Five things we learned about… recruiting for SMEs

Key takeaways about recruitment, from HRM Asia’s recent HR for SMEs Congress.

Most of Singapore’s workforce is located in SMEs, but they face stiff competition from multi-national corporations – including the big players of the tech industry – for local talent.

During a panel discussion titled “Get Creative with Recruiting and Compete with MNCs for Scarce Talent” at the recent HR for SMEs Congress (November 29-30, at the One Farrer Hotel & Spa), top HR leaders from across Singapore talked about how they’ve stepped up to attract the region’s best and brightest to their respective SMEs.

Read on to find out more.


  1. Be open minded

    “Don’t limit yourself to people within the same industry,” said Imran Bustamam, Head of Human Resources at Ninja Van. He highlighted the company’s ‘talent agnostic’ approach to recruitment, where people are hired based on whether they would be able to solve specific problems faced by the company.

    “We don’t limit ourselves to hiring people from the same industry – less than one percent of our managers are from the logistics industry,” he noted. “Rather , we hired people based on the problems we wanted to solve.”

    “When I hired my Learning & Development (L & D) person, I wasn’t looking for someone who could design L&D framework, but rather someone who could design curriculum. So I hired an ex-teacher,” he added.


  1. Groom brand advocates

    “We put a lot of focus and emphasis on our referral program, ensuring that the people who work for us are always advocating for us – not just to buy from us, but also to work for us,” said Stephanie Nash, Chief People Officer at RedMart.

    She highlighted that RedMart aims to give its employees tools and talking points so that they can share about what it means to work at RedMart, no matter if they’re out with friends or at an industry conference. She shared that employees have even been doing that with their cab drivers, who have ended up making walk-in enquiries.

    “They are constantly advocating for what it means to work for RedMart,” said Nash. “It’s a low-cost effort.”


  1. Align objectives of company and candidate

    Compensation is important, but it isn’t everything. You can offer someone a high pay-check, but if their objectives (for example, what they want to achieve over the next five years) are not aligned with the company’s, that person is probably going to leave, noted Khaifiruddin Ahmad Din, Director of Human Capital Management at Emaan Group.

    “To address this, we have introduced the career roadmap even during the interview itself; asking how they see themselves in the next three to five years, and how will being in this company help them achieve those things, and so on,” he said.

    "This helps us better align both objects and better attract and retain talent,” he added.


  1. Employer branding is key

    “Have a clear mission and value proposition for your company,” advised Mayank Parekh, CEO of the Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP). He explained that a company that is able to position itself strongly will be better able to make a favourable impression on candidates.

    “We are very active on social media, and it’s been great to get the awareness out there about IHRP, for people to know who we are and what we stand for. That has helped us in terms of attracting new people,” he said.

    “If you position yourself well, talent will come looking for you,” he added.


  1. Hire slowly – within reason

    In SMEs, particularly, the more intimate environment means that finding the right employee is crucial to the business’s success. But the panel agreed that hiring managers should not allow a slow hiring process to adversely impact the candidate experience,

    “We have to take our time in recruiting someone, but it doesn’t mean it should be at the expense of candidate experience,” said Bustamam.

    “If you take a conscious effort to inform the candidate of what you’re doing and why it’s taking so long, I think it makes for a more positive and transparent experience – as expectations on both sides are properly managed,” he said.



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