It’s essential for modern leaders to know how to hire employees for a small business. Why? Because the best way to ensure team success in the future is to make the right hires today.
A surprising number of entrepreneurs fail to grasp this concept. They rush the hiring process and blame their haste on a variety of factors. But small businesses will always be operating under pressure, and there’s never a luxurious time to recruit, hire, and train a new employee.
Yet, these shortsighted business owners act surprised when issues arise down the road. What did they expect? You can’t rush through a nuanced process and expect good results. It’s akin to mixing up an incomplete bread recipe, failing to let it rise properly, removing it from the oven 5 minutes early, and then complaining that the finished product is doughy and flavorless.
Devoting adequate time to your hiring doesn’t just refer to the recruiting and interviewing process. You’ll also need to think about what the role looks like in the future. It’s common for shortsighted businesses to roll out a red carpet for new hires, then leave standing at the end of that carpet, with no clear direction on where they can go in the future.
Never post a position that doesn’t have at least the early outline for evolution and growth. Otherwise, you’ll either get stuck with a stagnant employee or present a frustrating dilemma for a motivated individual who wants to progress.
Research shows that 97% of employees want to learn and grow in their roles. As Ryan Roslansky explains:
What’s more, opportunities to learn and grow have emerged as the strongest driver of work culture. Executives and managers should make it clear that ongoing education is integral to personal career growth and can be done on company time. To help foster a learning culture, encourage employees to block out calendar time for learning each week or month — and do the same. If managers have dedicated learning time, employees will be more likely to follow suit. It can be stressful to juggle learning with looming deadlines or client needs. Remind yourself and your team that the investment in learning will pay off for their careers and the organization, and give specific guidance in employee growth plans.
So how do you layout a hiring plan that sets your new team member up for success in the short and long term? Follow these 8 essential steps for how to hire employees for small business to find out how.
1. Develop Your Strategy
Kick things off by looking into your company’s major needs. What’s the most crucial role that needs to be filled? Resist the urge to simply backfill after an opening arises. Given the progress and evolution you’re pursuing, it’ll probably be rare that a position is identical to its predecessor.
You’ll also need to think about where the role can go in the future. Any quality candidate will already be interested in this factor, so you should be prepared to discuss it in interviews.
Additional considerations should include the job market in your industry and region. Who else is hiring for similar roles? What are they offering? Knowing the answers to these questions helps you refine your strategy to the point that your business stands out among the crowd.
Even if you’re feeling pressure to hire, don’t rush this crucial step in the process. The more research you do on the front end, the better results you’ll get on the back end.
2. Create the Description
Your research in the prior step should’ve illuminated the specialized skills you’re seeking and the methods you’ll use to attract top candidates. Both elements are crucial for an effective job posting.
What’s the salary range for this job? Knowing the numbers will support your budgeting efforts and prepare you to have productive conversations with candidates.
Potential sections of your description include an introduction, job description, and preferred qualifications. After writing a first draft of your job description, let relevant managers weigh in. Perhaps they’ll have ideas for ways to set better expectations and highlight the most relevant perks.
3. Make Sure the Paperwork Is Ready to Go
Hiring an employee involves more than just your internal processes. You’ve also got to consider administration elements such as tax documents, direct deposit forms, and non-compete clauses.
The specific paperwork needed will depend on the nature of your business and the country in which your business is based. If you’re approaching your business’s first hire, consult with other business owners to get an idea of what you will need to prepare. If you have hired employees in the past, conduct an audit of those processes to identify the necessary documents to get in order.
This sample list will help kickstart the evaluation:
- Federal eligibility form (such as the I-9 form in the United States) that confirms the candidate can be hired.
- Federal tax documents to determine how much money you should withhold from their paychecks.
- Drug testing consent forms that the employee signs so that you can conduct scheduled or random drug tests (if relevant).
- Non-compete clause that prevents the employee from joining or starting a competing business for a certain period of time if they were to leave your business.
- Employee handbook that outlines your code of conduct, policies, and other essential details.
- An initial contract write-up for the job description
- Document acknowledgment form that verifies the employee has received and agrees with the documents you’ve provided.
Rather than dealing with piles of papers and hustling around trying to obtain signatures, consider an e-signature service. Not only will the e-signature route expedite the initial paperwork, but it also saves the data in an accessible and safe manner.
4. Post Your Job to the World
The first place your job posting should appear is on your business website. From there, you can add it to relevant job boards. If your ideal candidates use a certain platform, by all means, post your job there. But don’t get carried away, because the broader you spread your posting, the higher the chances of unqualified candidates.
Possible platforms for your job posting include:
Be aware that it might be worth hiring an outside service to assist when hiring for specialized or executive positions.
5. Review the Applications
It’s best to wait until you’ve received at least 20 or so applications before conducting a formal review. This benchmark isn’t always possible, as highly targeted postings might not get as much interest from candidates. But just wait until you have multiple options to compare.
Your first order of business is to evaluate the resumes to make sure they meet the basic qualifications. Each application should go into one of 3 categories:
- Proceed to interview
- Not a match for this position, but consider for future roles
- Not qualified for a role with your business
If you have a large number of applicants who meet the qualifications, move past the resumes and rank them based on the additional details you learn from their cover letters. Competency should be a must, while cultural fit and ambition level are factors that help a candidate rise to the top.
In situations where you don’t receive enough qualified candidates, don’t simply repost the job to the same platforms. It’s worth taking a quick time out to review the wording and see how you can make the listing more relevant, honest, and enticing. For example, you might be using internal nomenclature in the posting that doesn’t line up with the terms candidates are searching for on job databases.
