In businesses of all sizes, finding good talent is more challenging than ever.
A recent survey by the employment firm ManpowerGroup found that more than one-third of employers couldn’t find the talent they needed. But for small businesses, this “talent mismatch,” as the firm calls it, can be even more pronounced.
You can’t afford an underperforming employee in a small business setting, says Chris J. Collins, associate professor at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and director of the Cornell Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies in Ithaca, N.Y. “In big companies, they can hide that … but if you have one out of 10 [underperforming employees], that can have a huge impact.”
Here are a few strategies to help you find high-quality hires:
1. Identify your company’s goals
“One of the most critical steps is to understand what it is that’s special and unique about your own organization,” Collins says. Discover why your current employees value working at your company and then use that as a selling point when recruiting.
2. Pinpoint the target employee
Knowing your target employee ahead of time will help you screen candidates. “What is it that those people want, and what is it that they’re looking for in an employer?” Collins recommends asking. Perhaps the target employee is looking for a chance to pursue new technology, or seeking to be involved in many steps of the innovation process.
3. Be visible
One of the most important challenges for many small businesses is getting in front of their recruitment targets in a meaningful way. Collins recommends looking for unique—and often free—opportunities beyond job fairs to showcase the business. For example, go to a local Habitat for Humanity construction build and have your employees wear T-shirts with the company logo, or volunteer at a local triathlon to hand out water. Don’t be afraid to give your current employees three or four talking points about who you are so they can become brand-builders while out and about.
4. Highlight non-traditional perks
If your company isn’t able to offer a premium compensation package, don’t fret. “There are lots of ways to sell it without being about pay,” Collins says. For example, highlight your company’s interesting work, the potential opportunity for a stock launch or the multifaceted experience the candidate would gain. Also, if your company has limited room for advancement, highlight how your company can promote employees laterally—a great way for a young employee to learn new skills. You can also highlight available retirement packages, including online 401(k) programs.
5. Be interview ready
Once you’ve narrowed down your job candidates, look at your most successful current employees and figure out what skill sets make them different. Then try to focus the interview around those qualities. Also, be sure to gauge if the candidate is a good cultural fit. “One mistake is if we all work as a team and I bring in the rugged individualist who doesn’t want to work with anybody,” Collins says. “That’s devastating to a small business.”
6. Take your time
Taking the extra time to find a quality employee will save a lot of headaches and money in the long run. Many small businesses can’t absorb the shock of having to terminate a recently hired employee and then begin the recruitment process anew. “Often, small businesses are so anxious to get the job filled that they rush through that process,” Collins says. “You need to take more time than a big company.”
By following these steps, you’ll set your business up for making a strong hire. And when you’ve found an employee who fits into the culture, you’ll also be increasing the chances that he or she will remain onboard for years to come.