One factor that ultimately determines whether a business succeeds or fails is its employees. This is especially true with a small business, where each employee has more influence on the success of the whole.
Businesses thoroughly rely on the execution of individual employee roles, as well as their skills and talents in relation to their specific role. You may have the best business strategy in the industry, but if your employees aren’t the right ones to execute that strategy, then strategy doesn’t matter. This is why hiring the right candidates for your business is crucial.
There are three critical steps in the hiring process: advertising, performing the interview, and handling the new hires. In order to help prevent stress during the hiring process and select the best candidate for your small business, we’ve provided a few tips for each step of the hiring process.
Once things with your small business are going pretty well, it’s time to hire on some employees. And now is a good time considering small business numbers for employment growth are up. Just this past November, small companies created 102,000 jobs.
Before you interview and hire the right candidate, you first have to get word out that you’re hiring. The first step is crafting your listing. When posting a job listing, clearly defining the position is essential. Potential employees want to know exactly what they’re applying for and what’s expected of them. Don’t waste your time with generic responsibilities. Give them the significant outcomes and goals for the position and then list the required skills of an applicant.
Once your listing is ready to post, the next step is to figure out where.
The Power of Social Media
A great way to find qualified people for free is through networking. Ask for referrals from friends, family members, colleagues, or college advisors that you trust. If you have a good relationship with these people, then it’s likely they’ll give you names that are a worthy fit for your company.
Utilizing the the power of social media is a necessity when networking. We live in a world connected by sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, which give anyone the opportunity to influence and inform the masses. It’s been reported in 2015 that 65% of adults use social media, with 90% of 18-29 year olds accessing social media. Your prospective employee is most likely going to be found in that young adult age group, so using social media to entice them to apply for your company will increase the odds of finding who you’re looking for.
When creating a social media presence for your business, it’s important to set yourself apart from the rest of the competition. Market your company to future employees by giving them a taste of what it is like to work for you. Share accomplishments or awards your business has received, post pictures of activities you have done with employees, and give incentives of why your business is a great place to work.
LinkedIn is typically used to advertise your business, but incorporating Facebook and Twitter usage will expand your reach. Facebook, unlike LinkedIn, has a large user base with 71% of adults signed up for the platform. This means that Facebook is perfect for reaching a large audience. Twitter can be used to drive awareness to your business and its offer for a position. You can also use Twitter to see how other businesses in your industry are operating so you can adapt to the competition to hire the perfect employee.
If you’re willing to spend some money advertising, try the AdWords or pay-per-click (PPC) option. Pay-per-click ads increase awareness by listing your business name in search results. This approach is generally relatively cheap.
Using Google AdWords is an excellent way to have your job posting be on the top of Google Search results and if done correctly, it can be highly effective for small businesses on a budget. Investing in AdWords for your business will allow you to market to specific demographics and geographic areas. When hiring, you want to post job listings that are seen by those that are qualified, actively searching for a job in the position you are offering, and most importantly, those who are in locations in which you want to hire.
By using Adwords to target a specific zip code or region, you can focus your listing to those locally or even to those attending a college or university in a certain zip code. For example, if you’re looking for a graphic designer and want to target ads in an area near Stanford University in California, you could look up the zip codes around the university and include them in your AdWords parameters. Doing this will be effective in the college regions, where potential graduates are searching for specific jobs using keywords that line up with your available position. While targeting by zip code or region isn’t a perfect science, it does make Adwords a viable option for small businesses looking for the right employees.
Knowing common keywords used to search for job postings similar to yours will also give you an advantage in marketing to potential employees. Google offers a keyword tool that helps you to choose keywords that are searched for the most. By optimizing your job posting with keywords, you will find an increase in the quality of applicants. In this way you’ll be using both PPC and some basic SEO optimization to help get your job posting seen by the right people.
In addition to SEO optimization, there are also multiple job sites where you can post your listing. Listed below are a few of the most popular job sites and the ways you can utilize their services
- CareerBuilder – Allows employers to post job listings for a fee, while offering analytics to track the effectiveness of your job posting. Once posted, a job listing will reach those you are targeting based on keywords similar to Google AdWords. Unlike AdWords, however, candidates must specifically use CareerBuilder’s website to navigate job postings. Applicants can upload their resume directly to CareerBuilder so you can vet them before making a decision.
- Monster.com – Similar to CareerBuilder, Monster.com offers employers monthly or yearly subscription fees to post job listings. What sets Monster.com apart from CareerBuilder is the pricing plans offered are more affordable for smaller businesses. This service also utilizes social recruiting on Twitter, without the hassle of you setting up a Twitter account.
