Finding Great Employees

One of the benefits of having your own business is that you are the boss. If your business is growing and now you need to hire help, the tables have been turned. The owner is now sitting on the other side of the interview desk. However, this does not make the hiring process any less strenuous. Similar to buying a home or picking blue-chip stocks, those with the ability to acquire staff will find that making a hiring choice has many pitfalls. For
small-business owners, this will require spending some extra time sorting through all those resumes.
Here are tips to help you attract, screen and hire the right person for the job:

1. Define the position. Exactly what is the job? What skills does it require? Too many times, when a small-business owner hires, he expects the new employee to shoulder everything that isn’t being done currently, says Joe Kennedy, author of “The Small Business Owners Manual.” And that can be everything from keeping the books to making the coffee. Instead, keep a running list of the tasks with which you might need help, he says, and use it to write the job description when you’re ready to hire.

2. Does the business really need to hire a full time employee? Unlike large businesses, which have policies and procedures, small businesses are free to look at less traditional solutions, says Fred Steingold, a Chicago-based attorney and the author of “Hiring Your First Employee.” If you need help around the office, do you want to hire someone outright or go through a temp agency for a while? While a temp will cost more, the arrangement lets you “try out” the employee without paperwork or commitments.

Another option is independent contractors. If you need occasional help, like bookkeeping, you may be able to hire someone to handle the duties from time to time as an independent contractor, says Steingold. You’re paying the person only when needed, you don’t have to add another person to the payroll with the costs involved.

3. Don’t stop recruiting. Rule No.1 for small-business owners: Never stop recruiting, says Kennedy. “The moment you’re done hiring, you should be keeping your antennae up for the future. That’s something that flexible smaller companies can do that bigger firms, often weighted down with policies and procedures, cannot, he says. For example, suppose you are visiting another place of business (maybe a competitor) and you are impressed with the performance of an employee at that business. Why not keep that in mind when looking to fill a position?

4. On a similar note, borrow from the competition. Small businesses have to do everything the big ones do only with less employees and money. There is one way to take advantage. When hiring, look at your competition’s ads for similar positions. What skills are they seeking? And what are they offering in return?

5. Put it in writing. Big corporations have computer programs and staffs to sort through resumes. But you can do the same thing on a budget. Now that you have a job description for the new position, what are your “must-haves” for the new hire? Make a list. (These are also the criteria you want to include in your job ads.)

6. Use your smallness to your advantage when finding the best employees. You may able to offer perks that the big time corporate environment cannot. Can you offer a more flexible schedule or some work-from-home time? Can an employee bring kids or pets to work from time to time, or work from home if needed? Other small-business advantages
include more hands-on experience and training, and the opportunity to simply do the work without being subject to a corporate culture and office politics.

7. Use your experience. When it comes to interviewing potential candidates, you have an advantage: As a small-business owner, you’ve probably done the job for which you’re hiring and have had to answer the same questions when you have been interviewed in the past. Use that experience when you are interviewing. You probably know when
a candidate is fudging answers.

8. Learn about the person behind the skills. At a very small business, this employee is going to be a large portion of the staff. That makes it essential that for small-business owners find someone who will complement (and not clash) with the business environment you are trying to set up. And while you may be able to shore up skills, you can’t teach attitude, says Jim Schell, coauthor of “Small Business for Dummies.”  “Anytime you add a person to a small business, it impacts the dynamic of the group,” says Caitlin Friedman, partner in the boutique New York public relations firm YC Media and co-author of “The Girls Guide to Starting Your Own Business.” “One negative attitude or person who doesn’t fit can really throw off the group.” Schell agrees. At a small company, “having the right person on the bus is probably more important to us,” he says. Because there are fewer employees, “the impact on us when we make a bad decision is more expensive,” Schell says.

9. Don’t oversell. Just as you do not want the applicant to embellish and exaggerate, you do not want to make the same mistake as well. The one mistake many small-business owners make is that they love their companies and they want everyone else to love them, too, says Jeffrey Fox, author of “How to Make Big Money in Your Own Small Business,” and founder of Fox & Co. But if you want to get someone who lasts beyond the hiring honeymoon, resist the urge to make the position sound like more than it is. Tell the applicant exactly what the job is about and what are reasonable expectations.

10. Use the internet. This can be a great time saver. Even if you do not want to post a job on Career Builders, Craig’s List or Indeed, look at the job postings for positions that your are trying to fill. See the qualifications and job descriptions. In addition look how the job is being advertised. Do you think some of the items in posting discourage qualified candidates? You can learn much just by looking at the postings. In addition, use Linkedin. If you are not on Linkedin, you should be. It is a valuable source to find qualified job candidates. You can post jobs or conduct a job search efficiently. Not to mention it is a great networking and marketing tool.

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