Historically small business hiring is done on an as-needed basis or in waves in advance of busy times — whether it’s tax season for finance and accounting businesses or the holidays for retail businesses.
But I think today’s competitive job market, coupled with the wave of turnover expected from the “Great Resignation,” requires that small businesses shift their approach to an “always hiring” strategy. I shifted my own small business to this approach about a year ago, and it has lessened the impact of employee departures and surfaced some surprisingly strong candidates outside of our usual hiring windows.
What An ‘Always Hiring’ Approach Looks Like
1. Adaptable Job Descriptions
This approach requires a departure from the traditional job listing process. Instead of posting a specific job description, requiring the specific skill set needed for the individual role, you need to create more adaptable job descriptions. What are the larger qualifications, experiences or values shared by your best employees?
Craft a job description that focuses on the bigger picture, and I’ve found you’re more likely to find applicants who would be a good fit across multiple areas of your organization and can move around as the business’ needs evolve.
Sometimes you may need to play around with different job posting styles. Depending on the role or the industry, culture-oriented job postings may be more successful. You may find something future focused or very specific on the day-to-day job functions is more impactful. Or, consider highlighting your incentives. Different messages will attract different types of candidates. Iterating and updating your job postings will help you get a better understanding of what candidates are looking for in a role.
2. More HR Support
Continuous hiring may put an added strain on your HR team. Make sure you set them up for success by growing your HR department or outsourcing some of the work. Equip your HR team with memberships to hiring platforms, such as Indeed, ZipRecruiter and LinkedIn Talent Solutions, so they can source candidates from a large and diverse pool of applicants.
Many small business professional service firms provide HR outsourcing as a part of their offering. Dedicated HR outsourcing providers like Paychex Flex and Insperity are also a good option for small businesses.
3. Dedicated Planning Time
In addition to providing more support for your HR team, make sure to devote ample time and resources to the hiring process. HR team members and managers should set aside dedicated time to assess current staffing needs, review budgets, prepare job descriptions and recruit and review applicants, all while aligning their efforts to future business needs. Be sure to add this item to your monthly management meetings; that way it’s more likely to stay top of mind.
4. Increased Time Meeting New People
This almost goes without saying, but it’s important that before embarking on an “always hiring” approach, your organization is ready to spend a lot more time meeting new people and interviewing candidates. Identify a core group of managers or employees to conduct the initial screening. After that, direct supervisors can conduct interviews. The final step can be a brief interview with the business owner.
You can streamline the process by segmenting it by technical skills and soft skills. Technical skills can be screened with tests, writing samples or a survey where candidates rank their specific abilities. Soft skills questions should reflect their resume. Based on their experience, you might ask how they managed turnover in their last role? How did they bring new recruits up to speed? Where do they go for help?
5. Missed Connections
Finally, be prepared for missed connections. Though not an essential component of the “always hiring” approach, I find that many small business owners can be easily discouraged when a great candidate gets away.
But if you’re constantly recruiting and interviewing, it’s only natural that some candidates will feel your organization is not the right fit, or a competitor will make a better offer. Don’t be discouraged. Every interview is an opportunity to learn more about the diversity of candidates and skill sets that exist in today’s workforce. Plus, if you have a strong connection, that candidate may return the next time they’re searching for a new job.
The Bottom Line
In an intense, competitive job market, small businesses should be prepared to change things up and put in the extra time and resources to secure the best talent. If recruiting is a big priority for your business in 2022, consider the “always hiring” approach.