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7 Steps for Hiring Great Employees

Dennis O’Keefe
Dennis O’Keefe

Making the right hire is critical for small businesses. Here is how to do it.

In a small business, any one person can greatly impact the company and the working environment, so it's essential to take your time to ensure you're hiring the right person for the job. If you rush the process, you may hire someone who isn't a good fit. They could leave your company quickly and leave you right back where you started.

Recruiting qualified employees can be challenging for small businesses – especially if you try to compete with larger companies who can pay more and offer better benefits. Nevertheless, these seven steps can help you optimize your recruitment process and ensure you find great employees that are just right for your team.

1. Know when you are ready to hire

Before you dive into the recruitment process, decide if you're prepared to take on a new staff member. You may be ready to hire more help if the following statements are true:

  • You don't have enough time during the day to accomplish everything
  • You are too busy to take on new clients or customers
  • You already know what position you need to fill
  • You can afford a new employee
  • You spend too much time maintaining your business and not enough time growing your business

If you already know what the position is that you're hiring for, you'll be able to write a great job posting that attracts the types of candidates you want.

Waiting until you are prepared to compensate a new hire will help ensure you don't have to lay them off because you can't afford their salary or don't need them in the long term. Letting go of employees shortly after hiring them can severely injure your reputation as an employer, making it more difficult to recruit great workers in the future.

2. Determine salary and benefits

Before you write your job announcement, consider whether you're willing and able to offer, both, in terms of salary and benefits. Candidates will almost always ask about these during the interview process, so be prepared and know what you can afford.

To get a good idea of what applicants will expect, use a website like PayScale to find out the average market rate for the position. Remember, if your salary offer is too low, you may attract people who don't have the appropriate experience or qualifications.

Of course, job seekers will most likely be looking at more than just salary. They will also consider your benefits package as a part of their overall compensation. Things like health insurance, retirement plans and paid time off can be valuable to your future recruits.

Larger companies may have an advantage because they can afford to offer better benefits, so it's up to you to be creative when you're considering what benefits to provide. As a small business, you can choose work perks that appeal to an individual candidate and will help them achieve a healthier work-life balance. These can include things like flexible schedules, floating holidays, or the ability to work from home occasionally.

In the end, create the best salary and benefits package your small business can afford and don’t try to compete with the larger companies in your area.

3. Write a compelling job announcement

Now it's finally time to sit down and write your job announcement. It may be the first impression job seekers have of your company. So, make sure it's accurate and professional while still showcasing your business's personality. At the very least, your job posting should include basic information about your company, the position's responsibilities, the ideal candidate's qualifications and how to apply for the job.

If you have more space, consider discussing your company's culture, values and mission statement. Job seekers don't just apply for specific positions; they also consider whether they want to work for the company. Sharing your culture can attract people who align with your values and are excited to work for you. They'll then be more engaged and stay with your company longer.

Share your culture through the way you write the announcement. If your company is laid-back and casual, write the post like you're having a conversation with the applicant. If you pretend that you're something you're not, you're likely to attract people who won't excel in your company.

You may even share examples of how your employees live out your culture daily. For example, if you value relationships, talk about how you try a new activity as a team once a month.

Explain why someone would want to work for your company. Share your reputation as a great employer by asking members of your existing team to tell you why they love working for your business. Then, describe the benefits and perks you can offer. You might include things like:

  • flexible schedules
  • opportunities to work from home
  • discounts on merchandise
  • a family environment
  • generous PTO
  • casual dress code
  • career development opportunities
  • volunteer days

You might also include benefits of working for a small business, like the ability to wear many hats, which allows your team to learn new skills. Not everyone is suited to work for a small business, so don't try to hide the fact that you are one.

Include details about the position. Although it's crucial to attract people who want to work for your company, you still have to give information about the open job. List the job's primary responsibilities and consider discussing what the employee would do during a typical day.

You should also describe your ideal candidate. Mention the preferred skills, experience and qualifications. But remember, you can always train skills; you can't teach attitude.

