How Do Small Businesses Recruit?

Prepare your employees for virtual onboarding and training and get ready for the new normal


Small businesses have to compete with large enterprises on many fronts. Hiring and recruiting is definitely one of them. Unlike corporate giants, small businesses do not have the luxury to hire a recruitment agency or have an internal recruitment team to fill up the positions quickly. Additionally, they are yet to build their employer brand that can attract top talents. However, there are many positives to working in small businesses. You work as a closely-knit family where each person is heard and works collaboratively to make the business successful. Small companies can adopt several tools and strategies to entice candidates, but before that, let’s take a look at small businesses’ growth plans in recent times.

Growth plans of small businesses in the recent time

There has been tremendous growth of small businesses in recent times. It is the second-largest employer in India after agriculture. With the government’s promotion of initiatives like vocal for local and offering different schemes to support small business owners, there has been a rapid surge of small businesses. Many of the businesses are already doing well and are looking to ramp up their teams. If you are one such small business owner, then here are some ideas to help you recruit better for your small business.

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As a part of your hiring strategy, make it a point to show candidates that you are a safe place to work

Small business surviving Covid-19 and hiring

2020 has been a tough year for everyone, especially small businesses. While many small businesses had to shut shop, some are still crippling back to normalcy. As businesses are opening up, small business owners focus on rehiring their old employees who were laid off during the lockdown period. Some business owners are busy looking for replacements for employees who do not wish to return. Amidst all of these, there is a requirement for new hires to take care of the safety measurements to stay protected from the virus. It is only natural for candidates to feel sceptical and scared to join a new workplace. So, as a part of your hiring strategy, make it a point to show candidates that you are a safe place to work. Mention in your recruitment copies what all safety protocols you are putting in place. Include them in all your branding material, website, career pages. Share and follow all the Covid-19 protocols during the interview. If possible, conduct virtual interviews. This will ensure your candidate that your workplace is safe to join.

If not anything else, the virus has certainly taught us that life is unpredictable. So, keep your hiring plans flexible. In an Addison Group survey conducted in 2020, 500 hiring managers were interviewed. 56% of the respondents said they have performed hiring activities remotely, whereas 21% said that virtual interviewing would become a permanent arrangement for their hiring processes. So, prepare your employees for virtual onboarding and training and get ready for the new normal.

How to know you are ready to hire

Did you ever imagine that you will be expanding and having employees on board when you started your business for the first time? But now that your business is growing, are you sure this is the right time to hire? It’s not just you but the dilemmas of many small business owners. The most significant indicator is your company’s growth forecast. While it may seem an obvious argument that “growth first” and “hire second”, know that hiring may take up to a year to find the right candidate, have them on board, and let them acclimatize with your work culture. Many experts recommend mapping your business growth milestones. It is important to stay realistic when mapping goals. Once you are done with the mapping process, start with the hiring process at least eight months before the resource is needed. This way, you can have your talent pipeline ready and have the right talent at the right time.

The next obvious sign is when you see your employees are swamped with work throughout the week. If you notice that your employees are staying “really busy”, the next step is to gauge the elevated work levels’ sustainability. If you are sure that the boom will last, it is time to hire. If you think the boom is seasonal or periodical, hiring a part-time or a freelancer can also solve your problem.

CEOs of small businesses and start-ups take pride in being a jack of all trades. From accounting to operations, you might be handling everything all alone. But if you are finding yourself bogged down by operational tasks, it is probably time to hire someone to take things off your plate. Let the new recruits manage operations while you can focus on business development and lead generation.

Listen to your customers too. Are they repeatedly asking for services that you don’t provide? Are you declining large orders just because it’s beyond your production capacity? Communicate with your customers regularly and keep track of all the requirements to know when is the right time to hire. All these checkpoints will help you determine the right time to hire.

Some of the tools used by a small business for recruitment

As LinkedIn mentions in a 2019 report, some of the top tools that small businesses rely upon are:

  • Referrals from current or former employees: 49%
  • Recruiters: 42%
  • College and graduate schools: 41%
  • Referrals from the personal network: 40%
  • Online job site: 38%
  • Referrals from partners, advisers, investors: 36%
  • Local newspaper: 30%
  • Social networks: 18%
  • Company websites: 19%

Quick hacks used by fastest-growing SMBs

The most successful small businesses are using a mix of different channels to keep their candidate pipeline growing. Some of the top strategies that these small businesses are following include:

  • Top talent at colleges: 53% and trade schools: 30%
  • Using current or former employee network to tap talent: 45%
  • Seek reference from peers, advisors, partners, investors: 41%
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Referrals are a great way to screen potential candidates even before the interview process

Some of the biggest hiring challenges of SMBs and how to overcome

Hiring the right candidate is no easy job, and small businesses have their share of challenges. Let’s look at some of the most common challenges and understand how you can overcome them.

