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10 Best Practices for Small Business Recruiting

What do you do when you are not an employer of choice? Most businesses start small, and they face this critical question. The answer lies in developing better recruiting practices. Regrettably, most data and research available focus on the recruiting practices of large companies, just because small companies struggling on their feet are rarely worth the time of researchers.

They have to compete against large established businesses, trade off the stereotypes of ideal candidates for the best available to them, and still survive, grow and succeed. Most of these businesses may not be able to have a specialized HR department but have to depend upon one or a few generalist HR people who have to conduct talent acquisition and retention.

But this recession taught the economy a few things. It showed how the big go bankrupt and how small businesses can succeed.

Take for example Coyote Logistics based in Lake Forest, Ill: Between 2006 (founding of the company) to 2011 (the recession being officially over) this little cargo company had a growth rate of 13,846.8%!

That’s right. While the “too big to fail” companies were being bailed out, this little company was hard pressed to find staff and keep up its growth – but it succeeded.

Jeff Silver, the CEO of Coyote Logistics attributes the success of his service to an intensive two-month training program followed by a six-month mentorship program required for all employees.

Or take Zappos.com. While the recession was swinging its scythe over large rusty businesses, this small web-based shoe retailer (founded in 2007) emerged as the largest online shoe retailer through the five years of recession.

Throughout its blazing growth Zappos consistently kept designing training programs for helping employees deliver quality customer service.

There are many such success stories that took place during the recession against all odds, and behind every success story we find small business owners who are able to align their competitive business models with a strategically focused human resource system.

And the best 10 recruiting practices for small businesses seem to be:

1.    Do heavy PR using the internet and online social media to develop employer branding and visibility

2.    Be ready with training programs to make the candidate fit your culture and requirements, and do not expect people ready out of the box

3.    Create a diverse and tolerant environment critical to retention of talent

4.    Support the exposure of talent and engage employees in using their minds in innovative manners.
Mention needs to be made here of W.L. Gore and Associates (based in Newark, NJ) which attributes a large part of its success on HR practices that identify and prepare their associates develop innovative uses for the materials they sell. The company consistently ranks in Fortune magazine’s top 100 places to work for.

5.    Use intelligent people at interviews when topgrading – This should be obvious, but we regularly hear of top talents walking away from interview tables or not joining a small company, because they felt the interviewer was unintelligent, or asking questions fit for new graduates.

In fact, this is one of the reasons why in most small businesses the owner likes to be present in the recruiting of managerial personnel.

6.    Be careful about the legalese and compliance angles – use good employment lawyers for overseeing things from interview questions to employment contracts. Again this should be self-evident, but too many small businesses become casualties of the court due to negligent compliance of ever-increasing regulations

7.    It may look bad, but do stress on internal recruiting and recruiting through references. While people coming through references may not work out always for the best, there’s no guarantee that unknown people recruited through interviews are also going to work out for the best. However, references from an existing employee can help both retention as well as adaptation of a new employee to company culture. Friendships count.

8.    Don’t fall blindly for those who give the best answers at interviews. Interviewing has become a science and grooming schools all over. There are just too many people out there who are experts at acing interviews, but not real productive people at work.

9.    Use headhunters and executive search firms. Top headhunters and executive search firms bring a lot of experience and knowledge to the table that is indispensable for small businesses. In fact, most small businesses have good experiences with headhunters and continue to recruit through them.

10.    Don’t lie, don’t raise false expectations, and tell the truth to every new recruit about material things like work hours, pay, facilities, nature of work, and career objectives.

To sum up, we began this list of best practices as those that “seem to be” because, as HR professionals well know, there are hundreds of factors and best practices that need to be maintained and watched. However, these 10 seem to be those that are extremely critical, but often forgotten in practice.