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Small Business Hiring Tips and Trends to Be Aware Of

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According to research, 56% of small businesses find it ‘somewhat difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to find the right employee for their business. One of the challenges of small business recruiting is that small to midsize business (SMB) employees tend to wear multiple hats and have less time to dedicate to attracting the best candidates. Other reasons for difficulties in small business recruiting include concerns about being misperceived as having fewer opportunities for professional growth and advancement and candidates viewing SMBs as less attractive than larger companies in tech-related fields.

As a recruiting and staffing firm for large and small businesses, we’ve come to realize that many of these hiring concerns can be remedied by implementing these small business hiring tips.

Small Business Recruiting Trends

Demand for remote jobs continues to rise

Thanks to the pandemic-driven explosion of remote work, millions of professionals experienced the convenience, flexibility, and comfort of working from home for the first time. Now, many of them never want to go back. Smaller companies find themselves at a unique advantage as large employers call their workers back to the office en masse. By tailoring more open job positions to be partially or entirely remote, SMBs can attract a wider pool of interested applicants and compete against enterprise organizations with more rigid in-office policies. 

While companies of all sizes report significant decreases in operating costs thanks to the remote working trend, it can be especially beneficial to small-to-midsize businesses. These businesses tend to have less space and resources to work with — and having fewer employees physically in the office means less desk space, equipment, and utilities are necessary.

If you decide to include more remote positions in your hiring strategy, be sure you’re also aware of the latest digital recruiting trends. This will enable you to effectively reach potential workers where they actually spend time and look for new jobs on their mobile devices.

Utilizing freelancers and contractors 

Modern employees are increasingly moving away from full-time jobs to pursue more flexible options, like freelance or contract work. Upwork predicts that half of all workers will be freelancers by 2027.

By hiring an independent contractors, you can look beyond your local market and tap into talent that wouldn’t be willing to relocate for a job or isn’t available to take a full-time, in-office position. This can also save small businesses on both up-front and long-term recruiting costs. With freelancers and contractors, you aren’t committing to paying a full-time salary and typically won’t have to pay for benefits or match retirement savings contributions. Additionally, suppose you use a professional staffing agency to fill freelance or contractor positions. In that case, those hires typically stay on the staffing agency’s payroll for the duration of their contract, not yours.

Employer branding is gaining momentum

In a competitive market, you aren’t just choosing candidates — they’re choosing you, too. It can be hard to set yourself apart from other small businesses in your area or attract top talent over industry giants. According to LinkedIn, 75% of job seekers consider a company’s brand before applying for a job, making it crucial to develop a strong brand as an employer.

There are many simple, cost-effective ways for small businesses to build their brand and attract top candidates. For example, regularly engaging with your customers through blogs or social media, clearly showcasing your culture and values through videos or online posts, or sharing information about the causes and philanthropic organizations you support.

Being transparent and consistent in all of your communications creates a strong brand image, which can lead to candidates who are aligned with your goals and values discovering your company. If you’re leveraging a professional staffing agency for your recruitment initiatives, make sure they have taken the time to research and familiarize themselves with your employer brand so they can source candidates who align with it on your behalf.

Heavier focus on recruiting candidates based on culture fit

For small businesses especially, company culture is incredibly important. Many small businesses feel like a tight-knit family, and when you have fewer people on your staff, each one directly impacts the overall environment. Bringing in a new hire that doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the team can make the working atmosphere uncomfortable or lower morale for everyone — and in a smaller office, this will quickly become noticeable.

Unfortunately, assessing a candidate’s culture fit isn’t an exact science. However, you can gain insight into an employee’s personality in many ways before committing to giving them a salary and spending further time and resources on hiring and onboarding. Many pre-employment assessment tools on the market fit all needs and budgets, which can uncover a candidate’s deeper motivations, preferences, and personality traits. Additionally, something as simple and cost-effective as chatting with a candidate over lunch or coffee (or, in current times, a Zoom call) can help you get to know them in a more informal setting.

Related: Reasons Why Culture Fit is Important for Your Hiring Strategy

AI offers assistance–but is underused by SMBs

Artificial intelligence is no longer some obscure technology accessible only by big firms with huge budgets. Today, AI is integrated directly into ordinary recruiting technology, some of which you might already use. Modern ATSs, for example, use AI to screen candidates and intelligently predict job success. AI can also be used to craft compelling candidate messaging and even assist with your social media strategy. 

