Growing businesses need more employees if they want to continue expanding. And while not all small businesses are the same, they all have to compete with larger companies to acquire highly qualified candidates. To make a successful hire, small businesses hiring employees should follow certain best practices like being patient and assessing applicants’ skills.
Processing candidates should be done efficiently and timely, so be sure you have the right tools to do the job. Homebase Hiring offers a free applicant tracking system that will help you post on job boards and track applicants throughout the recruitment process—allowing you to stay in touch via text message. It also offers scheduling and time tracking which makes it the perfect solution for companies that hire hourly employees. Visit Homebase for a free account.
Here are 20 useful hiring tips for small businesses:
1. Start an Employee Referral Program
A great way to start the small business hiring process is to set up an employee referral program. The beauty of creating such a program is that you’re able to tap into sources who are already familiar with the company’s culture. This means you will receive a higher quality candidate pool in terms of matching applicant skills and company values that will best improve business performance.
“Create a very generous employee referral program (make it so big that you are almost uncomfortable), and tie some of the payout to the performance of the new hire. This increases the likelihood that your own employees will refer talented candidates and incentivizes them to help the new hire adjust and become successful because their own referral bonus is tied to that candidate’s performance.
Bryan Zawikowski, Vice President/General Manager, Lucas Group
2. Showcase the Company Culture on Your Website
Candidates will always look for information about a company’s work environment before they send in their job application. No matter how big a company is, smart candidates usually choose to work for businesses that show them what they can expect as employees. This is why business owners need to consider adding a “We’re Hiring” page to the company website that showcases its best qualities as an employer.
Don’t limit your about hiring page to your management team. Feature your company’s rank and file, the enrichment activities that you provide, and other perks that make your company an ideal workplace. You can also add short videos that feature some of your employees talking about what it’s like to work for your company. Update your team page regularly, and you can turn potential candidates into avid followers.
3. Use Realistic & Specific Job Descriptions
It’s important that your job ad include a realistic and specific job description—realistic in the sense that you outline challenging but reasonable expectations from candidates. Ensuring that your job descriptions are specific will help you prescreen candidates so that only those who actually have the skill sets you are looking for actually send in their applications.
“Small companies make the mistake of thinking they will have a difficult time competing for employees with the big companies. The truth is, according to Zenefits, today’s employees value company culture and mission, approachable leadership, potential job growth, work-life balance, and recognition more than salary. So make sure you put on your marketing hat when you advertise your jobs—use realistic job descriptions that emphasize how you fulfill the things employees value.”
Denise Leaser, President, GreatBizTools
4. Brand Your Company as an Ideal Employer
As a brand, your business needs to build a reputation that not only makes you the best product or service provider but also the most ideal employer. Sometimes, small businesses are too focused on creating a solid customer base that they overlook the importance of showcasing their worth as an employer. When this happens, businesses find it difficult to build and nurture customer relationships, because it lacks a quality workforce with good skills to execute the company goals.
“Once the interviews start, spend a few moments talking about why your small business is the company for which they want to work. It could be because your business is growing, you have a unique benefits package, or a host of other reasons. Remember, the unemployment rate in this country is rather low right now, which means that you might not have a huge pool of candidates looking for work. That means you need to position your company as a desirable place to work, so the candidate chooses you over the competition.”
David Bakke, Writer/Contributor, MoneyCrashers
5. Find Qualified Candidates Online
Technology gives businesses a much larger reach when looking for new talent. There are numerous platforms online where candidates and potential employers can join in and look for their best match. This is a huge advantage for business owners who also need to maximize their time and resources when searching for ideal employees. This is why it’s important to be sure your job ads are visible to as many candidates as possible.
Indeed is the largest online job board with over 250 million users and 100 million searchable resumes that you can filter by industry, location, education, title, skills, and more. You can also set up your company profile and a career page so candidates can find your ads easily. Create an account with Indeed, and get $50 in free advertising credit with which to boost your job postings.
6. Respond Promptly to Job Applicant Inquiries
The key to acquiring the most qualified and highly skilled candidates for your job vacancy is timing. This doesn’t mean that you should rush through your hiring process, but rather, make it a point to respond to applicants in a timely manner. Remember that candidates submit their applications to more than one company, and an unreasonable delay in HR’s part to respond can be interpreted as lack of interest.
