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'The bottom line is that when you're in the suburbs, the talent pool can be limited...'

Danielle KaneWhen you're a business owner looking for the right talent, it can be tricky, especially if you're in a smaller market. The war for talent is real, but Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific is here to offer some advice.

For many business owners near the Portland metro area, access to high-quality candidates is a bit better than those businesses located 20 or 30 miles out in the suburbs. And though it might not seem that far out, employee trends over the last few years have shown that being close to an eclectic mix of amenities, public transportation and shopping is increasingly important in job decisions.

If you're wondering, yes, millennials are to blame. This food-savvy, city-slicker generation doesn't want to settle down in the suburbs, and this is impacting the talent pool in smaller areas.

So, what should business owners do to attract local talent?

Seek referrals — Turn to your key players in the organization and ask them if they know of any friends looking for work. Incentivize your current employees to tell their network about your business by offering a signing bonus to employees who refer a job candidate. The bonus is payable after the new hire completes his or her probation period.

Pay attention to your job board posting — Many qualified candidates abandon job applications because the process takes too long or the online application is complex. At this stage in the process, you should be making your business seem enticing –the job posting should be easy to find and the application should be user-friendly.

Network in person — In today's digital age, don't underestimate the value of talking face to face. If you're looking for local talent, you need to attend local events! Make sure you're engaged with your Chamber of Commerce for morning or after-hour events where you can meet potential candidates.

Broadcast your company culture — This one is especially important in a smaller market. If you're competing with employers in the big city not too far away, you should showcase what your business has that others don't. Tell your brand story. Use social media to show potential candidates what it's like to work at your small business. Utilize marketing techniques that highlight your business' community involvement and employee engagement. All of this allows potential employees to envision the feel of working for your small business, and hopefully, attract the type of person that aligns with your values and mission.

Finally, there is one more strategy to consider if you're a business owner outside of the city: Does your new employee really need to be in the office? If you're struggling to find someone to fill a position, consider whether this position could be done remotely. Perhaps the right person can do the job from the comfort of their apartment in downtown Portland.

The chief executive officer of Upwork, Stephane Kasriel, proposes that geographical limitations are a thing of the past and encourages business owners to build out a remote workforce. She notes, "The solution is simpler: Hire more people outside of big coastal cities. Just don't ask them to move."

The bottom line is that when you're in the suburbs, the talent pool can be limited simply based on the number of job seekers in your community. BBB's tips can help your small business not only recruit, but retain, the right employees.

Danielle Kane is Portland marketplace manager for Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific, covering Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii.


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