Small Business

How To Hire Staff For Your Small Business

Expanding your business to the point of needing to hire employees is a milestone that inspires pride. But as with obtaining your first small business loan or business credit card, your maiden hires can also create anxiety and uncertainty about how best to proceed. After all, you may only have presided over a solo or duo enterprise, and you hardly have the luxury of turning the hiring process over to an HR department.

Here are some tips and advice to help first-time employers have an effective and successful hiring process.


Go Beyond Boards. Online job boards and sites are a great way to get your open position in front of a lot of people. They’re far from the only outlet from which to source your potential hires, though, especially if you’re seeking to attract top talent that’s more seasoned. When recruiting for your company, you should also be leveraging your network. This means asking employees for referrals and going to industry events and conferences. If you’re looking to hire a marketing manager, for instance, you might want to attend a conference for your industry or go to a specific marketing event in your city.

Consider A Recruiter. There is also the option of engaging a recruiting firm to help you find and hire new staff. Here, too, the best sources for recruiter recommendations may be others in your network who have successfully used a firm.

Many such firms have specialties that allow them to tap sources you may not know about or be able to access, and some maintain rosters of prospective employees from which they can quickly draw. It often costs little to nothing to engage such consultants, but you typically must agree to pay a fee--typically 10-25% of the starting salary--in installments after you hire a candidate they have obtained for you. You can always start the recruiting process by yourself, and consider a recruiter later, if you’re having trouble finding qualified candidates.

Detail Job Titles, Duties and Qualifications. Having an accurate and clear job title and description will typically improve the quality of applications you receive. If you post a job ad seeking “general help” for your construction business, say, you could be inundated with resumes from people in a range of unhelpful fields.

Instead, you should have a specific job title (“Construction Estimator”) and a list of clear job responsibilities (“defining the scope of work and preparing a comprehensive budget and conceptual estimates for each project”) and qualifications (“5 years of experience in residential construction or reconstruction required”). If some of the qualifications are more preferences than must-haves, you can break the list into requirements and assets. In theory at least, that should help potential applicants decide if they’re suitable or not, although you should brace for a good proportion of highly unqualified applicants along with the ones that meet the requirements.


Consider A Phone Call First. According to one Forbes article, the average number of people who apply for any given job is 118. Looking through that many resumes is already a lot of work, so you don’t need to burden yourself with additional work during your interviewing process. Doing a so-called “phone screener” interview first will help you weed out unqualified candidates with the least amount of work. A standard phone interview normally lasts 20 to 30 minutes, but if the interview is not going well a phone interview is much easier to cut short than an in-person interview.

To make the phone chats most efficient, try to use standardized questions that aim to clarify whether the applicant has the qualifications or attributes you’ve declared to be essential.

Include Colleagues As Well As Managers. One of the best things you can do during the hiring process is to involve your employees. For each candidate you select for an interview, you should have them speak with their prospective team members, perhaps after a round in which only managers have been involved. Your employees who would work directly with the candidate can offer valuable insight into how the candidate might perform if hired. Moreover, you’re more likely to hire someone who will blend in well with the current team if you seek insights from the candidate’s prospective colleagues.

Do Reference Checks. While to some they may seem old-school, reference checks are another invaluable tool during the hiring process. These serve as a kind of second opinion, letting you get another viewpoint on the candidate aside from what you heard in the interview. They also can save you from hiring a poor candidate — some people may interview extremely well, but not perform the job well, and the only way to find this out early on is by chatting with former bosses or colleagues.

Rebecca Wessell

Rebecca is a Product Manager at ValuePenguin, focusing on small business lending and personal loans. She was a financial services and data management consultant at Ernst & Young.