“Respond to applicants right away. When it comes to hiring, most small businesses aren’t moving fast enough. Applicants are often applying to multiple jobs at a time, and businesses moving quickly are able to land top talent faster. Many organizations are responding to candidates within two or three days—or even a week, by which time most quality applicants are already off the market. To bring more applicants in for interviews and ultimately increase hires, try to respond to applicants with a phone call as soon as you receive their resume—or at least within 24 hours.”
Alex Tolbert, Founder and CEO, BerniePortal
7. Screen Candidates Immediately Using Questionnaires
No matter how detailed your job advertisements are, you can’t avoid receiving applications from candidates with varying levels of technical skills. So while you should expect candidates to submit impressive applications, it’s also important to set up a process that immediately filters applications from your list. With today’s technology, it’s easy to create an initial assessment applicants can complete when they initially apply; it usually only takes a few minutes to finish.
You can use Google Forms to list questions that help you identify specific skills, gauge personality types, and even verify compliance to technical requirements for remote job positions. Create highly customized questionnaires that you can get candidates to complete as soon as you receive their application. This can be done either by sending them a link to the form, or using an automatic redirect for businesses that allow job applicants to submit applications on their website.
8. Conduct Pre-Employment Screening
Consider adding a pre-employment screening step that includes previous employment verification, credit checks, and drug tests to your hiring process. This is not only beneficial to large companies to mitigate risk but also small businesses (especially when they’re hiring for positions that give access to sensitive information).
There are companies that offer pre-employment screening as an ad-hoc service, so you can minimize your hiring costs while increasing security. You can even disclose these additional measures you’re taking to your clients to help build their trust in your brand.
9. Create a Standard Hiring Process
Small businesses, even ones that are just starting up, should consider creating a standard hiring process. As your business grows, you want to be sure that you have built a strong foundation that includes a set of employees whose values and goals are aligned with that of your company. Adding hiring procedures such as pre-employment screening, pre-assessment tools, and standard skill tests can help your business minimize cost of hiring and turnovers in the future.
“Standardize your hiring process; potential hires can tell when you’re not organized, and you need a place to centralize all the information. There’s a lot of free or low-cost applicant tracking systems available (or even tools you can track projects in as a fallback). Make sure you have an onboarding plan for new employees, equipment set up before their start date, and an onboarding checklist of things they need to learn or do within their first couple of weeks.”
Emma Hunt, Head of Talent, Looka
10. Use an Applicant Tracking System
An influx of interested job applicants is a good sign for small businesses. However, this requires an efficient system to manage and make sure that employers give equal attention to all candidates. This is crucial in finding the best person for the job but can be overwhelming for businesses with a small HR staff. Thankfully, there are applicant tracking tools to help manage these tasks efficiently.
Homebase Hiring offers a free applicant tracking system that will help you post on job boards and track applicants throughout the recruitment process, letting you stay in touch via text message. It also offers scheduling and time tracking which makes it the perfect solution for companies that hire hourly employees. Visit Homebase and sign up for your free account.
11. Conduct a Skills Assessment Test
You need to have a series of skills assessment tests to ensure that you hire the candidate that best fits your requirements. You can use the pre-assessment tests to narrow your candidate list to the most qualified applicants. And while this is a definite advantage, the idea of having the option to choose from a list of impressive qualifications and skills can make it hard for you to arrive at the best decision without a standardized test.
“Everyone’s resumes start to look the same, and skill assessment tests are a good way to separate the talented from the mediocre. We usually give our candidates a test case for the role they are applying to fill. For example, we asked our social media manager applicants to review our business and come to the final interview with a recommendation on exactly what they would do to improve our results. It was eye opening and incredibly helpful.”
Brian Cairns, Founder, ProStrategix Consulting
12. Invite Employees to Observe Candidate Interviews
There are numerous advantages to inviting employees to observe candidate interviews. For one, they have gone through the process themselves and can provide valuable feedback not only on the candidate’s answers and behavior but the overall interview process. With their help, the company can identify candidates that will truly fit the workplace culture while also improving the quality of applicant screening through interview.
Some companies even find value in allowing current employees to interact with potential hires. They are given the opportunity to assess the candidates, and their accumulated, varied observations can help HR make a more effective hiring decision.
13. Maintain Open Communication With Your Candidates
Full disclosure is crucial in hiring the candidate that best fits the company culture. This ensures that a potential hire’s goals and values align with your business goals and expectations. Start by creating a welcoming atmosphere from the beginning of the hiring process and let the applicant know that they should feel free to ask questions about the job vacancy and the company at any time.
