Small and medium businesses (SMBs) are dealing with a hiring crunch. Though U.S. unemployment rates are still high compared to pre-pandemic levels, employers are also facing a shortage of applicants. The result is plenty of “Help Wanted” ads, but not enough qualified people to fill the roles. In fact, according to our latest survey on how the pandemic has changed hiring and retention for SMBs, just over three-quarters of respondents (76%) cited hiring and retaining employees as the biggest challenge they’ve faced over the past six months.
One of the largest investments a company makes is hiring and retaining the right people.Angela Antony, CEO of Scoutible
What does that mean for small business hiring? It’s time to get strategic. As Angela Antony, CEO of startup hiring platform Scoutible reminds us, “One of the largest investments a company makes is hiring and retaining the right people.” Suitable candidates are out there, but they’ve got options and leverage in the current job market. Many small businesses can’t afford to pay outlandish salaries or offer huge signing bonuses, but that doesn’t mean you can’t compete for talent.
Here are seven steps you can take to improve small business hiring right now.
1. Ask yourself what you’re hiring people to do
The first question to answer is what you’re really hiring for. Quite often, the answer falls into one of two categories. First is hiring experts to take over in areas that you’re not as strong in. As Spanx founder Sara Blakely put it, self-awareness is an entrepreneur’s greatest gift: “I knew what I was good at. As soon as I could afford to, I hired people to do the things in the business that I’m not so good at,” Blakely said.
The other big reason to hire is getting help with things you’d do yourself if only you had more time. The good news is, if you’re hiring someone to take stuff off your plate, you probably have a good sense of the skills and personality needed to get the job done. Just be sure to consider whether you’d be better off with broad administrative help, or hiring someone to take over specific projects.
2. Use the small business hiring process to grow your network
Obviously, the goal of hiring is to bring someone great into the fold to help your business. But the small business hiring process can also be a chance to widen your professional network. In addition to advertising job openings outside of your company, be sure to ask current employees and business partners if they might know any good candidates. Even if word of mouth doesn’t directly lead to a hire, you might make some valuable contacts to use down the road.
3. Pair job descriptions and interview questions strategically
Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents (62%) said they’ve had the most trouble hiring skilled employees over the past six months.
Focus job descriptions on potential over credentials. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents (62%) said they’ve had the most trouble hiring skilled employees over the past six months. But a talented hire will learn how to do new things if you teach them. “There is so much talent out there who are looking for roles that they believe they could thrive in, even if it’s something they’ve never done before,” Antony said. When you’re interviewing promising candidates, focus on questions about past experiences and behavior. Pose questions starting with, “Tell me about a time …” to gain insight into how applicants have dealt with, and grown from, challenges and opportunities in previous positions.
4. Recognize unconscious biases
We all have blind spots. Working to recognize and correct unconscious biases is a key part of business leadership. When we challenge those biases, we make more informed and rational decisions and do not unintentionally exclude anyone — including those who just might be the best candidates for the job. “Companies typically cut close to 98% of candidates during the resume screen alone,” Antony said. “Relying on the resume screen is a very costly mistake: the best candidate for most jobs often never even gets an interview.” And, as the research shows, equality is good for business.
5. Share benefits your small business offers
47% of businesses we surveyed said offering incentives like these is making a positive impact on staffing efforts.
Gone are the days when office ping-pong tables, catered lunches, and outrageous signing benefits were table stakes for attracting new talent. Today’s employees are more apt to respond to benefits that small businesses can afford to offer, like flexible work schedules, growth opportunities, and educational benefits. Forty-seven percent of businesses we surveyed said offering incentives like these is making a positive impact on staffing efforts. Make sure to sound the horn about the benefits your company offers when recruiting new hire
6. Assemble interview panels that reflect who you are
Job interviews are best when they’re a two-way street. You’re trying to suss out the best candidate for the job, but the candidates should also use the interview process to determine if your organization is a good fit for them. “People want to work somewhere that values their skills and challenges their growth areas,” Antony said. Make sure your interview panel — be it a team of six or just you — accurately represents your organization. If it is just you asking the questions, talk about your vision for what the business can become as you take on new hires and grow.
7. Found a candidate you like? Act fast!
Last but not least, don’t hesitate in making an offer once you’ve found a qualified candidate. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said issues with staffing caused revenue to dip 11% or more over the past six months, and good employees are in demand now. So get those offers in front of the right people before your competitors have the chance to hire them out from under you.
After the hire — what’s next?
Finding good people may be the hardest part of small business hiring, but what you do after the hire is no less important. Learn how to retain and engage employees with our free, self-paced learning module on Trailhead.