4 Steps to building your business by hiring ‘ugly ducklings’

Recruitment can be a tricky process for any business. Figuring out where to source candidates, considering what to include in the job ad, and trying to decide what salary bracket should be offered can make the process more delicate than you may initially think.

Here, Shweta Jhajharia, of The London Coaching Group takes a fresh approach to recruiting for your small business. It’s counter-intuitive, but she reveals how advertising a job with a lower salary can actually attract more applicants for your vacancies, and how you can use this approach to attract high-potential, ‘ugly ducklings’ to your team.

In business coaching, we frequently assist our clients in the recruitment process as their companies grow and they need more staff. We even offer, through one of our partners, an add-on service of posting job ads and organising the interviews – a process we have tried and tested.

Job adverts with a lower salary can help to attract more applicants

Helping small business owners across a range of industries with a variety of employees, we have noticed something really interesting about the salary offering on these ads. When we have used identical job descriptions but only altered the salary bracket, we usually receive more applications (of equal quality) for the job with a LOWER salary.

This may seem slightly bizarre – if the candidate thinks he or she is capable of doing the job described, why are many of them not applying for the job that would pay them more for it?

Unfortunately, most candidates have no idea just how much they are actually worth. It is a sad fact that most employers have become skilled at crushing the self-esteem of their employees – especially the ones they have then let go or who have quit and are seeking out a new job.

The job market is therefore filled with candidates who believe themselves to be worth a lot less than the actual value of their expertise. Many employers have not been rewarding their staff with the pay grade that they deserve, which has fostered doubt within their employees about how much they actually do deserve.

When they see a job that looks like a similar pay bracket to what they had, they believe they can get the job. When they see a higher bracket, they instinctively shy away, afraid they are not good enough for the position – even if the description sounds like something they are capable of achieving. So they apply for the lower bracket.

4 Steps to building a business by hiring ‘ugly ducklings’

These candidates have come to believe they are ‘ugly ducklings’ that can only paddle around in the lower salary bracket. In truth, they need to rise up and realise that they are, in fact, swans with far greater quality than they know.

So how do you, as an employer, scoop up these ugly ducklings and collect a team of powerful, confident swans?

Step 1: Lower your asking salary in a second job advert

You have written your job ad and chosen a salary bracket. Now take that salary bracket and knock it down one level.

Post two job ads – identical in every way except that one is in the lower bracket, the other in the higher bracket.

This way you end up collecting candidates in both camps – the ones that already know they are swans, and the ones who are not yet aware of it.

Step 2: Compare your swans

When you have separated the actual ducks from your potential swans in your pool from the lower salary advert, compare your winners with the ones applying for the higher salary.

How do their qualifications and experience compare? How easily do they talk about their work? How confident are they in addressing problems to do with their work?

You may find that your ugly ducklings may indeed have feathers just as glossy as your self-aware swans.

Conduct your interviews, choose the ones who could be right, and then make sure you test them and find out who among them is truly the swan you require.

Step 3: Awaken the swan with appropriate pay

Now here is the absolutely critical part – the choice you must make. Your ugly duckling has applied for a lower salary – so you could technically pay them that. But if you do, you become one of those employers who is sending potential swans running from your business.

If you want your ugly duckling to realise its swan nature, then you need to increase his or her pay. Once you are confident that this is the person for the job – that they have proven their worth and expertise – it is time to value them at what they are worth.

Raise your swan’s pay to more than what the market is offering, then money will never be a reason for them to leave you. However, monetary incentives no longer work – they are merely hygiene factors. Your team members want to know why they are working – and they want to feel like they matter.

That is why this is actually a win-win for your candidate and you. Not only do they get a higher pay, but they also receive direct praise and encouragement from this. Actions speak louder than words, and the action of raising their pay above what they think they are worth says to them that they matter to you and to the company.

As a direct result, they work harder, are more loyal and more confident in doing their work. They get job satisfaction, you get a superstar team member.

Step 4: Effectively manage your swans

Most business owners stop there, thinking job done. However, incentivisation alone – no matter how good – cannot keep your swans from flying away.

To find them, you need to have a robust recruitment system and hiring process.

To keep them, you need to have an effective team management system so that their job continues to stay clear and their value obvious – both to you and to themselves. You can download this PDF, which contains a simple, but highly effective (and free) system for smaller teams, or you can use a dedicated, online task management application such as Trello.

One last important note is that even with the most effective management system, you may still see your swans taking flight. More often than not this is because of your company culture: if you are aiming to nurture swans, then make sure your company is the kind of place that a swan wants to nest in.

Align your team with your company culture, and then not only will you have productive workers, but you will also have loyal ones who truly believe in their work.

Combine those three things – recruitment, team management and company culture – and you have the formula for creating your own flock of superstars.

You can find more help in these guides;

About the author

This guide was written for ByteStart by Shweta Jhajharia, Principal Coach and founder of The London Coaching Group, a multi-award-winning business coach, recognised both by external bodies and the industry awards panels as the top coach in the UK.

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