Today, a job applicant has many choices on where to focus their employment search efforts. From start-ups to decades-old, family owned businesses, to international enterprises, there are endless possibilities to consider. But do large companies have an advantage over small businesses? In some aspects they may, but that trend has been changing over the past few years.

Recent data from LinkedIn paints a very clear picture when it comes to understanding the preference that job applicants have towards the size of organization they want to work for.

While the share of job posts by small and medium businesses dropped from 46% in March 2020 to 36% in August, the share of applications actually rose from 23% to 29% in the same period of time. This shows a clear rise in the number of job applicants actively pursuing opportunities within smaller businesses over their much larger counterparts.

Note: In this study, LinkedIn defined small and medium-sized businesses as companies with 11-200 employees. Enterprises are defined as having more than 5,000 employees.

What Today’s Job Applicant is Looking for

Job Security

Times are changing – especially over the past 12 months. Job applicants who have found themselves a casualty of redundancy from a large organization may be now questioning whether job security is really just reserved for enterprise organizations with more money in the bank. And, while those who haven’t been made redundant are likely to be a little more cautious when considering a move, the treatment of their ex-colleagues upon departure may have left them wondering exactly what type of company they actually work for.

Clinical, formal letters with very little human interaction tends to be the norm when leaving a big business. Job security has always been such a strong pull for many job applicants. With this seemingly disappearing due to COVID, people are focusing on other key factors when applying for jobs.

Purpose-Driven Work

Over the past several years, a greater value has been placed on work itself. With so much time to think about what is really important to them, many professionals are now shifting their focus from money-driven work to work that is driven by purpose.

This also translates to job applicants placing much more emphasis on joining a business with strong ethics and values, so start-ups or smaller companies with a strong mission and vision statement are likely to catch the eye of those whose preferences are changing.

Even back in 2018, research showed that the natural strengths of small businesses were more aligned with employee desires than those of large organizations. The study asked employees at both small and enterprise companies what they cared about most when considering the Employer Value Propositions (EVPs) of a new job. Those considering opportunities with small businesses cared more about companies with a purposeful mission, having a role with a meaningful impact, and open, effective management. All values much more likely to be found at smaller companies.

Progression Opportunities

As reported by LinkedIn, candidates joining smaller organizations are 34% more likely to be moving into a promotion than those joining larger companies. The “get stuck in” ethos of a start-up often means hiring technically skilled people and progressing them through the management ranks. Job applicants who are seeking a new challenge in a management capacity are 74% more likely to be moving into a management role when transitioning from a larger business to a smaller organization, than those opting for another direction.

So while salary or benefits packages may not necessarily be so competitive with smaller businesses, job applicants are increasingly willing to see the long-term gain of joining an organization that’s willing to offer them the professional development they’re looking for.

Broader Responsibilities

It’s well known that working for a large organization can often cause individuals to feel like a small cog in a big wheel. This doesn’t mean that the job or role isn’t important, it just means that employees can often end up being squeezed into quite a small hole when it comes to the breadth of their duties and responsibilities.

For example, a Finance Manager in a large corporate business may only be looking after one business unit and therefore only sees a very small piece of the “pie” as far as the wider business is concerned. In contrast, the same role – or same job title, at least – in a smaller organization, is likely to provide this same individual visibility over a far wider scope of information and provide them with more autonomy to make decisions over the areas that they are involved in.

While some people enjoy being part of a global team, many job applicants want to safeguard their careers against future uncertain times and this means learning new skills by being given the opportunity to broaden their responsibilities in a smaller business. In larger businesses, someone is often left waiting for their boss to leave before being given an opportunity to pick up a new project or eventually step into their shoes. In smaller organizations where employees are likely to cover a broader range of duties, there’s a better chance of being able to get involved in activities that were previously out of reach.

Now is the Time to Hire

If you’re a small organization which has historically struggled in your recruitment process to compete with the corporate giants when securing talent, now is the time to be casting your net out again. In a market where so many exceptional job applicants have unfortunately found themselves out of work, you’re in a fantastic position to really sell your company’s mission and values in order to attract applicants who are not only highly skilled, but also fully embody the culture of your company.

Curious if your talent acquisition methods are on the right path? Contact us to discuss your current approach and where you may have opportunities to enhance your process.

a guide to the recruitment process