Part 1: The Search

The process of identifying, enticing, and retaining quality employees has long been the bane of many small businesses’ existence, since they often do not have the time and resources to dedicate to it. Also, since small businesses are frequently limited in terms of the wage and benefit packages they can offer, it is more difficult for them to attract qualified candidates.

However, this doesn’t mean that small organizations have to accept sub-par applicants or retain mediocre employees who aren’t furthering the company vision or making significant contributions. Plenty of quality people are drawn to a smaller organization where they can have more impact on the bottom line and daily processes, or are tired of the bureaucracy of larger organizations. If applicants for an open position at your business are less than stellar, it may be more about how you’re going about finding candidates than your organization’s lack of appeal. Consider implementing these steps during your hiring process to increase the quality of your applicant pool.

Make a staffing plan. Don’t decide to hire someone without a clear understanding of what the job will entail, how the new hire will fit within the organization, and how the position will interact with other existing roles. Assess how much time the job will require so you don’t overwork a part-timer or leave a full-time employee with too many holes in his or her schedule. Create a timeline for when the position needs to be filled, determine how many new positions you’ll need (you may find you’ll need more than one), and select the hours you expect this employee to work. Decide who will need to be involved with the interviewing and what your selection process will be.

Write a detailed job description. Think critically about what you want this person to do and what skills you require. When you write the job description, be specific and informative so you can ensure that the applicants you receive are good potential matches. There’s no sense in wasting anyone’s time (including yours). The more thorough you are with your description, the more likely you are to receive viable applicants, and the quicker the hiring process will be.

Ask for referrals from your current employees. Conscientious employees typically have acquaintances with similar attributes and work ethics. Also, since their reputation is at stake, your employees are unlikely to recommend someone who is not suitable for the job. You could consider offering a bonus or some other type of referral incentive.

Consider finding a reputable job search firm. Many of these organizations will locate, screen, and conduct initial interviews for you. Be specific about your requirements though; let the firm know exactly what you are looking for in terms of experience, education, and personality.

Utilize professional associations. If you’re a member of a professional group, tap into that resource. Ask your local or regional affiliate for a recommendation of someone who may be out of work or who you can recruit. And, be sure to attend the group’s events so you can network.

Consider where the people with the skills you’re seeking would be. Look for existing professional groups on social networking sites such as Facebook and check with job placement offices at local colleges and universities.

Network online. Create your own group on LinkedIn to let members know you’re hiring, and announce your open position on your organization’s Facebook page and via your Twitter account. Additionally, if you have a company web site or blog, don’t forget to publicize it there.

Offer the best benefits package and salary you can. This helps retain employees. People want to work for an organization whose pay is commensurate with employees’ education, experience, and job performance. This tells potential hires that the organization cares about its employees.