Most of the time small businesses are at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting skilled employees. After all, they often can’t compete on salary, nor do they hold the same cache as their bigger competitors. But they can take advantage of massive layoffs at their larger brethren to build their workforce of talented, skilled professionals.

Big layoffs are a “great opportunity for small businesses who usually have a little bit of trouble getting talent to pay attention to them,” says Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer at iCIMS, the maker of talent recruitment software. In times of instability at big companies, think Microsoft’s announcement that its laying off 18,000, workers are looking for job security which many can get at a small business, she says.

According to recruiting experts, in order to lure talent from a company engaging in layoffs, you have to first zero in on the people you want to hire. If you are only looking for software programmers, you don’t want to send a blast email to everyone that’s getting laid off. Thankfully the Internet has made that easy to do.

Searching on social media websites like LinkedIn or Facebook will help you pinpoint people that, say for example, work at Microsoft in the same region where the layoffs happened and with the skills you are looking for, says Jason Berkowitz, vice president of client services at Seven Step RPO, a recruiting agency. 

“It’s easy to identify people who work at Microsoft, and not just the ones getting laid off,” says Berkowitz. “A lot of people who aren’t laid off are very nervous and don’t know if they are on the list and are therefore much more interested in talking to a recruiter.”

Once you have identified your targets, you have to craft a message that will appeal to them. The obvious one, say experts, is highlighting your stability, security and growth. Microsoft may be suffering, but you aren’t, so highlight that in your recruitment messaging, say experts. You also want to play up the lack of bureaucracy  and ability to wear multiple hats, which is often the case at a small business.

“Small businesses don’t report to Wall Street, they don’t go through knee jerk reactions based on one quarter,” and those are things you should focus on, says Vitale. She notes that surveys show that small business with less than 500 employees are half as likely to lay off employees as larger employers are.

For young tech companies, recruiting from a company engaging in layoffs will be even easier, since many skilled technology professionals are attracted to new companies rather than older, mature ones who are now in cost cutting mode.

 

“Startups, fast-growth companies have a very positive culture because they have not had to endure organizational crisis experienced at larger companies, such as transformation, shifts in strategies, cut-backs and layoffs, which are words associated with only larger companies,” says Jason Hanold of Hanold Associates. He says small businesses that are creating “invigorating cultures” and giving employees broader responsibilities earlier than at larger companies are able to lure top talent.

While layoffs at a large company present an opportunity for small businesses to recruit, recruiting shouldn’t be a one-time thing. In order to make sure you are always attracting the right workers, recruiting has to be an everyday affair, says Chuck Fried, president and chief executive of TxMQ, an IT services company. He spends a lot of time each day screening for positions that may or may not be open, and is constantly on the lookout for talent.

“I’m always looking for the next great person,” says Fried. “It doesn’t mean I have an opening, but if somebody amazing comes along we will create an opening to get them on board.”