"Though He Be But Little, He Is Fierce" - Hiring Insights For Small Businesses

By Michael Palmer

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The employment market is a fascinating thing. Through the last decade, it has migrated between being an employee’s and an employer’s market. In high demand job functions, the tendency is to remain an employee’s and in lower demand roles, an employer’s. Regardless of where we are in the cycle, recruiting talent has become more challenging, as employees are not likely to remain with you for their entire careers (the average is 18-36 months, depending on role level and industry). This increased level of portability places a demand on businesses.

Small business owners are now, more than ever, competing for talent with mid and large size companies that may offer higher salaries, greater stability (perceived) and more robust benefits to employees. Despite these challenges, there are many things you can do to help you attract the best and the brightest.

Money isn’t everything. In fact, 57 percent of graduating business students around the world rate maintaining balance between work and personal life as their primary career goal and key to choosing their first employer. You can research Web sites like www.salary.com to help you estimate market value of a position in your area. If the salary is appropriate for the position, it’s unlikely that you’ll lose a candidate over money.

Little perks such as flexibility and benefits go a long way with potential employees. The ability to work from home, job sharing, flexible hours and work arrangements are some of the ways small businesses can immediately differentiate from larger organizations. And additions to benefits, such as an employee assistance program (EAP) or floating holidays, can help position your company as one that values your employees.

The way you advertise open positions is a direct reflection of your company. Write a creative job description and add more meaning by describing your company and what you stand for — add your mission and vision. Job candidates respond to innovation in employment advertising. If you advertise on the Web, add your company’s logo for better “brand identity” (if allowed). Though it’s an investment, consider advertising on well-known job sites. Not only does it send a message to potential candidates (you’re advertising along with the bigger companies) it’s also a good place to research how competitors advertise.

Responding to candidates who apply is an opportunity to differentiate your company. Most large corporations don’t respond to candidates who apply for positions other than notifying them that their resumes have been received.

Whether it’s because they can’t be bothered, or candidate volume and systems capabilities prevent it, here is an opportunity for you. Responding to applicants, letting them know the status of their application, will raise their perception of your company. Create a response sentence or paragraph in advance so all you need to do is cut and paste when the time comes. The best part of this is that whether you hire them or not, you’ve helped your company’s employment and consumer/business brand.

Conducting the interview process professionally is important. Be prepared for the interview. Use pre-employment assessments, off-the-shelf tools or an effective behavioral interviewing methodology. Being prepared and professional will leave a good impression with your candidates. It says you take hiring employees seriously and that you’re committed to making a great hiring decision.

If you use a third party recruiting agency, take the time to develop a relationship so they understand your company and its culture. Recruiting agencies can help you find great talent, but they need to have a good understanding of your company to properly assess the right “fit.” Spend time building a relationship with an agency to educate them about your company and the attributes you find desirable in candidates. Get the “right candidate” not the “right now candidate.”

If your company has a Web site, invest in building a “Careers” section. Even if it’s only a static page with one open position and a few words about why your company is a great place to work, it’s still worthwhile. Having a career page signals that you’re a solid company with a clear vision for future growth. Ask your employees why they work for your company and post their comments on this page. Good testimonials are simple, but powerful.

If it’s the ONLY thing you do, it’s important to conduct a background check before you hire a candidate. There are many companies you can engage to check references, validate candidate claims, check for a criminal past and, if appropriate, verify education claims and credit history. It’s a small price to pay to avoid a potentially disastrous hiring decision.

Lastly, consider outsourcing your recruitment to a Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) provider. Instead of trying to piece everything together on your own, which undoubtedly equates to much higher risks and costs, consider having an RPO handle it on your behalf.  They are experts at managing their customer’s recruitment. By leveraging RPO, you get all of the tools mentioned above, paying for them when you need them. Buying the systems, tools, job postings, LinkedIn licenses and training adds up quickly. Your recruiting expense is aligned to actual hiring needs.  Furthermore, you reduce the risk of hiring a recruiter and them leaving for their next assignment, sending you back to square one.  RPO providers can manage the entire recruitment management at a predictable and reasonable cost.

When you’re recruiting, tell your company’s story about why working with your company will be a great experience. Tout the positives. Look for candidates who will thrive in your company’s culture (are you fast-paced and entrepreneurial or methodical and process focused?). A strong and consistent recruiting process will pay off and enable you to hire and retain productive employees who are aligned with your company values and contribute to your growth and bottom line! 

 

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