3/20/2015 | Chuck Leddy

Talent recruitment may be the most important factor in your middle market company's growth, and getting high performers in the door, then retaining them, is a major recruitment challenge. Though enterprises may have brand recognition and resources that dwarf midmarket efforts, you'd be surprised at the effective tactics your firm can use to even the playing field.

Try these four ways to put your best foot forward when recruiting talent from larger rivals:

  1. Know corporate weaknesses. Basic differences exist between corporations and middle market businesses, and some can be positioned to your advantage. For example, huge firms are much more bureaucratic and less agile. Decisions take more time, and coordination can be complex, frustrating and time-consuming. In addition, big firms can be so hierarchical that talented employees have little exposure to C-suite leadership and thus have much less input in strategy development. Finally, larger firms generally prefer talented employees to do one core function and become specialized in one area.
  2. Know your strengths. Balance enterprise weaknesses by showing how midmarket companies differ. If talented employees want to see results faster and have a bigger, more direct impact, the midmarket realm is the place to be. In addition, the middle market's generally flatter organizational structure allows for more interaction with leadership. Middle market companies encourage talented employees to wear many hats, allowing them to improve and widen their skill set. Employees can gain more responsibility and possibly get promoted if they work as hard for their middle market employers as their corporate counterparts.
  3. State your case, and personalize it. Every recruitment target from a large company is different, and your recruiting message must use laserlike personalization to reflect this. Ask questions to explore how important it is for the candidate to work for an agile company where decisions happen fast. In other words, probe the recruit to see if they'd be a good fit for your business. If the candidate's most important criteria is prestige and compensation, then the larger company may be the best place for them. Leverage different challenges, the capacity for skills development and participation, and more impact and contact with leadership; if this piques the candidate's interest, there's solid potential for a match.
  4. Explain what makes your middle market company different. You'll need to sell your company as a great place to work, especially in terms of cultural fit and growth potential. Midmarket businesses have a much lower headcount and a more close-knit culture than large businesses. You should also position your middle market company as one that is willing to make arrangements that larger firms cannot, so be flexible by allowing talent to work from home or making other accommodations that support work-life balance. In addition, underline the growth potential in your market and how it can filter down to the candidate.

Don't compete where you're weakest (brand recognition and lavish benefit packages), but where you're strongest: in providing a broader opportunity to develop multiple skills and have more impact on decisions and execution, as well as more exposure to leadership. Also, sell your culture. If you can identify large-firm talent and make a case on behalf of your middle market company, you can bring on talented people who will work hard and enjoy being employed at your business.

Is it worth bringing in your midmarket business's top leadership when recruiting desirable talent from enterprises? Let us know what you think by commenting below.

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is an NCMM contributor and a freelance reporter who contributes regularly to The Boston Globe and Harvard Gazette. He also trains Fortune 500 executives in business-communication skills as an instructor for EF Education. Circle him on Google+.