To that end, you might just describe the attitude and personality traits that would make someone successful in this position. For example, if you're hiring a new daycare teacher, you might want someone with a lot of energy and patience. If you're hiring a salesperson, however, you're likely looking for someone with initiative who's willing to pound the pavement looking for new opportunities.

Tell potential candidates how to apply. Do they need to fill out an application or email you a resume? Let them know if you would like to see references. If you're asking for a cover letter, give examples of what to include so you don't end up with a reiteration of their resume. For instance, ask them to describe a time they used a specific skill in a previous job, or how they would handle a particular situation.

4. Promote the job

Once you're happy with your job announcement, it’s time to spread the word that you're hiring. As a small business owner, you have several affordable options:

  • Online job boards, like Indeed, CareerBuilder and Monster, are a great way to find people who are actively looking for new jobs. They're also widely trusted because they work – 41% of recently hired workers have used an online job board to find their current position.
  • Social media is a great way to advertise an open job because potential applicants already have profiles. Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook allow you to connect with passive candidates who are currently employed and not actively looking for a new job. Make sure your company's profiles showcase your culture and ask your staff to share the opening on their own profiles.
  • Job fairs allow you to meet potential candidates face-to-face, which can give you a sense of their personality and how they would fit in your company. Make sure you're attending the right job fairs, though. For example, if you're hiring a management-level position, don't go to a job fair for individuals just joining the corporate world. Bring staff members who are energetic and want to share their excitement for your company with other people.
  • College campuses allow you to find up-and-coming talent, especially if you're looking for interns. Talk to the career services department at local colleges to find out the best way to connect with students and share your job ad.
  • Your employees are a great resource and can refer applicants who would fit well in your company. Tap into their enthusiasm for your company by implementing an employee referral program.

5. Review applications

After you've posted your job ad, you'll start to receive applications and resumés. It can be tempting to schedule interviews with every applicant. As a busy small business owner, you don't have time for that. Instead, split the applications into three piles:

  • Yes – these are people you want to interview.
  • Maybe – these are people that might be a good fit for the position, and you'll talk to them if no one from the first pile pans out.
  • No – these are people who aren't a good fit for your company or don't have the necessary qualifications.

You can further narrow down the list by conducting phone interviews before committing to an in-person interview. Phone interviews will give you a chance to learn more about each person to decide if they would be suitable for your company.

6. Interview applicants

Once you've narrowed down your list of candidates, schedule in-person interviews. Ask each candidate the same questions to ensure you're treating them all equally. Include follow-up questions to get each person to open up and share more with you. For example, if they tell you what their biggest weakness is, follow up by asking them how they overcome that weakness.

Be careful, however, not to ask any questions that could reveal information that might lead to hiring bias. Avoid questions about:

  • organization affiliations
  • age
  • disabilities
  • marital or family status
  • homeownership and financial situation
  • religion
  • race
  • gender

If anyone reveals this information voluntarily, don’t write it down or pursue it any further.

Leave time at the end of each interview for the candidate to ask you questions. During the conversation, you're trying to determine if the candidate is right for the job. But, they're also trying to decide if you're the right company for them.

7. Review and contact candidates

After the interviews, check references and verify employment histories of your top choices. When you're calling their previous employers, consider trying to speak with past co-workers, subordinates and bosses. That way, you'll be to get a full view of the person's work ethic and ability.

Once you know who you want to join your team, offer them the job quickly, so you don't lose them to another company. Start with a verbal offer so you can share how excited you are for them to join you and can answer any questions. Then, follow up with a written offer to avoid misunderstandings.

If you found someone who is an excellent fit for your company but may not be right for the position, follow up with them and keep the lines of communication open. Make sure they had a pleasant experience with you and encourage them to apply for future positions.

Image Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock
Dennis O’Keefe
Dennis O’Keefe Member
Dennis O’Keefe is the Product Director for Workful, a new cloud-based human resources and payroll employee management suite made for small businesses. Dennis has a rich history in the payroll, banking and small business management space, with a specific passion for helping small business owners streamline financial and record keeping processes so they can get back to what they’d rather be doing, growing their business.