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Small Business Hiring Strategies That Work

Posted by Early Growth

October 22, 2015    |     5-minute read (858 words)

Your average small business owner is not a seasoned recruiter. No surprises there, but finding and nurturing talent is one of the key determinants of any successful startup.

So how do you go about attracting and retaining the right people to grow your business?

Paul Slezak of RecruitLoop outlined a strategy for making the right hires on our Hiring Strategies for Small Businesses. webinar.

Read the summary below for the key takeaways.

Job Descriptions Versus Performance Profiles

Just writing a job listing and waiting for the (hoped for) rush of applicants to materialize is not the ticket to successful hiring. In fact, there’s a huge difference between creating a job description versus writing a performance profile. One of the critical steps companies often miss is defining and communicating what success looks like for every employee and every role in the company. To do this, you need to distinguish between skills and competencies.

Job Skills Versus Competencies

One big mistake most job descriptions make is that too many focus only on skills rather than on competencies.

What’s the difference?

Skills can be taught. Competencies, the traits and attributes that make up an individual, can not. They are intrinsic.

It’s critical for you to define the core competencies people need to have to succeed in your business culture. For example, are you looking for self-starters or for people who are more self-directed? Do you need hires who thrive in an open plan environment or ones who are comfortable working remotely?

Be very clear on what you are looking for and whether there is enough work for a full-time job. Remember that in the early days of your startup, it makes perfect sense to outsource whatever and whenever you can so that you can manage your cost structure and maximize your financial runway.

Once you decide to go ahead with a full-time hire, come up with a performance profile and core objectives for each role you’re looking to fill and what success looks like over the next three, six, and nine months.

For roles with multiple hats — which startup doesn’t this apply to? -- define the relative time allocation and come up with one or two measures of success for each aspect of the role.

Crafting a compelling job ad

The perfect job ad is more than just a job description. Here’s how to create the perfect job listing:

  • Keep your focus on attracting quality candidates versus quantity
  • Make the headline compelling
  • Write three bullet points with your company’s and the job’s unique selling points
  • Define the perfect candidate in terms of traits and competencies not skills
  • Include parts of the relevant performance profile
  • Use keywords
  • Use “you” instead of “the successful applicant” to talk directly to candidates

Interviewing techniques that will help you select the right hires

  • Use performance-based questions i.e., focus on specific situations, tasks, and actions they took as well on their results, not on hypotheticals
  • Ask every person interviewing for the same role the same questions
  • Assess candidates’ ability to meet and exceed expectations
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a couple of promising candidates, you want to make sure your needs align with their interests. Here’s how:

The 5 most critical interview questions you should ask candidates who’ve passed your initial screening

1. Why are you interviewing for this role? — This lets you gauge whether they have a genuine interest in your company and the role.
2. What are you looking for in terms of career development, mentoring, and managers? — This helps you assess fit.
3. Who else is involved in your decision-making process? — Use this to avoid 11th hour surprises.
4. What is your current salary and what are you looking for? — This gives you a window into how honest the candidate is and what’s driving the move.
5. How will your manager react when you give your notice? — This one could help you sidestep problems and/or predict the likelihood of a counteroffer.

Reference checking

Once you zero in on candidates, check references. Do this on the phone, not over email so you can hear tone. Ask them the same questions you asked candidates, plus this one: “would you hire this person again?”

Remember, when you’re building a startup team, you don’t just want people who can do the job, you want people who believe in your vision!

More questions on small business hiring? Share them in the comments section below or contact Early Growth Financial Services for a free 30-minute financial consultation.

Deborah Adeyanju is Content Strategist & Social Media Manager at Early Growth Financial Services (EGFS), an outsourced financial services firm that provides small to mid-sized companies with day-to-day accounting, strategic finance, CFO, tax, and valuation services and support. Prior to joining EGFS, Deborah spent more than a decade as an investment analyst and portfolio manager with leading financial institutions in New York, London, and Paris. Deborah is also a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charterholder.

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