6. Conduct Your Interviews
This stage of the process has historically involved employers testing candidates with difficult questions and skill reviews. While there’s a place for direct queries, you should set your candidates up for success. After all, you want them to succeed. And if you put your new employee through an unfair gauntlet during the interview process, they won’t forget that treatment even after you’ve slapped them on the back and given them the good news that you’ve decided to hire them.
You can help make the interviews better for both the interviewer and the candidate by giving plenty of advance notice. The more time you can give them to prepare, the better. You should also think about sending your questions ahead of time, as this will help you get the most accurate and informative responses.
Based on their resume, cover letter, and any conversations you’ve had with them, think of how you can customize the interview. As Alex Haimann, a recruiting expert, explains:
It is important to note that our process varies. We aim to structure our interviews around the skills we’re looking for from each candidate and give them the opportunity to demonstrate those skills. Because no 2 candidates are the same, naturally, neither are two interviews. Prior to all of our interviews, we share the questions we’ll be asking with candidates.
After the initial round of interviews, narrow the candidates down to your critical few. At this point, your subsequent interviews should become even more customized than before. Here are the key things you should be trying to confirm:
- Does this candidate have the required skills?
- Does this candidate have examples of proven results or accomplishments?
- Does this candidate have the required motivation?
- Will this candidate elevate the role?
- Does this candidate have a future here?
- Will this candidate complement our culture?
You obviously won’t meet any perfect candidates during the interview process. So be on the lookout for an individual who brings nearly everything you were looking for, plus some bonus skills and attributes that you didn’t even think to ask for.
7. Make the Offer
Once a decision is made, follow up promptly with all the candidates. Those who weren’t chosen still deserve the respect of a “thank you” and a brief explanation about how you ultimately decided to move forward with another candidate.
Given the competitive job market, you’ll want to reach out immediately to the chosen candidate. Even if you aren’t aware of other potential offers, you never know when a tantalizing opportunity might arise for them. So lock things down quickly with a generous offer that is tailored to their situation.
Be prepared for the candidate to negotiate your offer. How much higher would you be willing to go on salary, and what additional perks would you be willing to grant if the candidates request them?
This is a great time to double-check that you have everything in place for the new employee. From laptops to server access to a work email address, these details don’t take care of themselves.
8. Welcome the Employee Aboard
Your work is far from over after the offer has been accepted and your new employee joins the team. Now there’s onboarding to handle. Businesses that neglect this final step not only struggle with retention, but their reputation with potential candidates within the industry quickly falls into the gutter.
How do you prepare your new employees for success? Here are the crucial actions:
- Start with an orientation: This gives you the opportunity to share background on your company and help them understand how you serve customers. You can also use this time to discuss core values and ensure the employee is on board with them.
- Outline the responsibilities of the job: Because of your familiarity with the business, it can be easy to assume that new employees will be able to easily assimilate into the role. But you’ll need to clearly discuss the details of their role if you want them to be able to move forward with confidence.
- Connect them with a mentor: The best way to help an employee succeed is by giving them a reliable source of information and encouragement. Let’s be realistic–your employee will likely forget most of the orientation details and the responsibilities discussion. Ditto for many of the other important things they’ll learn in their first weeks and months. A mentor or “onboarding buddy” can provide them with real-time information and help them thrive within the unique culture of your business.
- Entrust them with a project: One of the great travesties of the hiring process is that many businesses bring in top talent, then leave them to languish for several days before letting them even begin to contribute. Your new employees should have the chance to learn the ropes and show their mettle at the same time by navigating a project. The results might not always be stellar, but the learning opportunity will be irreplaceable.
By putting effort into this final step, you’ll prove to employees that you care about their happiness and trajectory. Anyone can put platitudes on their office walls like, “Our people are our top priority,” but actions are the only way to back it up.
Speaking of trajectories, you should be prepared for the role you just filled to take on a life of its own. Remember that job description you wrote early in the process? While certain aspects of it might always be relevant, plan on a major evolution occurring in the coming months and years.
Job evolution is a good thing. Unless you’re a tradition-bound organization that relishes in its own detachment from modern reality, such as the Queen’s Foot Guards at Buckingham Palace, you’ve got to change in order to survive. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself standing around in a red tunic and furry hat while the competition is adapting to what tomorrow brings.
If you’ve paid attention to candidates’ drive and vision throughout the interview process, you’ll ideally have employees who embrace this evolution. Not only will they be okay with it, they’ll be empowered by it.
As Rob Allen explains:
Don’t hire people who rest on their laurels. One thing is certain about ecommerce: The landscape is constantly changing. Strategies that worked 12 months ago no longer work today. And that means your success will ultimately depend on your team’s ability to adapt. That’s why many top ecommerce leaders recommend hiring people with a growth mindset. Just because someone ran a bunch of profitable Facebook ads in 2011 doesn’t mean they still will be able to today […] In other words, you can bring people who are newer to the digital landscape on your team and grow with them. But close-minded people can be really bad hires.
Whether you run an ecommerce business, offer consulting services, or sell custom jewelry, your strategies should always be evolving. And, with the right employees, your team will be able to keep pace.
Building a Business You Can Be Proud Of
Knowing how to hire good employees is as much of an art as it is a science. There are technical details such as tax documents and direct deposit forms, as well as nuances like cultural compatibility and desire for growth.
What’s certain is that the more effort you put into your hiring, the less effort you’ll need to dedicate to firing. You’ll be able to attract better talent and then retain these individuals for longer periods of time.
Want even more strategies for taking your business to the next level? We’ve partnered with proven leaders from across the business spectrum to create a series of free courses. Within these courses, you’ll learn critical skills such as negotiation, financial management, and product launches.