The number one challenge for small businesses regarding hiring is finding the right candidate and building a pipeline of future candidates. To keep the future job pipeline ready, small businesses can leverage a mix of hiring resources like online job sites, social networking platforms like LinkedIn, and referrals from your existing employees. You can even tap your former colleagues, employees, and peers to keep your referral pipeline flowing. Finally, you can always leverage the non-digital and traditional approaches like newspaper ads to keep your hiring pipeline ready. A LinkedIn survey found that 43% of small businesses in the retail and wholesale industry have relied on newspapers for hiring in the last 12 months. In contrast, the manufacturing industry used newspapers only 21%. Thus, it is also essential to understand where your potential candidates are spending their maximum time before making your move.

Small businesses are sprouting like never before, which means you have to face tremendous market competition to acquire customers and hire the top talents. In such a scenario, when everyone finds new ways to entice the candidates, try to build a rapport with the prospective candidates by telling your story. Don’t hesitate to emphasize the benefits of working in your company. An excellent place to start is interviewing your existing employees and finding out what they like about working in your company. Highlight these points when you approach your potential candidates.

The wrong hire is another challenge that small businesses face often. How do you ensure you are hiring the right candidate? To ensure you are not making a hiring mistake, have a compelling and detailed job description handy. Set up a standardised interview process so that your hiring process is uniform.

How do small businesses recruit

How to hire quickly

Often small businesses need to hire quickly, which is also one of its biggest challenges. While a hiring strategy depends a lot on the nature of your business and operating style, here are some of the quick hacks that most small business owners rely upon. These include:

Utilising referrals

Check with your existing employees or network for referrals. Referrals are a great way to screen potential candidates even before the interview process. While you can’t be sure about the work ethic and work style when you hire a stranger, hiring a referred candidate can give you some sense of security in terms of work ethics, working style, learning capabilities, etc. But to ensure your referral program work, ensure you have some incentives. You can also tie a portion of the incentive with the performance of the new hire. This model can keep everyone motivated to put their best foot forward.

Niche job site

While it is easy to put the open positions on any job boards like LinkedIn, Naukri, or Monster, there are chances that your job ad would get lost amidst the sea of available applications. Niche job sites do wonder in such cases, and you end up hiring better. For example, if you are looking to hire a part-time employee, Flexijobs is a great portal to look for.

Hire on a trial basis

Hiring a freelancer or on a trial basis is absolutely a risk-free way to test the talent of the employee before you hire them full time. Let the candidate work with your team for a few projects on a trial basis, and if you find him/her suitable for your needs, you can go ahead and hire full-time.

What kind of hirer are you? Time to introspect

Now that you are armed with the different hiring tools and strategies to explore let’s take a peek inside and introspect. What kind of hiring manager are you? Do you prefer a quick hire, or are you a medium or slow hirer?

Fast hirers take less than a month to fill up an open position. Fast hirers rely more on referrals, online job sites, and colleges to pick up candidates. A fast hirer will ask for referrals from existing employees, participate in campus hiring or recruiting fairs, and look upon online job sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, etc.

Medium hirers take between one and two months to recruit a candidate for any open position. Apart from a referral from existing employees and online job portals, medium hirers also rely on recruiters, referrals from personal networks, colleges, etc.

Slow hirers can take up to three months to hire. They mostly rely on colleges, job sites, job posts, a referral from the personal network, etc. In short, they have a longer hiring process and the entire process costs them a lot.

So, introspect and understand what your recruitment style and strategy are. Are you a slow hirer or a fast hirer? Depending on your business needs, you can either be a slow, fast or medium hirer.

Time to take actions

Now that you know how small businesses are hiring and recruiting talent, it is time to put your knowledge into action.

Chayanika Sen
Chayanika Sen
Over a decade of experience in Corporate Communication Chayanika writes on Human Resources, Recruitment, Marketing, Employer Branding and Thought Leadership.

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