The process of finding and hiring qualified, full-time employees has always created headaches for small businesses that operate out of an office, but as we near the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, those challenges have become amplified.
As businesses try to recoup their staff to pre-pandemic levels, it’s no secret that there is a plethora of openings for office workers, yet the number of applicants available to fill those roles is far smaller. According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the seasonally adjusted number of job openings in the U.S. far outpaced the number of new hires and voluntary quit rate at the end of April 2021.
You Need Them More Than They Need You
To put it bluntly, the reality of the hiring landscape right now is that as a small business owner, you need employees more than they need you. No matter what type of small business you are, be it a small law, medical or accounting practice; a public relations/advertising agency or a marketing or an IT or web design firm, hiring the right candidates for an office has become more difficult than ever.
Here are some tips on how to hire the right candidate:
Don’t Fight the New Normal
Frontline hourly wage workers obviously must show up to their place of employment, but for office workers, the pandemic has shown us the future: it is remote/hybrid work. Nobody, especially millennials, wants to shave off hours of their lives everyday by commuting to and from work on a packed train or through rush hour traffic anymore, only then to be confined to a cubicle for eight hours a day. The pandemic has taught us that most office jobs can be successfully performed from the comfort of one’s home.
If you’re a small business owner and believe that people should be working in the office full time, then you need to seriously reconsider that view if you expect to attract and retain good talent. Even financial services giants such as UBS and Synchrony Financial recently announced that they are offering hybrid work situations. Plus, survey after survey has revealed that large swaths of workers would rather quit their jobs than return to the office.
The times are-a-changin’, and you need to as well by offering a remote or hybrid work situation.
Be Concise in Your Job Ads
If you placed a job ad and you find yourself having to sift through hundreds of resumes from candidates who aren’t quite qualified, then you probably were not exact enough in wording your ad. Whether you place the ad on Indeed, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter or LinkedIn Jobs, be succinct in what you’re looking for, and try using “knock-out” statements or questions to narrow down the list of qualified candidates. Some easy knockout questions include:
- Did you graduate college?
- What are your salary expectations?
- We are seeking someone with at least X years of relevant experience.
- Are you willing to undergo a background and credit check?
- Do you have experience using X software or apps?
- Can you provide samples of your work that are relevant to this position?
Questions such as these in the job ads can significantly narrow down the list of qualified candidates.
Also, try to avoid asking classic-yet-pointless abstract interview questions such as “where do you see yourself in five years from now” or “why do you want to work here?” Obviously, the applicant is seeking a job to make a living. These questions contribute little to the process and will only waste your valuable time having to read the answers.
Take Advantage of ATS
An applicant tracking system, or ATS, is software that allows you to manage the applicant hiring process and keep track of strong candidates. It can help you organize the interview process and send automated alerts to you on the statuses of candidates. They are not expensive, and are offered by companies such as HRCornerstone and Jobvite.
You can store data and export helpful reports using systems like an ATS, Google Analytics or recruitment marketing software. You don’t need to track every recruiting metric there is.
Communicate With Candidates
Good candidates will carefully note how you treat them during the interview process when evaluating whether to accept your offer. In this regard, it is important to give them a timeline of when you’re going to get back to them and where they are in the process. When you do interview a good candidate via Zoom or in-person, give them a general idea of where they are in the process. For example, tell them that “I really enjoyed our conversation” or “I have some other candidates I have to interview, but you seem very well-suited for the job.”
Also, act fast with an offer when you do get a good candidate. Remember, if a candidate impresses you during an interview, then he/she is probably impressing other recruiters as well.
Loosen the Purse Strings
Always keep in mind that you have very strong competition for employees, especially from larger companies. No matter how nice of a person you were during the interview, nothing talks like money. Research what the going rate is for the position you are offering (this can easily be done on Glassdoor or Indeed) and offer them more. Remember that the millennial generation values work/life balance above all else, so offer candidates flexible hours and additional paid time off days as a way of getting an edge on your competition.
Respond to Negative Reviews
You may not know it, but your small business may have bad employee reviews on Indeed, Glassdoor and other web-based job sites, which have become something like the Rotten Tomatoes of workplace reviews.
You want your brand to come across as strong and your work environment appealing, so it’s important to find any bad reviews of your company (perhaps left by disgruntled former employees) and adequately respond to them.
This may mean the difference between an acceptance or rejection of your offer. If you’re not reading your company’s employee reviews, you can bet that strong candidates are.