Many companies throughout the United States are facing what’s become known as the “Great Resignation.” The pandemic gave employees a different perspective about what they wanted from their work lives. With so many people leaving their previous jobs, this means many companies are desperately looking to hire staff.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were 11.5 million job openings on the last business day of March, representing a major opportunity for job seekers and employers to find the right fit. So how can small businesses achieve the best outcome when looking to make new hires?
Simply Business compiled recruiting tips for small businesses, focusing on everything from interview hacks to perfecting job descriptions. Weighing in on this advice is Jennifer Perrow, a business growth strategist with Perrow Advisory Services. As a business coach and consultant, Perrow is called on by small business owners and their leadership teams to focus on company growth. “Often that involves identifying, attracting, and retaining the right team members,” Perrow said. A strategy she suggests for kicking off a candidate search: “Just like most things in business, it’s important to know your objective, follow a process, and have the right systems in place to ensure success.”
Read on to learn about these six essential tips for small businesses ready to recruit new employees.
Invest in building out thorough job descriptions
Small businesses ready to get the word out about a job opening will be looking to place information on job boards such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter. Something to be aware of before listing a position is that a job posting and a job description are two different things.
“A job description is more technical and focuses on the responsibilities of the role and requirements a candidate must have,” Perrow said. “A job posting takes that same information, but presents it in a way that speaks to the person you want to hire, making them aware of your company culture, values, and mission.”
Describing the company’s culture lets the applicants know whether the company they are considering shares the same values and whether they have the same expectations about the role’s responsibilities. When looking to make a good impression through a job posting, companies should avoid falling into the trap of keyword stuffing and providing nothing but bullet points. Business News Daily recommends the following: A two-sentence opening pitch about the company, two bulleted lists addressing responsibilities and requirements, and a one-sentence call to action for filling out an application.
Leverage referrals, social media, and prospecting to build a pool of candidates
Standing out in a competitive job market is imperative when recruiting. “Attracting the right talent to your small business is very similar to attracting the right clients to your business,” Perrow said. “Companies need to reach out and talk to people so their position gets elevated above the noise.”
Most companies already have resources in place, but may not be utilizing them properly. Those arsenals can include the company website, social media, networking, and employee referrals. “Focus on your relationships, as well as building connections with people through networking and on different social media platforms,” Perrow said.
An updated company website can make a huge difference. How the website presents your business through voice, culture, and values is key. Social media presences on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and even TikTok have also become integral in building brands and businesses. Regular posts with photos of the work environment, videos that give insight into the business, and hosted live discussions are excellent ways to both educate and connect with the public and potential hires.
Build a system for tracking and following up with candidates
Something to put in place at the start of recruiting for a position: a streamlined, air-tight timeline and process. This will serve as an outline to follow while meeting with candidates. Whatever form works best for your business—spreadsheet, project management software, checklists, calendars—having a process in place ensures nothing falls through the cracks.
Applicant tracking systems, or ATS, are also a prime way of communicating with other team members. “Hiring is not a one-person job,” Perrow said. “The recruiter is the point person overseeing the overall process, but input and information must be shared with everyone from the hiring manager to payroll.”
As helpful as they can be, tracking systems, specifically automated screening tools, can be detrimental when assessing candidates. Programs using ATS have been shown to reject applicants who aren’t an exact match to information input by recruiters. Some bias from ATS-led programs has even led to racial and gender stereotyping, unfairly filtering out candidates based on “high performers.” Automated systems build further on processes already in place, and when a process has been overrun with discrimination for generations, it’s difficult to create a system free of that bias. To combat this, remember not to rely solely on programs with ATS and read the resumes yourself.
Know the questions you can and cannot ask in interviews
In the United States, discrimination in the workplace is illegal when it comes to race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex—including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy—marital status, age, national origin, or disability. In some states, it’s also illegal to inquire about salary history.
Employers may have certain information they need to obtain from interviewees, but getting that information may mean navigating problematic questions. For example, asking, “Are you planning to have children soon?” may place candidates in a position where they feel their marital status or personal familial goals will be perceived as getting in the way of them being offered a position. What the hiring manager may be trying to learn could be addressed with this question instead, “Are you willing and able to work overtime? Are you open to traveling for the job?” This gives candidates, even those with children or who have plans for children, a fair opportunity to address their availability without any implications from the recruiter.
“This is important not only for human resources but for anyone in the company conducting interviews,” Perrow said. “Though the interviewer may be trying to get to know the applicant, they must still provide a level playing field and don’t want candidates to feel uncomfortable. It’s important to be aware that some questions might be perceived as hostile or negative.”
Set up reference calls (and dig into the right focus areas)
When closing in on hiring an applicant, checking references may be part of your company’s process. A reference can give insight into a candidate’s past performance and is often a good predictor of future performance.
When calling references, be specific about the job and what the role will require. Establish the relationship between the candidate and the reference. Can the reference truly speak to the applicant’s skills and past performance? How were that person’s teamwork, leadership, and communication skills? Essentially, “You want to use a reference check to verify the person is who they say they are,” Perrow said. “People can paint one picture and be very different from that representation.”
Policies within some companies don’t allow for giving references. In this case, either ask for confirmation by saying something like, “Did Joe work for your company between these dates?” Or look for other sources of information, such as LinkedIn profile references and professional associations of which the potential hire might be a member.
Once you’ve hired someone, focus on onboarding and retention
The perfect candidate has signed on. Excitement is brewing about new projects to be tackled together. But first, there’s the all-important step of bringing a new employee into the fold. This begins before they step through the office doors. Communication leading up to the new hire’s first day should be consistent, informative, and welcoming.
When the employee does make the first entrance, don’t bombard the new hire with paperwork and minutiae. Instead, get the new person settled in and comfortable. “Onboarding is critical, it’s your first impression,” Perrow said. “You’ve spent all this time, energy, and money to find this ideal hire, now it’s time to set them, and you, up for success.”
This story originally appeared on Simply Business and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.