- Indeed – Unlike CareerBuilder or Monster.com, Indeed.com offers free job postings for employers. The catch? You can opt in for pay-per-click pricing that lets you select the amount you’re willing to pay each time someone clicks to view your job. This feature, called “sponsored jobs,” will make your posting prominently featured on the Indeed search engine. With no subscription fees or upfront costs, this is a great option for even the tightest of budgets.
- LinkedIn – Offers small businesses a simple and intuitive way to network and share job postings. With LinkedIn, the cost of posting a job depends on geographic location. You can also sponsor your job with, essentially, a pay-per-click option. Job postings that are sponsored can appear on the homepage of the website. Jobs can also be promoted in the LinkedIn Job Search App. Likewise, companies are able to show available positions within your business on your company’s page just by having a LinkedIn company page. Since LinkedIn’s entire purpose is networking and career searching, both the paid and normal updates via a company page are incredibly effective. It truly combines the network effects of a social media site with the benefits of a the job listing sites listed above.
Performing The Interview
After you’ve advertised about your job opening and received resumes, it’s time to sort through those resumes and select the best candidates to interview. These hiring tips are especially important to grasp if you’re hiring your first employee.
Before you start bringing in potentials, prescreen your top choices. Prescreening is a great way to gauge the potential employee’s professionalism, dedication, and personality. In essence, this will be a ‘pre-interview’ where you can ask simple questions relating to the position for which you are hiring while getting a better understanding of who the candidate is.
Using social media to prescreen is a must nowadays. A candidate’s social media profile will give you a good indication of who they are, what they like, and how they interact with others. People are more likely to be open on their social media sites, which gives you the opportunity to see if they are really who they say they are on their resume. Many times you can truly discover who someone is by their social media usage and even sometimes discover red flags such as: substance abuse issues, if they’ve been convicted of a crime, interactions with past employers and coworkers, and so much more. You can also receive references from their friends, see their creativity, and understand their communication skills — all from a social media profile. Once you look over the candidate’s social media profile, you can prepare to do an over-the-phone prescreen interview if there are no serious red flags that eliminate the candidate.
Preparation is key in ensuring that the prescreen is effective for not only yourself but for the potential employee. A simple phone call may not seem like a big deal but it is important to prepare yourself before making the call itself. Here are a few steps that you can take to get ready for a prescreen phone call:
- Review candidate’s resume to get a better idea of who he or she is
- Compile a list of questions (5-10) that you could ask during the prescreen
- Incorporate resume experience when planning questions
- Schedule the phone call — this allows the candidate to be prepared as well and shows them that you value their time
In prescreening, it’s important to ask questions that illicit quick, direct responses. This will give you an idea of how prepared they are, while also seeing how specific and detail-oriented they can be. Some questions that you can ask are:
- Tell me about yourself. Knowing about the applicant is important but this question is supposed to give them the opportunity to open up about their experiences and qualifications for the position.
- Why did you apply for this position? This will give you an understanding of their intentions and desire for working for you
- What are you looking to gain from working with us? Similar to the previous question, this will help you see what they wish to obtain from working for you. Applicants that just want to make money are probably less likely to outperform those who want to contribute to the success of your business.
- Your resume mentions you worked as this, what did you learn from this job? Their reaction to past experiences will show you how they’ve handled previous responsibilities.
Make sure to be consistent in the questions you ask throughout your pool of candidates. By doing this you will be able to compare them to one another so that you can choose the best to bring in for an interview. By taking notes during the interview you can help organize the selection process and tell which candidate is which when reviewing the process. This can be much harder than one would think when there are a number of candidates! Simple notes will help you recall portions of the interview that highlight the candidate’s preparedness or lack thereof.
When it’s time to make the prescreen phone call, seclude yourself in a quiet office or room to help remove distractions. Giving full attention to the phone call is essential. Your undivided attention to the candidate is a must; listen to their responses intently and prepare follow-up questions during the call to get clarification and understanding. It’s important that you keep the interview short, somewhere between 10-15 minutes. This will give you adequate time to ask questions and receive an understanding if this applicant is ready for an in-person interview.
Once prescreening is done, you can bring in the remaining candidates. Don’t be nervous if this is your first time interviewing someone — chances are they’re a little nervous too. Write down a list of questions you want to ask and points you want to go over, or print off this list of questions you should ask to help with nervousness or if you get off topic during the interview. It’s also smart to use your expertise because you’ve probably done whatever position you’re now hiring for, so use that to your advantage when asking questions about potential situations.
Of course, there are also questions that you shouldn’t ask during an interview. Legally, there can be implications if you ask questions found in the previous link, so avoid asking those at all costs. Though you are supposed to get to know the candidate, an interview is not the time to dive into their personal life. Do not ask whether or not they are married or dating. Any discussion or question on religious or political subjects (the two common off-limit topics in any social setting!) is a big no-no. Digging into their past is not acceptable, especially during an interview. The bottom line is: be professional and friendly.
