Florida is in the middle of a population boom--but if you think that'll make the task of hiring locally easier, think again.

Between April 2010 and July 2019, Florida's population grew 14.2 percent, or about 2.67 million people, according to U.S. Census Bureau. Eight metro areas in Florida including Lakeland, Jacksonville, and Cape Coral are seeing a significant uptick in new residents, according to data from Inc.'s second-annual Surge Cities, an index that measures the 50 best areas for startup growth

While the draw of warm weather, low housing costs, and no income tax is no doubt sparking renewed interest in the state--and that is helping spur the state's burgeoning startup ecosystem--local business owners are still having trouble filling senior or more experienced roles. 

"We get over 100 applicants for one job but we interview only about five people," says Taylor Harkey, co-founder of Adjective & Co., a Jacksonville-based branding and advertising agency, which has been featured on Inc.'s Best Workplaces list three years in a row. "Part of it is we know exactly what we are looking for," he says. The other part, adds Harkey, is that more experienced people tend to live in larger markets, so requiring candidates to relocate limits the pool of eligible applicants. 

Like Harkey, many founders have resorted to looking out of state for top talent. Here is their top advice for attracting job applicants.

1. Prove that Florida's startup environment is robust and will continue to grow.

Most people won't relocate for just one job, but if they can join a thriving business community they might consider it, says Erik Maltais, co-founder of Immertec, a Tampa-based virtual reality company aimed at training doctors on surgical procedures. Maltais has hired two people from outside markets and advises bringing prospective employees to Florida so they can see the state's development.

He suggests creating a detailed itinerary for the recruit. It should focus on the city's startup community, including co-working spaces, incubators, and accelerators. They should be able to get a sense of the resources and possible connections available to them, adds Maltais, who invited competitors to a group event, running the risk that another company could poach his prospective hire. "The benefits outweighed the risks because I really wanted this recruit to see the ecosystem and that there are many opportunities," he says.

2. Level up your benefits to compete with major markets.

If you're trying to attract talent away from top markets, you'll need to compete as though you were in one of those top markets, suggests Suneera Madhani, founder of Orlando-based payment processing technology provider Fattmerchant (ranked No. 217 on the 2019 Inc. 5000). But keep it reasonable; egg freezing and 12-months-long parental-leave policies are nonstarters. Instead, she suggests offering benefits that aren't too costly for early-stage founders, like unlimited personal time off, cold brew, and snacks. You want to attract top people, but you also want to stay in business.

3. Refine your talent searches.

Tap your existing out-of-state networks for recruits, says Stacie Ruth, co-founder of Winter Park, Florida-based portable nebulizer maker AireHealth. She suggests targeting what she calls "bounce-back" people: individuals who either grew up or went to school in Florida before moving elsewhere. Those with ties to the state are typically easier to recruit than those without any personal connections, she says.

Published on: Mar 18, 2020