10 Hiring Tips for the Small Business Owner

Sep 1, 2012

hiring for small businessToday’s job market is not unlike the housing market; it can be awesome or abysmal, depending on which side of the desk you’re sitting on.  If you happen to own a small business that is in hiring mode, you are in an enviable position.  Instead of searching for that ideal management candidate who can afford to work at a startup, you may find yourself deciding between several overly qualified MBAs.  There is no doubt that this is a great time to hire, especially if you own a small business. 

If there is one downside to acquiring new staff members in a competitive job market, it is sorting through all of those resumes.  Rather than trying to figure it all out by yourself, here are some valuable tips to help you attract, screen and hire the ideal candidate for the job.

  1. Create a detailed job description.  Exactly what are you looking for in an employee?  What are the specifics of the job and what skills are required?  Too often, when a small business owner or manager posts a job listing, he expects the new recruit to handle everything that is currently not being done.  It may not be possible to find someone who is a whiz at sales, can balance the books, make coffee and manage your schedule all at the same time.  Think about which tasks fit the job you are looking to fill and write the job description accordingly.
  2. Ask yourself if there is another way to fill the need?  Unlike many large businesses which, small businesses have the flexibility to seek out non-traditional solutions.  According to the book “Hiring Your First Employee,” it might make more sense to go through a temporary agency or use an independent contractor for certain tasks.  Temps might cost more than full-time employees, but they allow you to “try out” a new employee before making a long-term commitment.  Contractors and temps allow you to bring someone on board temporarily without adding them to the payroll. 
  3. Borrow ideas from the competition.  In order to compete, small companies have to do everything the larger ones do only with less money.  When it’s time to hire, career coaches recommend you scour the ads of your competition for similar positions and find out what skills they’re seeking.  What are they offering in terms of salary and benefits?  Ads can be found on internet job sites and on job search engines like Indeed.com. 
  4. Never stop recruiting.   Small business owners never finish the hiring process. Even when the company is fully staffed, you should keep your antennae up for future hiring needs.  You never know when a valued employee will hand in their resignation, and with such a small staff you need to be prepared to act quickly. 
  5. What are your “must-haves?”  You may not have access to the computer programs that automatically sort through resumes, but you can know exactly what you’re looking for.  If you have a stack of resumes to sort through, ask some trusted friends or family members to help you go through the pile.  Or set up a macro on Microsoft Word to scan through digital resumes looking for certain keywords.
  6. Only seek out the best employees.  Just because you own a small business doesn’t mean you can’t attract heavy hitters.  Chances are your company can attract a disenchanted corporate type who is craving a small business environment.  They may be attracted by the opportunity that comes from being a big fish in a small pond. 
  7. Don’t expect to get something for nothing.  Anyone who is hiring may feel like they are in the driver’s seat, but try not to over-hire and underpay.  If your key people jump ship after a year or two, you could find yourself filling the same position over and over again. 
  8. Be prepared to hunt for the top candidates.  Pick up the phone and call your best contacts in the business, attend chamber of commerce events, join networking groups and have coffee with former colleagues.  You may be pleasantly surprised at the number of referrals that come your way. 
  9. Learn about the individual, not just the resume.  When a small business owner hires, chances are the new employee will represent a sizable portion of the staff.  As a result, it’s important for entrepreneurs to find employees that will be a good “fit” for the company culture. According to Jim Schell, author of “Small Business for Dummies, “you may be able to teach them new skills, but it’s impossible to teach attitude.”
  10. Use your own skills.  Unlike most corporate recruiters, you have the benefit of knowing how to do each job firsthand. This helps a lot with the recruitment process because you will know how to interview.  Ask how candidates how they would handle that hypothetical situation and find out how well they think on their feet. 

Anytime you add new employees to a small business, it changes the dynamics of the group, so it’s important to hire positive people who are just as impressive in person as they are on paper.  The impact of one bad hiring decision can change the trajectory of your company’s growth.  Follow these tips and take the time you need to find the right people. 

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