Employees holding fists in circle
Regardless of your business's size, modern recruiting relies on networking and brand awareness. — Getty Images

Finding it tough to fill open positions in your small business? You’re not alone.

Many small businesses are looking to grow, but are stumped on where to begin their talent search. Without the resources of larger corporations, such as dedicated recruitment teams, many smaller companies feel overwhelmed when trying to choose the best strategies to find candidates to fill open roles.

In fact, recently the MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index found that 29% of small business owners—particularly of businesses with 20 or more employees, veteran-owned businesses, minority-owned businesses, and millennial- or Gen-X-owned businesses—say they plan to increase staff.

However, TalentNow reports that nearly 73% of employers are encountering difficulty recruiting relevant candidates, and more than four in 10 companies are concerned they won’t be able to find the talent they need, per Indeed data.

The biggest reasons behind the talent shortage?

As revealed by a ManpowerGroup Solutions survey, these include a dearth of applicants (chosen by 29% of employer respondents), lack of experience (20%), scarcity of hard skills (19%), absence of soft skills (8%), and expectation of higher pay than offered (12%).

To better compete for qualified candidates in a limited pool of job seekers, the pros believe it pays to rethink your entire recruiting strategy—from writing an engaging, accurate job description, to asking the best interview questions.

Keeping up with changing times

The truth is, the job market and applicant pool keep changing. You can’t necessarily rely on recruiting strategies that worked in the past.

"Finding the right talent is a full-time job, and we can’t wait until we need someone. We need to always be recruiting,” said Susie Carder, financial and business coach with SC Consulting.

Jim Virgulto, senior manager of people operations at Simply Business, agreed. "As the economy continues to strengthen and tools and technology evolve, candidates have more ability to be selective about the opportunities they are interested in. Creative, innovative and new recruiting tactics are needed to help you land top talent for your small business,” he said.

But simply relying on a large sample size of inbound applications won’t cut it nowadays.

“A small business often does not have the same brand recognition as its competition. Therefore, it’s necessary to differentiate your business by developing authentic, innovative and scalable recruiting strategies,” Virgulto said.

The consequences of failing to attract prospective employees effectively are obvious.

“Good employees help move your company forward. If you fail to find highly connected and innovative talent, you run the risk of falling behind or missing new business opportunities," said Shemifhar Freytes, engagement and corporate culture strategist for Commercial Acoustics.

As the economy continues to strengthen and tools and technology evolve, candidates have more ability to be selective about the opportunities they are interested in.

Jim Virgulto, senior manager of people operations at Simply Business

Fresh, proven recruiting strategies

To keep up with all of these changes in the job market, it’s wise for business owners to try fresh and different recruiting techniques.

Among the contemporary strategies that many small businesses are using to improve results are:

  • Investing in dedicated recruiting support. “Ideally, you need a talent acquisition specialist or at least an HR generalist who has a strong recruitment background,” Virgulto said.
  • Using multiple social media platforms to help you reach the right candidates.
  • Maintaining a ‘hot prospects’ file. “I keep a folder of people I have met, am interested in, and who are interested in me. When I have the need, I can go back to this folder and pull some fresh talent to interview,” said Carder.
  • Showcasing your staff in recruitment messaging. “Showing off your current talent gives potential employees a view into your culture and encourages them to seek opportunities with your company,” said Freytes.
  • Participating in local events. “Being out there at 5K runs, festivals and conventions can help you find proactive candidates who are highly motivated and engaged,” Freytes said.
  • Creating a candidate referral program that provides incentives to your staff.
  • Holding recruiting or networking events at your office to build awareness.

Clear hiring process hurdles

As you narrow down your list of applicants, aim to keep the finalists enthused and informed.

“Actively communicate with candidates throughout the hiring process,” said Freytes. “It’s particularly important to rethink the hiring process today because we are in a candidate-driven market dictated by one the most engaged and interactive generations.”

Light seconds that advice. “Update candidates on their status, be responsive to their questions, and always do what you say you are going to do,” said Light. “Furthermore, don’t let the hiring process drag out. Map out a time window and stick to it.”

Onboarding your candidate

Once you’ve chosen the person you want to hire, don’t cheap out.

“Avoid paying below market value. Stay current on what the expected compensation is for the talent you want,” Light said. “I have recently seen a number of declined offers because companies low-balled an offer. You don’t have to go overboard, but at least stay competitive."

Lastly, remember that proper onboarding goes a long way. Carder suggested these tips:

  • Create a checklist of each important task and expected result on which you want the new hire to be trained.
  • Assign a seasoned team member to mentor them over the next 60 days to help make the transition effortless.
  • Conduct frequent reviews early on: at the one-week, one-month, 60-day and 90-day point.
  • Re-evaluate whether the candidate is a fit after the 30-day review.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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