What boutiques are selling to attract talent and why it doesn’t work

What boutiques are selling to attract talent and why it doesn’t work

What can a smaller boutique advisory firm offer to attract and win talent over a major player?

When we ask this question the reasons are usually pretty well known. Work-life balance, opportunities for quick progression, more flexibility and a sense of community.

These are all powerful reasons that boutiques can flaunt in the face of their larger adversaries competing in the race for talent…but are these selling points being marketed in the right way? Are candidates looking at the long list of benefits that boutiques can provide and being swayed enough to apply for their next opportunity?

Here are five hiring tips on what boutiques can do to drive home the point that what they offer is more than just a counterweight to lower base salaries

1. 40-HOUR WORKWEEKS DO NOT REPRESENT GOOD WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Sure – some employees are still clocking in 60 hour weeks, but it doesn’t change the fact that you are in competition with a large, large majority of players that stick to a 40-hour workweek policy. If you’re promising great work-life balance and yet, you’re not doing anything to differentiate yourself from other players, candidates aren’t going to take that point seriously.

There are plenty of things that boutiques can do to differentiate their work-life balance proposition, such as having a half-day on the last day of the month, or adding another 30 minutes to the typical 1-hour lunch break. These are small, but significant benefits that boutiques can market to differentiate themselves.

2. APPLY FLEXIBILITY TO YOUR SALARY MODELS

Boutique firms often mention flexibility as one of their greatest strengths and it also functions as a key selling point. The irony is that the same level of flexibility can’t always be shown when it comes to salaries. More than once, we have heard hiring managers tell us that they simply cannot go above a certain amount, or that their internal pricing scheme dictates that XYZ is how much they can pay.

More so than their larger competitors, boutique firms are better placed to bend their own rules. In a market as candidate-driven as this one, they’re going to have to in order to attract the best talent. However, when base salary is not negotiable, boutiques can add a signing bonus, or a hefty commission 6 months in to make their job offer more competitive.

3. SPECIALISM CAN BE YOUR SELLING POINT

At Movemeon we often hear from candidates how much they value the ability to focus on projects they love and find interesting. This is one of the top things job seekers look for when they consider a new role, along with the aforementioned work-life balance and salary expectations. Sometimes, the pursuit of the right development opportunities might even win over a bigger paycheque.

Candidates who are still exploring their options are likely gravitating towards the more generalist range of opportunities offered by larger firms. On the other hand, boutiques are the places where individuals looking to develop certain skills, or interested in working in a specific sector, can really thrive.

When marketing a role, boutiques should keep in mind that this is a big selling point and emphasise their expertise in their sector/niche. Also, we recommend including an overview of their projects and the clients they work with, highlighting opportunities for progression, development and exposure to senior leadership.

4. STOP LIMITING YOUR CANDIDATES BASED ON INDUSTRY EXPERTISE

Boutique advisories are often experts in a particular field, and it’s this unprecedented level of expertise that will give them the edge when competing with the bigger players. As such, they are also well equipped with all of the tools and knowledge to train their talent to become experts themselves. Yet, instead of looking to properly market these aspects, boutiques often expect incoming talent to possess similar capabilities and expertise around the sector. While the best-case scenario is to find someone who already knows what they’re doing, companies are seriously harming their chances at finding great talent by enforcing industry/sector requirements in their search.

A great method would be to have 20-30 minute chats with candidates to gauge why they want to change sectors and why they are interested in the field that the company operates in. Once the interest or passion within the candidates has been confirmed, boutique firms would be better placed to establish a strong training system. This would not only widen the pool at which boutique advisories can draw from, but it would also give them a very enticing and marketable benefit.

5. ELABORATE ON YOUR CULTURE 

Boutiques are in a better position when it comes to creating a sense of community in the workplace, due to their size and flexible hierarchy structure. However, it is also true that boutiques will need to work a little bit harder to ensure that their company’s culture and values are conveyed, compared to the well-established brand names of larger companies.


Employees are becoming more and more eager to work for companies that share their own set of beliefs and values, and boutiques are prone to share many of those beliefs and values that candidates are looking for. The key issue is how they are showing it. Simply mentioning that you have ‘a great company culture’ is not showing candidates anything – other than potentially engraving in their mind that you have nothing more concrete to offer benefits-wise. Use the right keywords to better describe your culture. Is it fast-paced? Flexible? Collaborative? Innovative? Fun-loving? If so, give an example of how you promote that aspect of your culture in your benefits. 


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