How to Hire the Right Person for Your Small Business
by Maria Montoya
If data is anything to go by, "Eddie Entrepreneur" is not enamored with HR tasks, and hiring is one of the most important HR tasks in which you’ll engage. But it’s not a particularly thrilling process for most because, honestly, it’s like dating: You have to kiss a lot of frog candidates before you find your new hire prince or princess.
And it’s a consequential quest: hiring the wrong person can cost six, 15 or even 27 times the position’s base salary. So you want to know how to hire the right person.
Trying to match the incentives that the medium and large businesses are throwing out there has huge implications for small businesses: How do you find and attract people who will champion your purpose while forgoing potential signing bonuses or free gourmet snacks?
The secret is to focus on attracting people who want to work for your cause rather than work for your perks. Sure, you might not be able to offer a free gym to your employees, but you come with a very different, more abstract set of perks that will attract the kind of people you actually want to hire, the people who believe that what you’re doing is important and will deliver on their goals. Here are some tips on how to hire the right person for your small business.
So how does a small business owner hire the right people?
Create compelling job descriptions
Too often, corporate job descriptions sound like a jargon mishmash rather than an explanation of what the position actually is.
Start by brainstorming what makes the job and your business different. You might just need “an IT guy,” but put a lot of thought into your company’s culture and what kind of person would fit in there. Consider the employees you already have and how another person will ideally mesh with them.
Then make the description attention-grabbing and interesting. This will help you stand out from the jargon mishmash and attract qualified candidates who are in better alignment with your values, and will save you time by heading off the people who aren’t the right fit. Jobscience has some actionable tips for crafting effective job postings.
Remember, you don’t just want a warm body at a computer. You want a dynamic, intelligent person, and the way to reach out to that kind of person is to grab their attention with something compelling.
Look to those who are or love small business
Effective recruiting doesn’t start with a job posting—it requires maintaining your network of passionate entrepreneurs and those who love them. Tap into local universities with entrepreneurship programs. Seek out local venture capitalists.
Talk to other small business owners, not to recruit them, but to plug into their network of people in the small biz space. They’ll understand that you’re not just looking for an accountant, you’re looking for an accountant who knows and loves small business. Remember, it’s a lot easier to teach someone new skills than it is to teach them a new attitude.
Play on the limitations of medium and large businesses
Most positions at medium or large companies offer set algorithms for time off, working schedules and benefits. Not having that—or having it in a more flexible or non-traditional form—attracts the type of people who seek that flexibility.
Capitalize on the fact that you can provide the opportunity for someone to enter your organization during the high-trajectory startup phase. This will help you attract those with a founder’s mentality, people who want to actively help shape the future of your business. Make it part of the job description that new hires will help set the vision and have a deep impact right from the start.
Getting your job posting in front of the right candidates
Posting jobs on Indeed or LinkedIn is expensive, so create your plan to share the job listing in other places. You can and should post the description on your website, but you’ll still have the challenge of driving traffic there. Here are some tips for getting more eyes on your listing:
- Share on every social media outlet where you have a presence. Consider adding in an accompanying image to get more eyes and maybe more shares.
- Heavily recruit amongst your immediate social and professional networks. There’s a good chance your peers will be able to refer you to a good match.
- Don’t count Craigslist out; it can be very effective for finding talent in the small business space.
- Share the opening with community colleges and universities with business programs.
So I have a pool of applicants. Now what?
Congrats—it’s interview time!
Now that you’re going to start meeting the people who sent in their resumes, it’s time to remind yourself what will make your employer-employee relationship (and really, any human relationship) a positive, productive one:
1. Mutual trust
Do you trust this person to work well in your business? And do they trust that working for you will be positive and help move them in the direction of their ambitions?
2. Vulnerability and openness
You don’t have to tell each other all your secrets, but you should be able to be open about expectations and to communicate in an effective, functional way.
3. Singularity of focus
Will you both work toward the same goals? Will they understand, support and enhance your vision and help you get there?
Three areas to assess company and culture fit
Determine what motivates and drives your applicant, both intrinsically and extrinsically. That means you should ask them some big questions, like:
- What’s your purpose in life, and how does that fit into the big picture?
- Imagine your eulogy. What would be said about you?
- What brings meaning to your life and your work?
Assess whether their answers match up with the opportunities you can offer, and be honest with yourself and with them.
Will this person be able to execute in the role they’re applying for, especially as the role changes and your company evolves and grows?
A great way to assess this is to give your applicant a sample project reflective of their potential role’s duties. This gives you the chance to test their real-world ability.
Hiring under the assumption an applicant will remain with you forever is an outdated way to approach hiring. People typically remain in a role for two to three years before moving on. And given the post-recession mindset, everyone recognizes that careers are ephemeral.
So be totally honest and upfront about what you can and can’t provide, and questions that give you a firm idea of an applicant’s long-term career trajectory.
A vital part of the interview process is to uncover how this person likes to work with other people—especially you. They’ll be spending at least 40 hours of waking life every week in a relationship with you and others in your company, so ensuring they’re a correct personal fit is vital. Here are some questions you can ask them to suss out how they interact with others:
- What type of relationship do you want to have with your peers? With your leaders? With those who report to you?
- What annoys you about other people?
- What helps you build strong relationships with others?
Know what you can’t ask
Remember, when trying to hire the right person for your small business, there are some questions you can’t ask when interviewing candidates for a position. However, we aren’t making any legal advisements—make sure to consult an HR expert or a lawyer to make sure that you’re asking the proper questions.
Hiring can be a long, sometimes tough process, but remember that the right person will come along, you just have to be patient enough to wait for them and open enough to find them.
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