Finding (and Keeping) the Right People for Your Business

By Gina AbudiBusiness on Main

More than ever, hiring and fostering the right people for your business is essential to long-term success. Learn how to source, interview, hire and grow a great staff.

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Too often, small businesses don’t plan effectively when it comes to sourcing, interviewing, hiring and developing new employees — yet the right staff is an extremely valuable asset. Here are some tips and best practices for sourcing and selecting the best people, interviewing potential candidates, and investing in the professional development of your workers.

Sourcing and selecting best people

Don’t assume that because you’re a small business, you can’t compete with larger organizations that offer higher salaries or better benefits. Smaller businesses provide a number of attractive, competitive benefits. For example, at small businesses, employees have the opportunity to get involved in many areas of the business — which is unlikely at a larger organization.

Still, sourcing and hiring employees is difficult for many small-business owners. As a key first step, develop job descriptions for each resource you want to hire. Consider:

- Responsibilities of the individual in the role

- Skills and experiences they need to be successful

- Tasks required to be successful

Don’t fall into the trap of hiring family members or friends without doing your due diligence. If you believe a relative or friend is a good fit for a role, follow the same formal process as you would for any hire.

The best hires for small businesses tend to be generalists rather than specialists. You likely don’t have the luxury of hiring people to run every part of the business, so be sure to hire employees who can fulfill a number of different roles and wear many hats.

Use a variety of sources to find new hires — consider posting the job on LinkedIn, reaching out to industry associations, asking your network and current employees for referrals, or using online resources such as While using recruiting agencies is an option, they can be cost-prohibitive for small businesses. Bottom line: Don’t rush the process.

Interviewing best practices

Interviewing is rarely easy, so you need to have a plan and be well prepared. Your goal is to ensure the person you’re interviewing is a good fit for your business. So, prepare carefully by reviewing the candidate’s resume. Then, develop questions examining an individual’s past experiences that determine his or her ability to perform this new role. The line of questioning should include:

- A situation or circumstance that epitomizes how a candidate behaved when faced with challenges in a past work experience.

- Specifics as to what the candidate did in the situation.

- The outcome of the situation based on the candidate’s actions.

- What the candidate might do differently today based on what he/she learned.

Sample questions might include:

- Provide an example of when you had to make a difficult decision that you knew others would not be happy with.

- Give me an example of when you had to work in a team environment to accomplish a common goal.

- Have you ever had to solve a particularly troublesome problem? What steps did you take to understand and solve that problem?

Finally, follow these best practices to prepare and conduct an effective interview:

1. Carefully read the candidate’s resume and make notes of areas you’d like to probe during the interview.

2. Prepare behavioral-based questions based on the candidate’s resume and the role you’re trying to fill.

3. Set aside one hour (50 minutes for you to do the interview and 10 minutes for the candidate to ask questions) and conduct the interview in a room where you’ll be free from interruptions.

4. Introduce yourself to the candidate and make a little small talk to get the individual comfortable.

5. Let the candidate know you’ll ask questions to determine if he or she is a good fit for the role and that there’ll be time to ask questions at the end.

6. Close the interview, thank the candidate for his or her time and discuss next steps.

If possible, don’t interview the candidate on your own — have other employees or people you trust participate so you get a variety of perspectives.

Investing in professional development for your employees Small businesses don’t always consider the professional development of their employees. This is often due to reduced budgets and concerns about decreased productivity. However, developing employees is essential to the success of your business and it’s a great way to keep them engaged in the business. Consider these cost-effective ways to provide professional development opportunities:

- Get new employees or those moving into new roles up to speed quickly by pairing them up with a mentor or another employee who can “show them the ropes.”

- Provide skills-based training by sending them to workshops, bringing training courses on-site, or providing e-learning options.

- Ask your employees to take on additional roles or responsibilities, even for just a short-term project.

- Provide tuition reimbursement, even if a small amount, to enable employees to go back to school.

- Provide time off to engage in volunteer activities.

- Enable your employees to attend local conferences.

Helping your employees to develop their skills can be as simple as giving them the opportunity to work in another area of the business, take the lead role on a strategic project, or participate in strategic planning sessions.

Be creative in recruiting, interviewing and developing your employees, and you’ll be able to secure the best resources for your business. Don’t assume people would prefer to work for larger organizations. The smallest business can offer employees opportunities to grow.

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