Despite its huge potential to help offload manual tasks and optimize recruiting, the majority of small businesses still aren’t using AI. While 93% of small business owners agree that AI tools can help drive savings and improve profitability, slightly less than a third of SMBs surveyed used AI tools in the last one to two years. 

Younger workers crave stability

By 2030, Gen Z employees will account for nearly a third of the workforce. This makes recruiting them increasingly important to SMBs who wish to remain competitive in the decade ahead, and understanding their preferences is paramount. 

While Millennials have gotten a bad rap as the job-hopping generation, Gen Z workers place a much heavier value on stability. In a survey of soon-to-be college grads, stability was the number one factor students said would make them apply for a job. This should be no surprise, given the economic instability that has plagued the past few years. Small- to medium-sized businesses can capitalize on this demand by highlighting job security and promoting the importance of employee longevity in their recruitment materials. 

Key Small Business Hiring Tips

Now that you have a grasp on some of the top hiring trends let’s talk about how to go about hiring. 

Knowing how to attract top talent to your company (and away from the industry giants) is all about making your company attractive to potential applicants. You must focus on selling your unique value — highlighting what you offer that larger companies don’t.

Offer attractive compensation and benefits

One of the most effective ways to attract the best employees is to offer compensation that is commensurate with their skills, knowledge, and experience. Understanding what motivates different age groups and generations is vital for any business that wants to hire the best talent. For example, baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) have different motivations and expectations than employees who fall within Generation Y (also known as millennials).

If offering competitive salaries or other employee-related benefits isn’t an option financially for your business, there are other things you can do to help make your company stand out from larger businesses. Some employees value non-monetary rewards, such as having mentorship opportunities, skills training, and greater autonomy.

Develop a strong employer brand

In previous articles, we’ve discussed the importance of developing and showcasing a strong employer brand — the values and image your company conveys to the public and prospective employees as an employer. This could involve showcasing the organization’s culture, family-oriented workplace, or its contributions to the community.

At 4 Corner Resources, for example, our employer brand conveys that we are an organization that combines performance and effectiveness to serve our clients while also providing our employees the best training in the industry. We value the 4R Principles: Relationships, Resources, Responsiveness, and Results.

Related: How to Elevate Your Employer Branding to Attract Top Talent

Offer opportunities for advancement

Growth opportunities are crucial for attracting and retaining talented employees at small companies. Small businesses may have more advancement opportunities than their larger counterparts, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

If your organization offers relevant experiences, challenges, training, and hands-on learning opportunities, you can help employees stand out in their professional development. This differs from larger enterprises, where candidates may feel they need help in the crowd of employees.

Offer flexible or remote work opportunities

As we mentioned in our discussion of hiring trends, flexible hours and remote work opportunities are often viewed as major selling points by prospective candidates. A significant advantage of being a small business is that you can offer these types of opportunities as hiring incentives.

Furthermore, remote work opportunities provide you with a chance to attract and hire the best candidates who may not live within a commutable distance from your company office.

Streamline the hiring process

An advantage of your small size is that your approach can be more streamlined. Every hiring decision doesn’t have to go through a long, drawn-out process involving many hands in the pot.

Considering ERE Media reports that the top candidates are often hired within 10 days, it’s vital to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. Use your organization’s small size to your advantage to ensure the hiring process moves quickly and efficiently.

Write detailed and effective job descriptions 

Writing a good job description is essential for finding good employees who will be the right fit for a position. After all, if your job description is ineffective, how do you expect the right people to find your job, let alone want to apply for it? 

The best way to find employees is to write job descriptions that attract the talent you need and also clearly state your expectations of those who will fill those roles.

Hold out for the right employees

Don’t jump to onboard a candidate who’s just “okay” just to get someone in the role. Hiring employees who aren’t truly suitable for a specific job means that in addition to the cost of hiring and training them, you’ll also have the additional costs of replacing them and training new candidates. This is particularly worrisome, considering that nearly 75% of surveyed employers hired the wrong person for a position and that companies lost an average of nearly $15,000 on every bad hire they made.

These costs are a significant investment for small businesses — underscoring the importance of hiring good employees the first time around. Don’t settle for anything less than employees who always bring their A-game, passion, talent, and energy to your business. 

