Small business is big in the United States: in fact, more than 47% of the US workforce—some 59.9 million people—are employed by small businesses. Firms with fewer than 500 workers account for 99.7% of all US companies, and 89% of US companies have less than 20 employees.  Yet, recruiting and hiring the right people is not always easy for companies that lack big-company name recognition.

In a recent SHRM survey, 83% of small business owners reported having trouble recruiting suitable candidates in the past 12 months.  Why? Some of the reasons include:

  • 43% Competition from other employers
  • 36% Lack of required experience
  • 35% Lack of technical skills

If you’re among the small business owners planning to add staff in 2020, you’re not alone. The most recent Bank of America Small Business Owner Spotlight showed 24% plan to hire this year. That means finding (and keeping) talent will continue to be a challenge. Here are 17 tips to help you reach your staffing goals in 2020.

Finding Talent

  1. Look at your website with new eyes. Your website is not only looked at and analyzed by customers, it’s also the first place job seekers look when deciding whether they’d like to work for you. Make sure the design and feel of the site reflects your brand image—serious and professional or casual and trendy?
  2. Include your company background on your website. Job seekers want to know how many years you’ve been in business, and learn about the background of the founders, the company’s mission, and more.
  3. Play up your current team. Today’s talent wants a workplace where they can grow and learn, so make sure you include writeups on employee backgrounds and expertise. Show employee success stories and pictures of team members at events, enjoying their jobs, etc.
  4. Show off your local commitment. If you’re looking to hire local candidates (as opposed to virtual employees) make sure your social media and website reveals how your business is tied to community involvement. Did you staff volunteer at a recent running race or children’s hospital? Younger workers, in particular, want to work for businesses that give back to their community.
  5. Put your personality on social media. You can be sure today’s job seekers are checking your social media pages to see what you post and share. You can also put the word out on your social platforms that you’re hiring to draw attention to your business.
  6. Keep an eye on your online reputation. As a small company, you may not be large enough to be reviewed on job sites such as Glassdoor or Indeed. But if your business is on Yelp consumer reviews say a lot about the kind of business you are and whether you have a good reputation in the community. Make sure you always address any criticisms or complaints right away and thank happy reviewers.
  7. Choose the right online job boards. Currently, com has the biggest volume of listings and where candidates tend to look first, but your listing may get lost without some paid promotion. Other job sites include LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter. You can also try smaller job boards targeted to specific industry like TalentZoo and Upwork.
  8. Hire virtual workers. If the jobs you have to fill can be done remotely, look on job boards specifically for virtual job seekers such as We Work Remotely, FlexJobs, JustRemote,and
  9. You might need to recruit. LinkedIn is a great resource if you’re looking for experienced talent. Work your connections to reach a broader group of prospects.
  10. Attend college fairs. Contact local colleges and find out about any planned job fairs. Are there places at local colleges and universities you can post job opportunities?
  11. Ask current employees. It’s smart to promote from within. It shows you trust your employees, and promotions help you retain valuable talent. You can also ask your current team if they know of anyone looking for a position in your industry.
  12. Have an employee handbook. According to a Glassdoor study, businesses with a strong onboarding process increase new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%. Strong onboarding starts with clarifying expectations on day one. A comprehensive employee handbook should contain all company policies such as work hours including breaks, disciplinary procedures, vacation and sick days, harassment and discrimination regulations and more.
  13. Put employee information online. Too much information for a paper handbook? Create an intranet or a private network only accessible by passwords you issue to employees. You can also continue to use your intranet to make company policy changes and announcements.
  14. Onboard to avoid risk. You can avoid future employee issues by making your company’s security policies clear. Your employee handbook/intranet should let employees know you’re serious about preventing employee theft, workplace safety and data security. Have your HR and tech experts create detailed procedures and policies to protect your business from avoidable risk.
  15. Encourage feedback. Even if you have a new hire shadow a veteran employee for a few days, it’s important as the boss to check in and see how the training is going. Ask the new hire for feedback on what else can be done to help the get settled in. Also check in with the employee doing the training to see what else the new hire may need.
  16. Show movement. If the position you’re hiring for is open because someone in your company got a promotion, consider having that person show the new hire the ropes. Then once things have gotten more “comfortable” have the new hire cross train on a few other responsibilities. Cross training as many employees as possible is smart planning.
  17. Create a welcoming culture. One big mistake many employers make when hiring is leaving them feeling isolated once training is completed. Hold a few brown bag lunches where employees can sit around the office or in a nearby park and get to know each other.

Key Qualities

You might be tempted to hire quickly to fill open spots, but don’t compromise on essential skills or qualities that translate into stellar employees. Use this checklist to help find high-caliber candidates.

  • Communication skills — Being able to communicate effectively with colleagues, clients or partners is an essential skill. Gauge your applicant’s skills with email, phone and in-person body language.
  • Positive attitude — Hiring people with a positive attitude helps create a working environment that inspires creativity and encourages productivity from your employees.
  • Team player — Team players bolster the work of others and raise the overall level of success for your company.
  • Self-motivated — Self-motivated employees take the initiative and get work done without extensive oversight or direction.
  • Strong work ethic — In addition to working hard, employees who show a strong work ethic tend to set high goals for themselves and keep going until they achieve them.
  • Dependable — Keeping commitments and meeting deadlines are the hallmarks of dependable employees.
  • Detail-oriented — Detail-oriented employees take pride in their work and get the job done right the first time.
  • Adaptable — You want employees who aren’t resistant to change and who are willing to take on new challenges or learn new skills if needed.
  • Confident — Confident employees aren’t afraid to take risks or try new things and will be willing to go the extra mile when a client or colleague needs help.
  • Honest — You want to be able to trust your employees to work professionally and do the right thing.

Looking for the Ideal Candidate?

The Job Application and Applicant Tracking Smart Apps from HRdirect can help you expand recruitment reach and track the best candidates—from application and interview to decision and offer. With the apps you can:

  • Instantly access up-to-date, state-compliant job applications
  • Choose from a library of attorney-approved questions
  • Create and track your open positions
  • Rate and review candidates to find your next five-star hire


In partnership with HRdirect SmartApps

Onboarding stock photo by Panchenko Vladimir/Shutterstock