Two Business Executives Sitting in Armchairs on the Grass Talking to One Another

By Don Charlton

Small businesses are on a hiring spree. But like most businesses, they’re poised to lose up to 10 percent of their workforce per year. For a 100-person company, that’s 10 positions per year, making recruiting and hiring a recurring need for the company and that doesn’t even cover growth hiring.

Time-strapped execs have no choice but to dive into the hiring process in order to assemble the best possible team. For a small business, this often means competing for talent against larger organizations with more sophisticated HR departments and a vast suite of tools to assist the hiring process and land top talent. No wonder finding, recruiting and hiring top talent is consistently listed as a top business challenge

As a small business competing for talent against larger organizations, you can arm yourself in the war for talent by zeroing in on three areas of the recruiting and hiring process: where you’re finding candidates, how you interact with candidates during the interview process and how you measure candidates’ performance.

Source Smarter by Going to Right Place

Finding top performers requires a level of active recruitment that, at times, can feel a little bit like dating, you can’t meet a new prospect if you never leave the house. Having a company footprint on job boards and social media is important. It gets your name out there and indicates certain level of productivity and suggests company growth. Look at data on your current employees to uncover strategic places to source. Perhaps candidates are coming from LinkedIn or maybe your top performers share a college major or went to the same school.

You can also make your in-house network work for you through an employee referral program – a very strategic sourcing tactic. Current employees know what it’s like in the trenches each day and can serve as an early barometer on a candidate’s adaptability and cultural fit. Don’t underestimate good press as a recruiting tool. Positive and compelling stories about your company will raise awareness among top talent and increase interest in openings.

Getting Organized to Improve Candidate Experience

Like dating, you need to be mindful of how you come across; your employer brand is an often overlooked aspect of the recruiting and hiring process. A candidate’s experience during these early interactions is a reflection of your organization’s culture, mission, values and people. In a competitive labor market, a disjointed and disorganized process within your small business will put you at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting and retaining star candidates, especially those considering multiple jobs

Inefficiencies across the hiring process not only impact executives and hiring managers’ already busy schedules but, more importantly, the candidate’s earliest impressions of your organization. A reasonably quick response on resumes, applications and interviews are important to providing a good candidate experience.

Data shows that poor candidate experiences often stem from hiring teams leaving candidates wondering. Not receiving confirmation emails that a resume or application was received and not being notified that a position was filled are commonly listed as areas of frustration. As a small business grows, an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) can provide additional coordination and help improve candidate experience by automating communications and providing timely updates for candidates while also simplifying back-end processes like scheduling.

Interview for Performance

So you have a great pool of candidates and your team has set each candidate’s expectations on how the interview process will unfold. Now you’re sitting across the table from your candidates – and winging it. It’s true, when it comes to the interview process, many small businesses are failing to ask the thorough types of questions that uncover true performance indicators. Transformative hires don’t just happen; they begin with coordination across all departments interfacing with candidates and asking the right questions in interviews to uncover true performance indicators.

Talent hiring requires you to assess traits that aren’t as easy to measure – things like creativity, integrity and innovation. Before the interview begins, look at your current top performers to understand what other performance attributes you should be looking for and what makes a top performer in your business. During interviews, look beyond the “nice to have” attributes like education, leadership and communication skills and drill deeper to uncover the “must have” attributes that indicate a true performer. Attributes like judgment, autonomy and cultural fit are the “must have” performance attributes that are bit more difficult to discern from a resume, cover letter and standard set of interview questions.

Small businesses are just that – small. So anytime a new team member joins the family, it will have an impact up and down a team, department or the entire shop. Making the wrong hire impacts not just some forgotten corner of an organization, but everyone. And if it goes really poorly (i.e., they leave on their own or are dismissed), your already busy hiring managers and executives are right back in a cycle of recruiting, hiring and interviewing.

Better hiring processes and more informed decisions can help eliminate the risk of a wrong hire, reduce turnover and improve business performance. Easier said than done for small businesses who must compete with larger organizations for top talent. But small adjustments in specific areas of the process can yield big results in terms of office efficiency, performance and competing in the war for talent.

Don Charlton founded Jazz (formerly The Resumator) in 2009, and established the company as a leader in SMB-focused, SaaS recruiting solutions. A graphic designer turned software engineer, entrepreneur, startup evangelist, writer and speaker. Don is the influential leader and innovator for Jazz’s product organization and widely regarded as a thought leader in the recruiting software industry. Follow Don on Twitter: @Dontrepreneur.