That mantra refers to a study (from IBM, if I recall properly) that showed that a company invested a million dollars or more in the average employee in salary, benefits, training and perks over the course of their career. That number has always stuck with me and I use it as a touchstone to remind me NOT to shortcut the recruiting and hiring process. Too much is at stake. With that in mind, I’ve pulled together seven hiring guidelines just for smaller firms:
1. Source candidates creatively.
Two tried and true methods for finding candidates have been the venerable Help Wanted ad and using a staffing firm. But consider these other methods which may be either more up-to-date, or more cost effective, or both:
- Online job boards. Increasingly, people looking for jobs are going on to job boards, rather than picking up the newspaper or trade publications. So job boards are where you want your job posting to appear – because that’s where the job seekers are. Local-based job boards, if available, are usually better for small firms than huge national job boards. If you can’t afford to pay relocation costs, you won’t want to be buried in resumes from candidates 1,000 miles away – so stick with local. Niche job boards are also a good idea if you are looking for someone in a specialized industry. For instance, if you were to look for a freelance blogger or online copywriter, you would be more likely to find qualified candidates on a blog-job board or a freelance-writing job board.
- Temporary to full time. Some small firms swear by bringing in temporary workers and then hiring them if they work out. This lets you “try before you buy.”
- Trusted referrals. Trusted referrals are truly the “secret sauce” of small business hiring. Many small businesses get the best results via referrals from existing employees, friends, relatives, church members, neighbors, and other contacts. The downside is that the candidate’s skills may not be a perfect match – requiring more on-the-job training. However, the upside is that you get a known quantity and may get candidates who are a better match in terms of people skills, strong work ethic, shared values and other “soft skills” which can make all the difference to success on the job.
You’ll learn more about interviewees if you structure your interviews in advance. For instance, an interview might break down this way: Spend a few minutes chatting at the beginning to make the candidate comfortable and develop a rapport. Then discuss the company and the job. Then ask the candidate a series of probing questions designed to get the candidate to talk, not just give yes or no answers. It’s wise to have a short list of questions, rather than relying on memory.
Start the interview promptly -- and no interruptions, so that you give your full attention to the interviewee. Nothing shows a lack of respect more than making a candidate wait more than a couple of minutes, or taking phone calls or stepping out for 15 minutes “to take care of something” in the midst of an interview. (It happens!) Remember, if you end up extending a job offer to the person, that interview will be THEIR first impression of you and the professionalism of your business. You want to get off on the right foot.
3. Include the team in interviews.
There is a lot to be said for involving key team members in the interviewing process. For one thing, candidates may show a different side to them. Plus, employees in small workplaces typically spend a lot of time in close contact with co-workers – probably more time than with the business owner or manager. So it’s important that co-workers get along.
In my experience, if existing employees have a voice in the hiring process, they will feel invested in the new hire’s success. They will try harder to make it work, than if the person is the boss’s choice.
This is the first part of a 2-part article on 7 guidelines for hiring employees in a small firm. Part 2, containing the last 4 guidelines, appears here.