How to Recruit in Rural America

July 18, 2019

Ashley Meyer

Ashley Meyer

Recruiting in rural areas is a significant challenge. While a large percentage of companies have locations in rural areas, there is still a struggle to find employees to work for many of these topnotch companies.

Shot of stylish female recruiter makes job offer, has telephone conversation, connected to high speed internet, checks information in database on laptop computer, pleased to be promoted.

In the past, the unemployment gap between rural and urban populations was large, resulting in an available workforce in rural areas. Lately, that gap has all but disappeared, leaving companies searching for employees. The struggle is compounded when looking for qualified candidates with specific skills. They’re either in urban areas, not inclined to relocate or they’re already employed.

With all of these hurdles to overcome when hiring in rural locations, a traditional, contingent hiring approach, or post and pray recruiting method, is no longer effective. To fill positions and find highly qualified people for rural job openings, companies need to look at a different, more effective way to recruit this top talent.

At Titus Talent, approximately 50% of all positions we fill have a rural component.  Because we work with many companies around the country that are either headquartered or have locations in rural markets, we have a lot of experience with what works and what doesn’t.

We’ve collected some of our top tips for recruiting in rural markets, and are sharing them with you!

Recruiter Who Sells

Many recruiting companies have great employees who are experts at matching an open position with a very qualified candidate.

Unfortunately, rural markets typically don’t have a huge pool of candidates at their disposal. That’s why having a recruiter with the right DNA, who can “sell” your opportunity is so important.

Why would a candidate want to make this move?  How is this opportunity better than the one they currently have? What makes this community superior to the location they are already in? Why would this lifestyle be appealing to the candidate?

These are candidate questions that will need to be answered by your recruiter. If your recruiter doesn’t have the skillset to sell, you may want to rethink who’s recruiting for your open positions.

Develop A Strong EVP

An EVP is your employee value proposition. In a nutshell, it’s the unique benefits an employee gets for bringing their expertise to your company.

When recruiting in a rural area, this goes beyond the benefits package each employee receives. The EVP includes the positive aspects of the company, the position, and the location.

The strongest EVP assumes the perspective of the potential employee and bases “the pitch” around that person. If the individual has a family, then the safety of a rural area may be appealing, the sense of community in a small town, the opportunity to coach their kids’ little league team, etc. Each EVP should be geared toward the individual you’re looking to hire.

A Passive Candidate Strategy

For many positions in rural markets, especially those that require expertise, there is a typically a small candidate pool.  That’s why it’s so important to have a strong passive candidate recruitment strategy.

Most of the top talent for these positions aren’t sitting around looking for employment; they’re happily employed and making a difference somewhere else. That’s why posting positions or waiting for resumes to come in the door won’t work.

You need to identify who this top talent is and create a strategy to go after them.  Believe it or not, most top talent will entertain a conversation about a new opportunity if positioned correctly.

Be Transparent

Moving to a rural area can be daunting to someone who is used to the speed, convenience, and energy of urban life. To manage this best, it’s important that you’re honest with yourselves and potential candidates.

Having a very clear idea of the person you’re looking for makes the search easier. Giving candidates a direct indication of what the position entails as well as what the community offers, will make their decision easier.

Don’t try to oversell anything, this just leads to disappointment down the line and time wasted when the recruit decides to leave.

Expertise Shines

The person doing your recruiting, whether it’s in-house or outsourced, needs to understand your industry and the challenges that go along with hiring in your space.

If you’re looking to hire for an IT position in a rural community, not only do you need expertise in rural recruiting, you also need expertise in technical recruiting. Understanding this dual dynamic can provide the added firepower you need to fill your open positions.

Understand the Community

Rural communities have a lot to offer the right candidate. It’s not uncommon for a rural community to lose people as they head off to college and begin their careers. But, oftentimes, these same people want to return when they are raising their own families. Being creative and looking for people that may have the right skill set and want to return home may be a great approach.

Also, realize the candidate is not only buying into the company but the community as well. Make sure you know HOW to sell the community.  What are the average home prices?  How strong is the education system?  Does the area have significant natural beauty, parks, lakes?  How low is the cost of living?  These are all things that help you sell the candidate on making the move to your community.

Build Your Brand

In a small town, reputation is everything. In an urban area, image is everything. These are two very different ideas; an image can be created but reputation is earned.

A rural company must always strive to be a positive force and prove that they are part of the community. Along the way, they become a trusted brand and a company that people want to work for. Protect your brand and make sure your company’s positive image is marketed 24/7.

Overall, hiring for a rural position as opposed to an urban one is very different. Using the same approach across both regions will ultimately result in too few candidates, open positions and high turnover.

To be successful in rural recruiting, it’s important you follow the tips above and make sure your recruiting partner has the expertise, DNA and perseverance to get the job done.


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