Hiring decisions might make up a small business leader’s most crucial make-or-break moments.
If a 5,000-person company hires a new employee, that person is probably just another drop in the bucket. But if a new hire is one of just five employees, that person’s continued, consistent performance is a must, which I learned as I built my own company. Because individual hires play outsized roles in small businesses—compared to large corporations—hiring the right people is crucial to small businesses’ success.
So how can these leaders make sure they’re hiring the right people? It all comes down to the people directly involved in the hiring process.
Related Article: 10 Interview Questions to Save You From Hiring a Fake
1. Use Your Best People to Find the Best People
SMBs don’t have the same resources that larger, more established businesses possess. They don’t have the capacity to hire headhunters or reach out through prominent job boards, and they’re not granted the luxury of being able to offer huge salaries and varied benefits.
Further, they’re lacking a defined brand that tech giants such as Facebook and Google frequently rely on to attract elite talent. Small businesses are left with a much smaller margin of error with fewer workers and, thus, a higher responsibility per worker.
So you’ll need to reach out through your existing networks to find dependable, capable people. Chances are that your team members know the perfect individual to fill a given opening. Leverage those connections to find tried-and-true individuals.
You’ll save money on recruiting costs while drastically reducing the chances of hiring the wrong person for the job.
But don’t simply rely upon referral bonuses to fill your seats. Eric Feng, the Flipboard CTO who formerly led Hulu to success, incorporates the Flipboard referral process into its onboarding.
During that time, new hires browse their own networks to see who might be a good fit. Later, those employees find themselves part of referral events at the company, when Feng gathers the team around laptops and pizzas to mine their social media connections and make lists of strong candidates for open roles—an effort small businesses can duplicate.
You’ll find the best candidates when you lead recruiting efforts with those who best represent the company’s mission and vision—and when you look around you for qualified candidates rather than try to outbid larger companies.
2. Involve Your Executives
Whether it’s hiring a summer intern or an accountant, a small business’s leaders absolutely must weigh in before an offer can be extended. Because passion and vision are essential qualities for small business hires, those driving the company mission are the most qualified to vet candidates.
Leaders are uniquely attached to their SMBs, so their top-down view is important when judging whether candidates would be strong contributors to their companies.
Tony Hsieh, for example, interviewed every job applicant in Zappos’ early days, along with Fred Mossler. After suffering through bad culture hires whose influence had permeated companies he’d worked for before, Hsieh was vigilant about protecting the customer-centric culture he’d established at Zappos.
In those early interviews, Hsieh and Mossler would verify that each candidate had the necessary skills to do his job—but they’d also ask themselves whether they would want to hang out with him if they didn’t work with him. This kept the business’s “work-life integration” mindset front and center.
After they’d hired nearly 50 people, Hsieh started having difficulty managing the time demands of interviewing lots of candidates with the constraints of his other responsibilities. Now, Zappos relies upon its early vetted hires to bring the same culture considerations to interviews, ensuring that the company’s original hiring philosophy lives on.
3. Show Off Your Culture to Interviewees
Leaders should meet prospective hires before an offer is extended, but the culture should be accurately represented through the interviewers as well.
Tell those involved in the hiring process to act naturally. Your team members were hired for their intelligence and talent, as well as their character and the idiosyncrasies that were deemed beneficial for the growth and aspirations of the business.
Over time, the employees who were added set a culture; now, they’re the most accurate representation of what the company actually is. Being authentic will attract those who would be a great fit for the business and dissuade those who might not have the right traits to succeed with everyone else.
Many companies are utilizing content marketing for this purpose before candidates even set foot in a meeting room. By having their employees write authentically about their experiences at work and the philosophy behind what they do—while throwing in dashes of their own personality to make it clear that it’s a real person sharing these insights.
Applicants can sense what the small business is all about, as well as who their co-workers might include. This helps them envision whether they’d be comfortable or even productive in the environment.
Furthermore, don’t embellish who you are. Make sure your job description is genuine and honest about what you seek to accomplish as a company. As discussed earlier, the mission and values of a small business define it and make it promotable.
Making disingenuous claims about what your SMB is or what it’s trying to achieve will benefit neither you nor the people you’re trying to recruit. Rather, focusing on what you truly want to achieve as a budding company will attract people who are passionate about that niche product or service.
Related Article: Why Company Culture Matters More to Employee Than Pay
4. Get a Group Consensus
There should never be just one person in the room for candidate interviews—the team’s involvement becomes increasingly important when the staff is small. Because many small businesses have teams that can fit in a dining room, it’s common for them to hire someone based on the team’s collective opinion of that person.
Additionally, with a large number of candidates being technically qualified, many businesses are now making decisions based on additional factors such as cultural fit and communication skills.
It isn’t essential that the whole team weigh in before someone is hired, but it can certainly help. Don’t discount somebody’s opinion because of his rank or length of involvement with the business.
Google Ventures’ Rick Klau, who runs Google’s Startup Lab, advises against turning group interviews into focus groups. However, in one instance he witnessed, a growing business’s team members were interested in doing just that to hire a project manager.
He pointed out that they weren’t truly vetting a project manager’s role and had them reverse engineer their true question: How do you actually interview a project manager? This gives multiple interviewers a focus, ensuring they answer the same question in their minds rather than independently evaluate candidates’ ideas.
No matter what, small business leaders should remember to take their time when deciding whom to hire. Each employee will play a huge role in propelling the business forward, so rushing into hiring decisions is never a good idea.
While hiring can feel more like an arduous slog through the trenches than a quick, easy connection, a rock star team and a competent leader are indispensable ingredients to building a small business bigger and better than ever.