Hiring Advice for Small Businesses

Smaller firms need talent also, but they normally have more limited resources and recruiting expertise than larger firms. If you are a small business owner, here is the way to approach recruiting. 1. Realize that the firms with the best people win. Most entrepreneurs spend too little time on people issues, even though they are unlikely to beat the competition without better people. The Bulls basketball team won because of Michael Jordan… it wasn’t his shoes! If you are to win the war to attract and retain the best, you must adopt new tools and techniques. For example, stop relying so heavily on want ads that have an extremely high cost and a tendency to attract low-quality applicants (in times of high employment). Instead target the very best talent, which generally are currently employed people that are probably not actively looking for a job at the present time. Assume the best candidates are currently employed “passive” job seekers that you need to “swipe” from other firms. Recruiting other firm’s top talent requires different tools both for finding them and in order to convince them to say yes. 2. Stop relying on coincidence hires. What are the odds that the very best candidates are available and reading the want ads on the day you begin recruiting? Don’t rely on luck; develop continuous recruiting processes that identify the best talent well before you actually need it. Then build relationships with these candidates over time, because it allows you to learn more about them and to assess them without rushing. Don’t hire “strangers”! 3. Recruiting sends them a message about your firm; you have to wow the very best. You have to make the job exciting and you must continue innovating in recruiting in order to beat other big and small firms in the race for talent. And by the way, top talent differs from the average person. Top people get so many offers that you have to “wow” them with opportunities to grow and learn. They want different things (pay for performance, challenge, control, “open book” management, communication) and they often demand an individualized, continuously updated deal. The best need to be asked, “What would be a better job for you?” and then you have to offer most of what they expect. You also need to coordinate any advertising and PR you do with your recruitment efforts in order to spread the word (i.e. build your employment brand) that your firm is a great place to work. 4. You need better screening tools if you are going to hire the very best. Many entrepreneurs rely on “gut instincts” to select candidates. Unfortunately their gut is likely to be wrong nearly 50% of the time. Instead, use actual company problems in the interview (verbal simulations) to find out how they will approach your problems after they are hired. Also, stop asking about yesterday in the interview. Ask about possible future problems and the required solutions for your firm. 5. Use technology to find and assess the very best! The best recruits are net savvy and are already on the net. Use chat rooms, list servers, and web search robots to find the very best. Drop forever the idea that recruitment and hiring must be face to face. Use telephone interviews to assess candidates. Develop exciting web pages that tell a story about your firm in order to excite the candidates and show them you are different. 6. Try these simple but inexpensive recruiting tools.

  • Have a strong employee referral program
  • Re-hire your former employees
  • Ask references for the names of other top people they know
  • Ask your best customers and suppliers to refer people (or just hire them)
  • Ask new hires on the first day “who else is good” from their former firm
  • Ask your current employees “How would I find you again?” and use those techniques and sources to recruit similar people
  • Reward managers for great hiring and retention

Summary When you have a small staff delays can cost you and even one hiring mistake can be deadly. So learn how the best larger firms do it and adapt their practices to your firm. Be aggressive and try new approaches. Remember Michael Jordan doesn’t read want ads!

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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