Sponsored by MetLife

By Rieva Lesonsky

In June, the Labor Department reports, the number of job openings in the U.S. hit a record high of 6.2 million. Why are so many jobs going unfilled? Small business owners say there aren’t enough qualified candidates to fill them. According to the MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index for Q3 2017, half of small business owners say today’s job candidates aren’t properly prepared for the workforce. How can your small business attract and keep qualified employees in today’s tough labor market? Here are some steps that can help.

  1. Expand your horizons

Thinking out of the “online job ad” box can help you find more candidates.

  • Make a connection. Are you looking for employees with specific, hard-to-find training or skills? Local high schools, trade and technical schools, and colleges may have training programs in these areas. Find a partner that can help you find the employees you need. For example, when I previously worked in magazine publishing, we often recruited graphic designers from a local art college. If there aren’t any such programs in your area, talk to your local economic development department and chamber of commerce about ways to create a pipeline of talent.
  • Look for “passive candidates.” These are people who aren’t actively seeking to change jobs, but are open to it if the opportunity arises. Stay active on LinkedIn and get connected to people in your industry that you’d like to have on your team. When the time is right, you can reach out to them and see if they’re interested in making a move.
  1. Expand your attitude

If you can’t find qualified employees, maybe your standards are too high.

  • Put attitude first. I firmly believe attitude should be the deciding factor in whom you hire. Better to hire someone with less experience and a great attitude than someone who looks good on paper but has a bad attitude. If you focus less on resumes and more on the person in front of you, chances are you’ll find a job candidate with plenty of potential.
  • Be prepared to provide training. Let’s face it: No one is going to meet 100% of your criteria for the ideal candidate. Be willing to hire someone who’s 85% of the way there, and spend some time getting them up to speed. You can partner new employees with an experienced employee to show them the ropes, access employee education and training programs offered by your industry association or other business organizations, or use online education courses to train your new hires.
  1. Expand your employee benefits

This is a nearly universal “want”: 83% of small business employees say benefits give them peace of mind for the unexpected1. Use benefits as a carrot to attract qualified job candidates.

  • Offer benefits that fit your employees’ needs. When employees can customize their benefits for their needs and life stages, they’re a lot happier. Health insurance is a basic, but adding disability benefits, dental insurance or legal services makes your business stand out from the crowd. Customizable benefits make seven in 10 employees more likely to accept a new job and 67% more loyal to their current employers1. Talk to your benefits provider about cost-effective ways to offer the benefits your employees want.
  • Promote your benefits package. Detail your employee benefits in job ads, and explain them during job interviews. Once employees are on board, make sure they thoroughly understand the benefits you offer and how to use them. The more employees know about their benefits, the more they’ll appreciate them—and the more loyal they’ll be to your business.

To learn more about how small business owners can attract and retain qualified employees, download MetLife’s infographic on how to build culture and win with talent here.

1 Metlife Employee Benefit Trends Study, Build culture, win with talent: Driving small business success through benefits, 2017