even if you are not currently hiring, this will ensure you have a go-to list of candidates when opportunities become available.

If your human resources team does not have the capability to continually be networking, partner with a firm who can serve as a third party brand ambassador. Make sure that those who are representing you are well-versed in your company, share only honest and ethical information, and are knowledgeable in answering questions on your behalf.

Look both in and outside of the industry. Be open-minded in your search for top talent. Depending on the size of your community and the competitors within your city, you may need to consider hiring outside of the insurance industry. What kind of education, background and training does the role require? Consider professionals from industries such as banking or finance who may have easily transferable skill sets.

Recruiting to Your City

Be an ambassador to your city’s brand. In addition to promoting your employer brand, it is equally important to embrace your city’s brand and attributes when recruiting from a national talent pool. It is always difficult to get people to relocate. The current economy and housing market does not make it any easier.

Partner with your chamber of commerce to learn the city’s brand and the attributes that may be enticing to potential residents. Be able to quickly articulate what you love about your city, as well as what it has to offer candidates who are in various life stages. Learn the average home costs, and be able to provide that information to potential candidates, along with information on popular neighborhoods and school systems. Enlist current employees with similar lifestyles to take the candidate out to dinner and discuss any concerns he/she may have regarding quality of life in your city.

Consider national recruiting firms. If your search is nationwide, you may consider partnering with a recruiting firm that has a national presence. This will give you the tools to quickly reach candidates from around the country who have the desired skill sets. You will be able to screen more candidates and quickly select those who are qualified to interview. Make sure that anyone who is leaving messages for candidates, completing phone screens or posting ads is also able to convey the value of your organization and community.

Be able to make a solid offer. This may seem like a no-brainer, yet often companies recruit for a position and then spend an additional month determining salary and benefits. If you string a candidate along as you seek internal approval and debate details, he/she will go to another employer who is able to quickly extend an offer, complete with salary and start date. Prior to interviewing candidates, make sure that you have set expectations for salary and relocation packages. Know what you are able to negotiate and what is set in stone.

While it can be challenging to competitively recruit from major metropolitan areas, with the right positioning and outreach, recruiting to smaller cities does not have to be a daunting task. Promote your company and location in everything you do. The key to recruiting involves developing a solid strategy and not being afraid to execute.

Henry is senior vice president of The Jacobson Group, a provider of staffing and search services for the insurance, healthcare and financial services industries. Phone: 800-466-1578. E-mail:

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