Small-business owners can’t just sit back and wait for perfect employees to walk through their doors. If only it were that easy! So, how do you hire the right people?
Experts in HR, talent acquisition, and professional networking recently gathered at the Hire Smart Small Business Event hosted by Intuit and LinkedIn to answer that question.
“Many entrepreneurs believe that they must do everything themselves,” Abrams explains. “After all, if you’re a hairdresser, lawyer, consultant, you naturally believe that clients are buying your services, not the services of an associate. It’s comforting to your ego to feel that you’re special, the only one who can provide the level of services your clients demand. Moreover, you’re afraid that if associates build relationships with clients, what’s to stop them from leaving and starting competing businesses?
“Growth demands learning how to delegate. You might begin to grow by delegating tasks that are not necessarily customer-facing, such as administrative or accounting. But you’re going to have to develop the staff to take over some of the responsibilities you now believe only you can handle. That means improving your skills in hiring, training, and — especially — leading. That can be scary. But if you want to grow, you have to learn how to be the conductor and not try to play every instrument.”
Abrams was among the many outstanding presenters at the Hire Smart event who contributed helpful insights. Here are five specific hiring tips we culled from their presentations.
1. Hire for optimism and attitude. “It’s important to hire for attitude,” says Alison Salisbury, founder of Fiscally Fit. “You can teach anyone to use an Excel spreadsheet. You cannot teach people skills. You either have [them] or you don’t. There are some attributes you cannot teach.”
When it comes to small businesses, particularly in startup environments, things often can and do go wrong, she adds. When the chips are down, even the best leaders are well-served by optimistic and positive people who instinctively lend motivation by searching for solutions rather than negative people who waste their time and yours by focusing on setbacks.
Whether a candidate you’re considering possesses the technical skills needed for the job or not, if he or she lacks the personal skills and winning attitude that drive successful companies, take a pass and keep on looking, Salisbury advises.
2. Let your network do all the work. According to Abrams, you should only place ads for the job opening at your business after you’ve comprehensively mined your established network of colleagues and associates. Abrams believes that referrals from current employees — people who have already been assimilated into your workplace and understand expectations around the office — are worth their weight in gold.
3. Use LinkedIn to connect talent with opportunity. From small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, LinkedIn has become a trusted recruiting tool for employers of all shapes and sizes. “We’re all about helping find a perfect fit,” says Luke Baxter, senior product marketing manager for talent solutions. “That’s one thing I genuinely think LinkedIn can help with. Because of our network connectivity and notion of identity, you can find someone who really fits with your goals and work ethos.”
Baxter notes that many employers fail to use the full scope and potential of LinkedIn to find talent that fits like a glove. “Take a look at your industry on LinkedIn,” he suggests. “Look for people with titles relevant to what you’re thinking about doing next.”
One resource that Baxter believes could significantly improve the hiring experience through LinkedIn is its premium Talent Finder service. “This turbo-charges your search in three ways,” he says. “You can see more and do more with the search. You can use InMail to contact folks. And you can organize profiles to pick up where you left off.”
4. Consider whether you need an employee or an independent contractor. Finding the right fit might mean avoiding a new “employee” altogether. Having defended employers ranging from sole proprietors and mom-and-pop shops to large public entities and Fortune 100 companies, attorney Alison L. Tsao of Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger says independent contractors play an important role in growing a company.
According to Tsao, the 2008 recession gave rise to increased use of independent contractors. These professionals, who are typically experts in their fields, can save as much as 30 percent on payroll, she says. But not every situation is appropriate — professionally or even legally — for independent contractors. So, it’s imperative to understand what she calls the “legal test for determining independent contractor status.” (To learn more about this, check out her informative presentation.)
5. Hold an “intention intervention.” Various experts stress the importance of understanding why a potential new hire truly wants the gig in the first place. Is the applicant truly passionate about your opportunity, or is this an in-between job for someone who’s desperate to earn a paycheck? To best ensure a good fit, small-business owners must gauge each candidate’s personal or professional intentions.
These are just a few of the tips shared by experts at the Hire Smart event. Want more? Login here to get free access to all of the resources from the conference, including exclusive video of all the seminars at the event.