“Communication between a recruiter and a candidate is essential; all aspects of the open position and the company need to be shared with the candidate in order to find the right fit. A candidate that understands all aspects of what he will be committing to will help yield a higher employee retention rate.
Understanding the candidates’ needs along with the company’s requirements and expectations will make the onboarding and candidate selection process much more successful. If mutual communication is not present from the beginning, you might find yourself noticing poor candidate selection.”
Maryann Bukich, Corporate Recruiter, iMatrix
14. Look for a Good Cultural Fit
High employee turnover is the bane of a growing business. This is partly due to the company hiring qualified applicants who are not a good cultural fit. As a business owner, you need to envision a team that improves productivity by performing better as a whole (synergy) than individually, and this is only possible if you hire candidates with values that align with your own.
During the screening process, prepare personality tests that will help reveal a candidate’s values like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. You should also create a set of interview questions that will highlight not only a person’s technical skills but their priorities as well. This test will help determine if a candidate will fit well in your company’s culture.
15. Consider Hiring Candidates You Know
Sometimes it’s good to consider hiring candidates with whom you are already familiar. This helps with the screening process because it shortens the length of time it takes to identify a potential hire’s personality. To avoid leaving a negative impression on current employees when following this suggestion, make an effort to allow them to participate in evaluating the candidates.
“Consider hiring people you know compared to candidates from a one-hour interview session. For small businesses, a new hire can make or break the business, because everyone plays a huge role in the company. A common mistake is to hire a candidate solely based on an hour interview. If the potential candidate is someone you have known for a long time, you will understand his/her ethics, moral values, talents, and whether or not he/she will fit into the team. Try not to be so bothered by the skill sets, because if you hire the right person, it will be easy to pass down the right skills.”
Charlotte Ang, HR Manager, M&P International Freights
16. Provide a Career Path
One of the best ways for small businesses to compete with large companies in getting the best candidates is to provide a career path. Potential employees will appreciate being given a vision of what they can expect from your company in the long term. It allows candidates to develop a sense of shared goals with the business even before they accept the job. They come into the role motivated, loyal, and determined to perform at their best.
17. Offer Creative Perks & Benefits For Employees
Just because your business is a startup or you’re working with a smaller budget doesn’t mean you can’t provide competitive incentives. Offer creative perks to which highly skilled candidates would be attracted. You can start with insurance, retirement plants, additional leave credits, and even discount or coupon rewards for high performers. Other company-culture perks like telecommuting, opportunities for certified skills training, and team building activities can also be reasons potential employees would choose working for you over your competitors.
18. Don’t Stop Prospecting For Job Candidates
One good way to pool the best candidates is to create a long-term prospecting plan. Make sure that you remind current employees of their role as the company’s ambassador. In a world where the influence of word-of-mouth is amplified by online tools such as social media, your employee’s actions online and even offline will give potential candidates a glimpse of what to expect in your workplace.
“Whenever you are speaking about your company, via a speaking opportunity, a founder meetup, or in a press interview, remember that you are speaking to potential employees. Job candidates want to hear directly from founders because they set the tone for the company. The more you can share your story and mission, the more likely you¹ll be able to reach and recruit top talent.”
Dr. Ximena Hartsock, Co-Founder, Phone2Action
19. Start an Internship Program
Having an internship program is a great way for small businesses to find potential candidates to join their team. It’s cost effective, and you also get the first opportunity to hire those who excel and prove that they are a great fit for your company. Even if they don’t end up working for you after the internship is done, you still gain advocates who can help spread the good word about your business through word-of-mouth and social media.
20. Don’t Rush the Hiring Process
Like any business activity, timeliness is a crucial factor when hiring new employees. However, this doesn’t mean you should shorten the screening process for fear of losing highly skilled candidates. In fact, a smart applicant would appreciate the opportunity to assess their skills against your assessment program. A reasonable waiting time, therefore, shows that a small business keeps a standard worthy of consideration of the best talents.
“When you are looking to fill a position, you need to be as intentional as possible when doing so. Don’t hire the first person that walks through the door. This is a long-term decision and needs to be treated as such. Get to know them, make sure their skills fit the job, and they’re passionate about their work. This will ensure you hire the right person who will help take your company to the next level.”
Vivek Chugh, Founder and CEO, Listables
A small business hiring employees on a budget can still be competitive by leveraging great company culture to show their potential. Candidates are always on the lookout for ideal employers, and it’s not always the large companies that have the advantage. Use our list of small business hiring tips to attract candidates that can help your business grow.
Want to share your favorite hiring tips for small businesses? Let us know in the comments.