With so many businesses today relying on technological tools and systems, demand for professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is at an all-time high. And when giants like Google and Microsoft have the resources to make irresistible job offers, recruiting top STEM talent to work at your small tech company can seem impossible.

You may not be able to offer the same perks your larger competitors can, but there are smart ways to go about recruiting the industry’s best and brightest. To help, we asked members of Forbes Coaches Council what leaders of tech startups can do to compete with the behemoths and attract high-quality STEM candidates. See their best suggestions below.

1. Sell The Benefits Of A Startup Culture

The attractions a big company offers are brand, perks, job security and structure. Those of a small company include making a difference, flexibility, a team of like-minded people and personal growth. The trick is for small companies to capitalize on these selling points and find people who would thrive in a startup environment. The right talent will stay motivated and contribute a lot more. – Rajeev Shroff, Cupela Consulting

2. Offer Company Equity

Offer company equity. Large companies can offer infrastructure and brand credibility. However, they cannot offer substantial vesting opportunities in the same fashion smaller companies can. This is a risk for both the small company and the candidate, yet that only prompts both parties to thoroughly validate one another before committing to an employment partnership. – Corey Castillo, Truth & Spears

3. Tempt Candidates With Exciting Projects

The technology sector is becoming more and more prominent. There is a great variety of small and medium-sized businesses with great technological potential that will allow their workers to develop from another perspective—having more say in important decisions, for example. Therefore, it will be necessary to transmit an attractive and exciting project to attract them. – José Luís González Rodriguez, ActionCOACH

4. Articulate How Your Company Makes A Difference

People go where they feel valued and as if what they do is making a difference. Knowing and clearly articulating what you do as a company and why you do it is the first step in attracting others who want to make a difference in the same way. As a leader, make the time to connect with everyone. No matter what size your company is, you can always value your people and add value to them in some way. – Lorna Weston-Smyth, LWS Coaching and Training


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5. Train Industry-Outsiders

Recruit from outside of your industry. There are many talented STEM employees who want to switch to a different industry but need an entry point into the new field. If you’re willing to train for industry-specific skills, you’ll find talent with the basic knowledge needed who will be delighted to quickly learn and contribute to your small company’s work. – Christine Rose, Christine Rose Coaching & Consulting

6. Create Comprehensive Compensation Packages

The best thing you can do as a smaller tech company is to try to offer the best comprehensive packages possible to potential employees, not just a salary. Be employee-centric, forward-thinking and flexible with compensation. Don’t skimp on health insurance, telework options, 401(k) plans or educational and professional development benefits. Invest in people, and they will return the favor. – Dhru Beeharilal, Nayan Leadership, LLC

7. Carve Out A Specific Niche

Aligning your company’s vision, mission and values and sharing its purpose, the “why” behind your company’s existence, often affords smaller tech companies the ability to carve out niches for attracting and retaining STEM talent. Just as you would in goal-setting, be specific. Talk to them authentically. Know their lifestyle preferences. Go where they are, and allow the conversation to create value. – Lori Harris, Harris Whitesell Consulting

8. Build A Foundation Of High-Quality Leadership

To attract and, more importantly, retain great employees, organizations first need to create a strong foundation of high-quality leadership, which must be exemplified by leaders. Leaders are trusted with creating safe spaces for teams to do their best work, and they need to feel comfortable doing it within that environment. That’s how you retain and attract great talent, beyond compensation. – Lauren Cooney, Spark Labs

9. Showcase Unique Opportunities

Larger tech companies are already established, but smaller tech companies are still being built. Smaller tech companies can attract candidates by sharing the potential of being an integral part of growing the company, building the business, creating new products and paving the way. These are incredible opportunities that employees at larger companies don’t always see. – Christie Samson, Career Management Coach and Outplacement Consultant

10. Highlight Investments In Their Development

The key is to highlight the depth of developmental opportunities. You may not be able to provide the same level of “bells and whistles” as larger companies, but you can show that you invest in developing your teams. Leadership programs, coaching and access to personalized, technical training opportunities show your commitment to not just their brainpower, but also their development as human beings. – Tonya Echols, Vigere

11. Focus On Lifestyle And Relationships

It is hard to complete with the Googles of the world. Yet, it is also true that not all brilliant STEM grads want that kind of go-go-go, glitzy lifestyle. Many actually want a slower pace and meaningful relationships. By focusing on lifestyle and relationships, smaller tech companies can be serious competitors in the race for top talent. – Natasha Ganem, Lion Leadership

12. Level Up On Workplace Culture

Smaller tech firms probably won’t be able to compete for top STEM talent using traditional approaches like pay and perks. However, they can level up on their workplace culture. Many top candidates want to work in an environment where they can make an immediate difference, where they can be challenged and where they have the support to develop their skills and grow into future opportunities. – Jonathan H. Westover, Ph.D, Utah Valley University & Human Capital Innovations, LLC

13. Don’t Underestimate Appealing Differentiators

The first step is to not underestimate your appeal. What does your smaller size offer that large companies may not be able to? Will employees have a broader business exposure? Is there more flexibility? How are growth opportunities improved with a smaller “competition pool”? Are the opportunities to collaborate increased? Find what resonates with the individual candidate when you speak with him or her. – Faith Fuqua-Purvis, Synergetic Solutions LLC

14. Foster A Growth-Mindset Culture

The opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a growing business and build something from scratch is frequently its own reward for innovative, creative developer talent. By fostering a growth-mindset culture and highlighting these opportunities, smaller tech companies can build a reputation that attracts STEM talent. – Shelli Hendricks, Blue Horizon Solutions

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