4 Recruiting Tips for Small Business Owners
As a small business owner, you’re beyond busy—and that isn’t likely to change. One moment, you’re serving as a salesperson, trying to close that new piece of business. The next, you’re playing service rep and solving a buyer’s problem or doing executive tasks like running to the bank to sign loan documents. Add to these roles more selling, more service, and more managing. Suddenly, your best employee gives notice. Hiring expert and business consultant Scott Wintrip asks the important question: As busy as you are, how will you find time to recruit, interview, hire, and train a replacement? Keep reading to learn the four steps you can take to make hiring for your small business more efficient than ever.
“Small business owners are competing with one another for quality employees,” says Scott Wintrip, author of High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant(McGraw-Hill Education; April 2017). “The Internet leveled the playing field, and now your company and all others—big and small—are able to reach out to top talent. This is straining an already tapped out talent pool and has left many small business owners searching far and wide for talented and resourceful job candidates.”
Wintrip points out that small business owners have to find great talent quickly in order to perform at full capacity.
“When you’re operating with a small crew,” he says, “you have to find smart, resourceful talent capable of keeping up with the fast-paced dynamics that come along with a small company. Luckily, fitting hiring into your already busy day isn’t that complicated—it just requires a few easy adjustments.”
Leverage the most productive streams of talent.
Asking for referrals and networking with other business people has long been a highly effective way to locate talent, says Wintrip. In fact, business owners who carve out time each week for networking and referral generation discover a secret: The labor pool isn’t as tapped out as they originally thought. They simply weren’t taking a disciplined approach to recruiting. NOTE: See below on how to get great referrals.
Actively share the talent you discover with other business owners.
Keep in mind that you’re not going to be able to hire every great candidate you meet. Sometimes talented candidates just aren’t the right fit for your company, and other times, all of your positions are filled. When this happens, be sure to share candidates with other business owners to help them solve their own hiring challenges; they will also be happy to reciprocate. According to Wintrip, business owners who share talent in this manner with at least eight or more businesses report greater success in hiring faster and making better hires.
Conduct hands-on interviews.
The standard approach to hiring is to conduct interviews where candidates talk about work. Not only is this a huge drain on time, it’s also an inaccurate way to assess whether a candidate fits your job. That’s why many small business owners have turned to doing hands-on interviews.
“In a hands-on interview, you experience the candidate doing sample work,” says Wintrip. “If it’s for a sales role, the candidate joins you on a sales call. If you’re hiring for a customer service role, he can help solve a customer’s problem. By watching the candidate in action, you save time while also making a more accurate assessment of whether or not someone is a good fit.”
Line up key people before you need them.
“Some roles are more vital than others, and when these roles are left unfilled, they can harm your business,” asserts Wintrip. “Plus the extra work usually falls on your already overflowing plate. Instead of waiting until an employee in an essential job quits or gives notice to start recruiting, do yourself a favor and recruit ahead of time. Dedicating 30 minutes to recruiting each week pays off by creating a pipeline of potential talent ready to be hired the moment that vital job becomes open.”
“Hiring cycles don’t always happen at the best time, but when they do, you must dive right in and locate talent that will keep your company thriving,” concludes Wintrip. “If you’ve maintained viable contacts through networking and referral generation, you’ll be able to locate and hire exceptional talent faster than you might expect—even in an overtapped labor pool. Then you can get back to your regular tasks and help your company stay strong.”
Referrals 101: Five Easy Tips to Help You Network and Discover Top Talent
Word of mouth is a powerful and often overlooked way to find great talent and fill open positions in your small business. Here’s how a referral system will help you find the perfect job candidates and keep your company going strong.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If there’s a “magic bullet” for effective networking and getting quality referrals, it’s this: Just ask for help.
“Just telling someone that you need help—even saying the word itself—creates an important dynamic,” says Wintrip. “It’s human nature for us to help one another. When you use the word ‘help,’ you’re reminding the person you’re asking of your shared humanity. This simple approach often paves the way for people to be generous in pointing you in the right direction.”
Realize a little goes a long way.
Investing a few minutes each day in referral recon pays off in dividends. And it’s so easy it doesn’t even feel like work.
When a vendor stops by, ask for their help with referrals; at the local office supply store or that restaurant where you’re having lunch, network with the employees you meet; a phone call to a friend could turn into two or three candidate referrals. Small, quick inquiries such as these can turn into big wins when you find a great person to hire.
Get specific with qualities you’re looking for.
Don’t just ask your contacts for referrals to people who are looking for a job, says Wintrip. Ask for referrals to the specific type of person you want to hire.
For example, if you’re looking for a store manager, you might say, “Who do you know who is good at managing a retail store? I’m looking especially for someone who listens more than they speak.” This precision helps the person you’re asking thoroughly “search” their mental Rolodex for the right person amongst the hundreds of people they know.
Don’t forget to ask your “obvious” networks for referrals.
How often do you ask current employees for their help with candidate referrals? What about their family members or the previous employees who left your business on good terms? Have you asked your own family and friends to put you in touch with referrals they know?
“It’s easy to overlook the obvious resources for strong referrals,” says Wintrip. “But when we do this, we’re likely missing out on the insight of the very people who are most likely to want to help us.”
Remember the most important “rule” for attracting great talent.
Wintrip says the best attractor of top talent isn’t high salaries or fancy titles; it’s being a great place to work. Make sure your business has a positive and engaging environment, and you’ll develop a reputation as an enjoyable place to work. Then when you network and request referrals, the people you ask will go out of their way to refer their friends and colleagues to you.
“Reaching out to the people you meet—as well as those you already know—can connect you with impressive talent,” concludes Wintrip. “Make referral generation a regular part of your managerial tasks, and before you know it, you’ll realize that good help is easy to find.”