8 Hiring Best Practices for Every Small Business

Is your approach to hiring all wrong? Use this guide to see where your hiring process ranks

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When it comes to hiring new talent, finding the right person is a challenge for every employer.

For companies to win the war on talent, their hiring best practices must consider every contact point along the recruitment stream – from job postings to offer letters.

Today’s hiring best practices look at the recruitment process as a marketing professional looks at selling a product: What can you do to make your job, your company, and the individual role most desirable for a job seeker?

1) Write a job description that attracts 

Does your job posting read like a legal document, with a laundry list of duties, credentials, and “must-have” skills? Is it brief and to-the-point, or go on for pages and pages?

You need to strike a balance between being concise and providing the necessary information for a job candidate.

Here’s how to structure a job posting:

  • Include an opening-paragraph that piques their interest, and what makes your job a great place to work
  • Include information about what the day-to-day would look like (will they be required to travel, take calls, write reports?)
  • Cite specific skill requirements and education

Also think about what you have to offer that the competition doesn’t? As a job seeker, would these attract your interest?

  • We are a fun group that works hard and plays hard
  • We’re a small company that treats every employee like a member of the family
  • We will train you to move on to better things, but you won’t want to leave

The most compelling job descriptions say more about the employer than the employee. To attract the most candidates, write postings that would pique your interest – it’ll pique theirs, too.

2) Placement matters 

Consider the talent pool you’re looking to attract and place your ads accordingly.

When you post on a large job board, you will have stiff competition. Large corporations can afford to boost their search metrics by sponsorships, ads, and other tools to put them at the top of every list of results.

Do you really need a nationwide search to find talent? You ask your customers to “shop local,” why not shop for talent locally, as well?

Local newspapers may not have the same “Help Wanted” sections they had in the past, but many leverage online ads and social media to widen their reach. Do you have social media pages you use to post information about your company? They are a great spot to say announce you’re hiring. Who better knows your product and service than the loyal customers who follow you on social media? They may become the best hires you affect.

Consider posting on Craigslist, which is a classifieds site and not a traditional job board. Research if there are niche job boards for your industry, or job boards that cater to remote employees (if that’s what you’re hiring for).

3) Be sure to reach out  

There are likely community and government organizations in your area that work to help residents find work. They may be career counselors at high schools or community colleges, local unemployment offices, church  groups or other non-profits that help people get back on their feet.

Building connections with these groups or professionals can help you create a talent stream for the future. They may even be able to help with training talent for your roles. Build relationships with these groups to see what they can offer you – and what you can offer them.

4) Reconsider your requirements

Even with your new and improved job postings, few of the candidates are meeting your minimum requirements. Does any job really need 3 to 5 years’ experience to master?

Even physicians only have a 3-year residency. Who came up with the 3-to-5 year rule, and why? Is it reasonable or even necessary? If, after a year in a role, a candidate doesn’t have the chops to do the work, will another 2 really matter? Reconsidering your requirements could open your organization to a wealth of qualified candidates you hadn’t considered before, but who could become valued members of your team.

5) Have training in mind

If you see a great candidate that has 80% of what you’re looking for, can some form of training bring them those last few steps? They may not have the exact experience you’re looking for, but a quick class in QuickBooks could create a stronger match.

Hard skills are easy to train. Online tutorials – many of which are free – can bring them the last mile if you’re willing to invest just a bit of time and effort. The bonus – your investment in their skill set will likely result in company loyalty – a strong retention strategy.

6) Be diligent 

Responding quickly to resumes, online applications, and phone calls is a good business practice no matter the talent conditions. When people respond to your posting, they’re interested in your company.

If you respond quickly with a phone interview or a meeting scheduled in a day or so you capitalize on that high interest level. The longer you wait, the more opportunities for the candidate to move on to another opening: be ready to respond immediately and schedule quickly.

You might even consider hosting a day of walk-in interviews: Job seekers who show up at your door ready to talk and are already demonstrating initiative.

7) Interview like a marketer 

Asking the right interview questions and understanding what candidates reveal with their answers is a talent developed over time. But you don’t have the time to invest right now – you’ve got a job to fill.

Like your job postings and requirements, it’s time to flip the script on interview questions. Just like selling to a customer, the interview process is a chance to “sell” to the candidate. You’re assessing them, obviously, but they’re also assessing you.

Yes, you need to know they have the basics to do the job, but your secondary role in the interview process is to assure they want the job if you make an offer. Take time to interject (frequently) all the pluses of working with your organization.

When you ask a candidate what they liked best about their last job, try to make a connection. Did they love working with customers? Mention your customers are loyal and enthusiastic – you’re proud to say they often call to tell you what a great job your staff does on their behalf. These similarities make it easier for a candidate to see themselves as a member of your team. If competing offers come in, they’ll be more attracted to the job where they see a comfortable fit.

8) Look for soft skills  

As you shift your requirements to meet market conditions, there’s one area where you shouldn’t sacrifice quality. Soft skills are fast becoming the most in-demand traits employers seek.

You can train someone to work a cash register, but a customer-focused personality may be innate. Look for candidates that have the traits you need for the role. A pompous candidate is not going to make a great team leader, but neither will someone who’s painfully shy. What characteristics did current or past employees successful in the role have? These are the traits you want to find in a job seeker.

Ask questions that reveal these if they’re not evident. You may find the best leader is the most modest when you ask if people depend on them for help and why. You may find the most focused candidate when you ask for a detailed description of how they perform tasks.

Looking for a problem solver? Offer up a hypothetical (or actual) scenario and ask how they’d respond. Soft skills are often a better arbiter of success than anything listed on a resume. You can probably train someone on processes – you probably can’t change their personality.

As you retool hiring practices into best hiring practices, remember to look at the process through the lens of the job seeker. A simple shift of perspective could change the way you hire, and the success of the hires you make.

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