Recruiting for a small business is a challenge. Owners often don’t know much about hiring aside from what they learned as an employee of someone else’s business—which may have been years ago, or never. They may lack experience handling HR tasks, they may be unfamiliar with the latest recruiting methods and tools, and as for budget . . . well, limited doesn’t even come close. Without that foundation of knowledge, recruiting doesn’t become a priority until it needs to happen—and that’s too late.
On the plus side, small business owners are fighters. Often, their strategy has been “we’ll figure it out somehow,” and so far, they’ve figured it out. With a little help from us, they’ll figure this out, too.
Here’s a short list of quick, easy, and proven tools and strategies for fast, efficient hiring on a shoestring.
Small business recruiting and hiring strategies
Small businesses share many pains, but at the top are shortages of time, money, and experience. Luckily, there are strategies and tools that can help make recruiting and hiring easier despite limited resources. We created this list by focusing on saving time, maximizing the value of dollars spent, and minimizing the mistakes that cost small businesses time and money.
Recruiting employees for small businesses
Put a succession plan in place
Small businesses should understand the value of having a business plan—that’s SMB 101. But without knowing who you need to hire, when you’ll need them, and where you’re going to put the people who already work for you, a business plan is just a pipe dream. Having a succession plan means looking ahead so you’re not caught off guard by your own growth.
Let technology work for you
As a small business, you can use social media channels like Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn as well as free job boards like Indeed and Glassdoor to promote your openings without spending a cent. And, once you can afford it, a referral program will help you increase the percentage of qualified candidates who match your culture.
Save by going to the source
“We don’t go to career fairs,” says JD Conway, talent acquisition manager for BambooHR. “They’re inefficient, they’re expensive, and if you don’t have swag or a great banner, you look bad.”
As an alternative, “Join LinkedIn groups, go to networking events, and join a Slack channel devoted to the industry you’re recruiting for,” recommends JD. “You’ll find more people who actually have the skills you’re seeking, there’s much less pressure to perform, and you’ll spend nothing but effort.”
Hire digital help
Small businesses have to be eagle-eyed penny pinchers, but if there’s one investment that’s worthwhile, it’s applicant tracking software. “Having basic organization is critical for scaling,” advises Conway. “An ATS can guide you through every step of recruiting and hiring, and save you days—not hours—of work.” An ATS can automate your job postings, organize candidate information, and make communication easier, often with reminders, offer letters, and automatic responses built right in.
How to hire for your small business
After the recruiting net has been cast, it’s less important to haul in a big catch than it is to know what you can take to market. In other words, recruiting is the first step, but you need to have a hiring strategy as well or you’ll be back to square one in no time. Here’s how to make the most of your effort.
Retention is critical
Why is it so hard to hire employees who stick around? “Nobody wants to work as hard [as a small business owner] for as little in return,” advises Conway, “and turnover is one of the easiest ways for a small business to get in big trouble. Because your value proposition is different from a larger organization’s, you have to be clear with your expectations and super attentive to candidates’ needs, or you’ll have retention issues.” That means fair compensation, comprehensive benefits, and work/life balance. If you can’t afford those, make it crystal clear from the get-go that you’re seeking employees who are ready to make sacrifices or accept alternative compensation in the form of flexible scheduling or other benefits.
Target experience, not the title
Experience is invaluable to a growing business, but CEOs don’t come cheap. “People try to go too big or too small,” says JD. “They’ll splurge on hiring an executive, then hire inexperienced employees because they think they’ll save money on ‘worker bees.’” But experience isn’t restricted to the C-suite. “Look at five-year veterans in companies that have been where you are and grown successfully,” JD points out, “and you’re looking at people who can help you build your business, even if they never saw the top floor.”
Build your employer brand
In the age of social media, every business is public and reputation management has become its own industry. “Small businesses that don’t brand themselves well are taking a big risk,” warns Conway. “If they don’t take care of their people, one disgruntled ex-employee can start a firestorm.” Protecting your small business means promoting your values, actively seeking feedback, and responding to employees’ and customers’ concerns with real compassion. That compassion will translate to great reviews and a stellar employer brand.
Hiring practice makes perfect
Brenton Williamson was one of BambooHR’s first employees. “It’s funny to think back to when we were all on fold-out tables in a single tiny office,” he recalls. “Recruiting was a real challenge. Turns out most candidates aren’t eager to join a company with more carpet stains than employees.”
But as time went on, it was the decisions they made at the beginning that turned the company into an award winner and kept retention high. “A fulfilling job is one where you go to work, work really hard on something that matters with other hardworking people, and then go home at a reasonable hour and enjoy the rest of your life. That’s what we promised and that’s what we delivered.”
So what’s the takeaway? If you approach hiring with the right outlook and the right tools, and you treat every candidate as a possible ten-year investment, you’re putting your business on the right track.
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