Leverage referrals

Referrals are undoubtedly the most reliable sourcing channel for identifying skilled, dependable candidates. One of the best ways to source new talent for your business is to ask your existing employees for referrals. Because they already work for you, your employees are a recruiting goldmine for your company. They can likely make an educated recommendation because they already know what it is like to work at your company and understand what expectations its employees need to meet. They can also tell if someone in their circle will fit in on your team.

To help motivate employees to provide recommendations, you can offer them incentives — such as a cash bonus, time off, or another benefit — for each referral you end up hiring.

Additionally, getting recommendations or referrals from people you know isn’t limited to your existing employee pool. Ask around within your professional network to find out if you “know someone who knows someone” who may be a good fit. 

This can be as simple as reaching out to your contacts on LinkedIn or grabbing coffee with another business leader with whom you have a good relationship. You may be surprised to discover they know a few strong candidates who can fill your staffing needs when you are hiring employees for your small business.

Be selective where you list positions for applicants

Some small businesses will make the mistake of listing positions all over the internet on websites like Craigslist, Monster, Indeed, Zip Recruiter, and Glassdoor (to name a few). However, taking the “shotgun” approach by listing information about your job openings everywhere can hurt rather than help your recruiting efforts.

One of the small business hiring tips we recommend is to take a focused approach when posting positions. If you post your positions everywhere, you’ll get a wider net of applicants, but the overwhelming majority will not be qualified candidates. This process creates extra resume review work for you or your HR team without providing additional benefits.

Use social media to recruit, research, and qualify candidates

Should social media matter when it comes to hiring employees for your small business? For many employers, it does. According to a study by the Society For Human Resource Management (SHRM), social media is used by 84% of employers as part of their recruiting efforts, and 43% of employers use search engines and social networks to screen job candidates. The study indicates that:

  • 71% believe social media recruiting helps to reduce time-to-fill for non-management, salaried positions;
  • 67% believe it is beneficial to hiring management positions and
  • 59% believe it is effective for hiring C-level suite employees.

Although staffing experts often have different opinions about whether businesses should use social media to review candidates, reviewing social networking platforms can be an effective way to learn more about each candidate. This publicly accessible information can tell you a lot about a candidate’s personality, values, and skills—as well as any behaviors of concern.

Promote sustainability

We’ve talked a bit about the desires of Gen Z and Millennial job seekers already, but one area we haven’t yet covered is sustainability. A 2023 Deloitte survey of these two youngest workforce age groups revealed some surprising findings about how they weigh sustainability when deciding where to work.

More than half of the survey’s respondents said they research a prospective employer’s environmental impact and policies before accepting a job, and one in six say they’ve already changed jobs or industries due to climate concerns. Approximately a quarter of them plan to make such a move in the future.

For SMBs focusing on sustainability, these preferences can be an asset. Spotlight your environmentally friendly policies and initiatives in your hiring materials. If you don’t have such initiatives in place already, now would be a great time to prioritize launching them. 

Cross-train and promote from within

Pay attention to your existing workforce when looking to fill a pressing skills need. Before hiring externally, consider whether a suitable candidate already exists within your ranks or whether one could be developed with proper training. Not only does hiring from within help you fill open roles quickly and at a lower cost, but it also promotes retention and contributes to strong employee engagement. 

Partner with a staffing agency to recruit reputable talent

Partnering with a staffing and recruiting agency is the last of our small business hiring tips. In addition to a wealth of resources and a significant network of candidates, the right agency will know your specific industry and regularly work with small to midsize businesses like yours. As such, they will bring you the best candidate for any of your job openings.

Partner With 4 Corner Resources For Your Small Business Hiring Needs

Our team of experts who are proficient in small business hiring tips has been helping attract, qualify, and screen candidates for more than 18 years. We are client-driven and have an adaptive, flexible, and personal style that makes us easy to work with. If you don’t know how to recruit employees for your small business, our recruiting and hiring experts are here to answer questions and provide guidance throughout the process. If needed, we can take the burden off your shoulders and handle the process from start to finish to match the perfect candidates with your business.

If you have questions about how to recruit good employees for a small business, we invite you to reach out. Contact us to get in touch with our staffing experts today and explore how we can help you hire for success.

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn