How Startups in Smaller Markets Can Attract Top Talent


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Startup meccas like Silicon Valley and major markets such as New York City have a built-in infrastructure for acquiring talent, access to plentiful resources for startups, and cultures that are conducive to launching and growing a business at a rapid pace. However, you don’t have to be a big-league startup to develop an innovative and successful recruitment model.

For startup ventures located in smaller markets, access to top-tier talent, and being able to hire them is often a driving determiner of the success and sustainability of the company. Highly active (yet sometimes overlooked) strategies to draw top talent to smaller markets include:


Always recruit for talent even when you aren’t currently hiring.

By having an “always hiring” mindset even if you’re not currently hiring, you can develop a rich database of candidates, to reference when a position does open up. To build your database, consider partnering with local post-secondary institutions and economic development groups, use your internal referral network, and attend trade shows and events in cities outside your market.


Embrace the option of hiring virtual employees and know-how to manage them effectively.

The rise of telecommuting, along with new tech tools and media platforms, have given companies in smaller markets access to talent from around the globe. To get the most out of your virtual employees, set clear expectations, communicate regularly, learn what motivates them, and make them feel part of the team.


Know your company’s unique value proposition, understand what potential employees value the most, and create benefits and incentives that align the two.

If you are unable to offer salaries that compete with big-city compensation, focus on what you canprovide, such as flexible work accommodations or fast-tracked opportunities for advancement. Beyond what your company can offer, highlight the benefits of your geographical area such as lower real estate costs or family-friendly lifestyle if you discover that it is important to candidates.


Understand your company’s needs and recognize these needs are frequently in flux. When new needs arise, determine whether existing employees have the skills to do the work, or if specialized outside help is required—even if temporarily. Build the right mix of full- and part-time employees, as well as contract workers, to create an optimal model best suited to your needs.


Though it may seem challenging for startups in smaller markets to attract talent, new research from CRBE shows the tide is changing. CRBE’s latest talent market reportnotes that competition for tech talent and affordability concerns in top tech markets have spurred hiring and tech industry expansion into smaller markets. Ontario’s city of Hamilton and Waterloo region are identified in the report as two of the fastest-growing “opportunity markets” in North America. Hamilton had a 52% gain in the number of tech jobs added over the past five years, while the Waterloo region had just over 40% growth.


Ultimately, startup ventures in smaller markets are well-positioned to attract and retain the best and brightest. Following our recommended strategies will help you find the talent that is the right fit for your company.