Your small business needs to find the right candidate, but the job applicants you’re seeing just aren’t cutting it. Are you doing something wrong? The answer may be “yes.”
While job applicants may seem to hold all of the cards in today’s workforce, your recruiting style may be working against you. Big businesses have deeper pockets to employ a team of experienced HR professionals and paid recruiters to find the right people for integral roles, but small businesses don’t have to roll over and wait for leftovers. By using the following techniques, small- and medium-sized companies can compete for great talent against large corporations, all without breaking the bank.
What your small business needs to entice the right job applicants:
#1 — Well-written job descriptions. What turns off a job applicant before they ever become a candidate? A bad job description. While you want to paint an accurate picture of what the role will entail, don’t make it overly cumbersome. Other job-description faux pas you should avoid include:
- Being too hip or sassy to the point of offensive. A little humor goes a long way in a job description; a lot of humor can quickly turn off top prospects. Will it offend anyone or could it be taken the wrong way? If so, cut it out. You could face bigger problems.
- Requesting impossible skills. Do you need someone with 10+ years of social media experience? Good luck. Facebook launched publicly about 10 years ago and it took a while for businesses (and business pages, which started in 2009) to catch on. Only a handful of people on the planet can legitimately claim the social experience you’re seeking. Better bet: shoot for 5+ years instead.
- Descriptions that are too vague or too cliche. Remember back in college where every fly-by-night company offered a job where you could “have fun, make money”? Those ads all had one thing in common — they never actually told the applicant what they’d be doing. The lesson here is to neither be too detailed nor too vague. If you’re looking for an office manager who will also need to answer phones, greet clients, and set up appointments, say so. If you want an office manager who will keep your books, state that. Good applicants don’t need to know everything, but they do need to know enough to know that they would be happy doing the job.
#2 — Applicant tracking system. Spreadsheets are great. But they’re terrible when it comes to keeping track of job applicants. Interviewers need to know status, who else is scheduled to interview the person, notes from previous interviewers, scoring systems, and more … and the interviewer needs to be able to access this info whenever it’s needed. In short, there are too many details and needs for a single spreadsheet to handle efficiently.
Using an applicant tracking system (or “ATS” — also called a “recruitment management system”) benefits both the company and the applicant. The ATS can be linked to online job applications so job applicants effectively begin their own record. Then the applicant tracking system becomes the one-stop-shop for every stage, note, and record of the hiring process. Interviewers can access the ATS, see the comments from other interviewers and determine what questions or follow-ups they have for the job applicant.
One of the best benefits on the applicant side of an ATS is that candidates are always updated on their status. Most applicant tracking systems have auto-responder features. Online recruiting systems are also linked to lower potential litigation costs as systems sort applicant information based on match rather than on potential human bias factors (i.e. protected class criteria). An ATS can also speed up hiring.
#3 — Big-picture view of the internal impact. How is the role you’re filling going to affect the entire company? Will you reach a threshold that requires you to provide a different level of benefits? Will your own HR team be stretched too thin due to additional employees? Before you hire, know exactly how a new team member will impact your company to help you prepare for any growth-related risks.
#4 — Overview of the market and industry. You’re vying for the same talent that your competitors and other businesses are looking at, too. Is the company down the street hiring? Is your top competition experiencing high turnover rates? (If so, why?) Will an industry giant’s new facility mean your talent pool is about to shrink? Knowing these details can make your small business’s recruitment efforts much smarter and will also help you field candidate questions. Staying up to date on changes in the industry and marketplace that will directly affect employees should always be a top priority for your HR team/partner. Just be sure you have a system in place to help that team scale, too.
#5 — Competitive benefits and compensation. You may have the coolest workplace ever and a brand that would make millennial job candidates wanting to make a societal difference swoon. But here’s the thing: if you can’t compete in terms of benefits (and at least come close in compensation), enticing the right person to apply for and take an open position at your small company will be next to impossible. But how do you do it? Two tricks: your HR team and a partner that can provide you with a Fortune 500-style benefits package in a price range you can afford. The best part is that these “tricks” can be one and the same.
Your HR team/partner should be on top of what competitors (industry and market) are doing to entice candidates. They should also be able to help you find insurance and other benefits options that are not only on par with the competition, but that also fit your budget — regardless of how small your business is. Small- and medium-size businesses may choose to partner with a PEO (Professional Employer Organization) to address both of these concerns. A PEO can serve as a scalable, internal HR team, providing all essential HR services, including payroll management, onboarding, applicant tracking and others, while also offering access to large-group insurance plans and other benefit options at affordable rates. Additional reasons for working with a PEO include risk reduction and the consistent growth and success of companies they serve.
#6 — Internal job recruitment system (Hello, social!). Maybe it’s not who you’re looking for but where you’re looking that’s hurting your applicant recruitment efforts. Tap into the team you already have to help find the right person. Announce job openings company-wide. Provide details that are easily shared via social media. Create a referral bonus to encourage your existing team to get the word out. Harvard Business Review reported that when people have a friend at work, they tend to enjoy their jobs more and are more likely to be fully engaged – so get your existing staff to help with recruiting!
#7 — Background and reference checks before day 1. You found the perfect candidate who possesses absolutely everything you were hoping for in this role: education, experience — it’s all there. It seems almost too good to be true… or is it? With more than 85% of employers reporting they’ve found lies on resumes, there’s a chance it could be. Aside from asking the right questions to find potential reality discrepancies and alternative facts during the interview, be sure you’re also conducting background checks, as well as a candidate’s professional references, before it’s too late. While there’s always some risk in bringing aboard a new team member, you reduce risk when you do your homework before day 1, no matter how perfect and amazing the job applicant seems.
#8 — Outsource while you wait. You want whomever you hire to stick with your company a long time, so it makes sense that finding the right person will take time. The current average hiring time is 52 days. While there are ways to make the process shorter and more efficient, it’s usually not a good idea to rush through the process. Instead, outsource tasks that need to be completed while you, your managers, and your HR team spend the necessary time to ensure you secure the right person. You may not be able to outsource every aspect of the job, but in today’s gig economy, you should be able to outsource parts of it. For a look at roles that are prime for outsourcing while you focus on growing your business, read 5 Outsourced Tasks to Reclaim Your Day: Small Business Edition. You may find that the outsourcing solution is the perfect way to fill the empty role (or another role entirely).
Keeping employee recruitment in budget
While there are a number of items to consider when finding the right job applicants, the cost of recruitment shouldn’t be one of them. Ensure you’re keeping costs low and services high with HR by selecting an HR partner that can assist in your recruiting efforts while also performing essential services for your business.
You can learn more about smart recruiting in today’s workplace and how Stratus.hr can help your business find the right candidates faster by contacting Stratus.hr.
Most applicant tracking systems allow for weighted criteria input and can be made accessible to interviewers so they can jump in whenever needed.
A potential drawback to an ATS may be the expensive investment in software to track job applications. However, some HR outsourcing firms provide access to applicant tracking systems for their clients at very affordable prices.
Stratus.hr is a full-service HR outsourcing PEO that allows small businesses to access online tools including an applicant tracking system, competitive benefits packages, background checks, and expert guidance and assistance, among other pre-hire services. Stratus.hr also takes on other HR tasks (unemployment claims management, work verifications, payroll, benefits administration, procuring workers’ comp, injury claims management, and so on) and provides expert advice and assistance that extend beyond the recruiting stage to ensure businesses take a low-risk approach to workforce management and growth.