Be cordial and inviting during the interview. Helping the candidate feel comfortable and welcome will help them be more open with you. Show that you’re understanding and empathetic. The in-person interview is the perfect opportunity to judge the applicant’s interpersonal communication skills. Seeing how they hold themselves (their body language) and react to questions you ask them will be an indicator of how they will fit in at your business. Unless you want a dull, emotionless employee, taking their personality into consideration is necessary.
Ask questions that will help their personality come through during the interview. Ask about their strengths and weaknesses, their fears, or even moments in their life that they were the most happy. Don’t be afraid to be open about yourself either; share your experiences and stories that relate to the interview questions. Though the interview isn’t about you, it is important to show that you are a real person too and not just a scary big-wig who owns a business.
Selling the small business environment is another key point to touch on. Tell your interviewees how great it is and how as a small business owner you can be more flexible with work schedules. Explain to them that working for a small business will give them the opportunity to be a leader and crucial contributor in the success of the business. Knowing this can be added motivation for the applicant. But at the same time, don’t sugarcoat things. Be honest about what you expect from them and what they can expect from the position.
Let them know that your small business acts and operates in unity. Because of the small business atmosphere, an individual personality is more likely to stand out than in a larger company. Tell the candidate that their personality matters and that it can integrate well within the culture of your small business. Having a group of employees that are hard working, creative, and adaptable will give your business the edge in a competitive market.
During the course of the interview, allow the the candidate to ask questions about the business, work environment and position that you are offering. At some point, you should discuss compensation, or salary, for the job. Discussing compensation may seem tricky, but if handled right you can see if they know what they want or not. If a candidate approaches the compensation conversation with an idea of what they want for a salary, then discuss with them why they believe they are worth that amount. If the potential employee doesn’t have an idea of salary range, ask them what they made previously and then discuss what they feel like they deserve in the position you are offering. Negotiating openly and honestly, while not selling yourself short, will give both you and the candidate peace of mind knowing that money won’t be an issue.
For some positions, particularly software development and related fields that require a tangible or “hard skill,” testing out their work is another smart hiring tip. Try giving them a fairly small but challenging project so you can see how they handle it and measure up to your expectations and requirements.
Handling The New Hires
You advertised the position, interviewed for it, and hired your newest employee. Nice work! But the job hiring process isn’t quite over yet.
Depending on your number of employees, you may or may not have someone else taking on the HR responsibilities for your company. If you’re taking on that role, then be sure all the paperwork and legal stuff is taken care of correctly for your new hires. It may seem mundane going through all the paperwork with a new hiree, but getting them up to speed on company policies will inform them and protect you and your business in the case of a disagreement.
Some of the necessary paperwork that you will want to review with your new employee includes:
- An employee handbook: Having a handbook of company policies and procedures will help get them up to speed on your business. This handbook can also include employee benefits, safety protocols, and general day-to-day information. Have them sign a waiver at the end of reviewing the handbook to ensure that both parties are in agreement.
- W-4 Form: This tax form is where employees declare their tax withholdings. It’s important that you keep this on file.
- I-9 Form: This form is used to verify eligibility of employment for those you hire. It’s a government requirement that you have an I-9 form on file for all employees.
Taking on a new employee also means helping them become familiar and comfortable with you, your business, and their new position. As a small business owner, you’re a busy person and your new hire understands that. But that doesn’t mean you just show them their workspace, tell them to get started, and expect perfection. You need to find the time to provide some training because even those coming in with experience need to be trained on how to use that experience to be successful for your small business. Just because you’re the ‘boss’ doesn’t mean you can’t be their friend. Show them you’re excited to have them on board.
Having one-on-one meetings every so often, especially in the beginning, is another smart hiring tip. This gives you a chance to get feedback from employees on how the job is going and how they’re doing, as well as discuss any issues or needed improvements on either end. You can also try and get to know a new hire better during these short meetings. As a small business owner who most likely only has a few employees, it’s important to develop a good working relationship with each of them. Let one-on-one meetings be casual and open. Don’t be afraid to share a laugh with your new employee or ask them how they are doing. Again, it’s important to show them that you are their friend and that you are willing to help them be comfortable with their new position.
Building employee relations and morale is a must! Working 40 hours a week can be a drag unless the work environment is positive and fun. Balancing a professional atmosphere with a fun atmosphere may seem difficult, but it’s really not. You’re the leader for your business, so establishing a fun environment starts from your personality and your desire to enjoy working. With a small business it’s easier to do activities together as an entire team. Plan employee lunches, have weekly team-building games, and encourage your workforce to interact while in the office or on the job.
We understand hiring new employees can be stressful because there is a lot that goes into it. But if you follow these hiring tips, the process will be a little easier to bear and will help ensure you hire the right candidates who will help your business succeed.