An interviewer shakes hands with an applicant while working to hire for a small business

How to Hire the People Who Will Make Your Small Business a Success

The success of your business depends greatly on the people you bring on board. How can you find and hire quality, dependable employees for your small business? Here are ten tips:

1

Determine who you need.

Be clear about the qualifications you expect your employees to meet. Take time to define the skills, personality traits, and strengths you believe a person must have to excel in a role and be a good representation of your organization. Think of additional nice-to-have qualities you’d like to see in your candidates, too.

 

As you begin evaluating candidates, refer to this skills, traits, and strengths inventory and move forward with people who demonstrate those essential qualities.

2

Know where to look.

There is an overwhelming number of sites you can use to connect with job applicants. Before listing your openings on all of them, you should talk to members of industry associations and other small business owners in your area about the sites they find most effective for finding the best candidates.

 

Try experimenting with other strategies that might help you connect with a great set of applicants, too. Consider using your personal social media accounts and platforms like Nextdoor to announce your hiring plans, and inquire about listing your openings at trade schools, universities, or other locations where your ideal applicants are likely spending their time.

3

Create a job post that hooks.

By spending time on job sites or a successful competitor’s job board, you’ll likely find postings for jobs that have similarities to your own. Refer to those posts as you structure your own, but make adaptions that suit your business. And, importantly, be sure that your listing achieves the following goals:

  • It excites potential applicants about the perks of working for your small business.
  • It shares your brand values.
  • It explains role responsibilities.
  • It states your must-haves.
  • It explains how interested candidates should apply.

 

4

Assess your applicants.

As applications begin rolling in, you should have a process to evaluate each candidate for fit to the role you’re aiming to fill. Your process might start with eliminating any candidate who doesn’t meet your must-have qualities for success in a role. Then, you might set aside (but not yet eliminate) any candidate who doesn’t possess the nice-to-have qualities you believe are important for the open position.

 

These two steps may help you find a manageable number of applicants to interview, but if you have an abundance of qualified applicants, you might set some priorities. Look for people who have transferrable skills or experiences in roles that are similar to the one for which you’re hiring, people who show evidence of being self-starters, or people who come with glowing recommendations from previous employers.

One of the best ways to home in on the candidates who meet your qualifications is to email a pre-screening questionnaire to those who pass your initial assessment. Plan to ask up to 10 questions about their experience, skills, and availability to ensure you move forward with the candidates who are most likely to help your business succeed.

There are systems you can adopt to manage your hiring process and help you prioritize candidates. Our recommended solutions include:

 

Learn more about these options in our article, Solution Finder: Applicant Tracking Systems.

5

Set up video or on-site interviews.

Once you've identified a reasonable number of candidates, you can schedule interviews to meet each one.

 

Whether you meet virtually or in person is up to you. You might opt for video interviews for your initial meetings and discussions of the opportunity and on-site interviews for later rounds of interviews.

 

6

Ask the right questions.

You can learn a lot about candidates through on-the-spot questions and deep dives into their responses, but you should also prepare a list of questions that will help you make 1:1 comparisons—and ensure you avoid questions that are prohibited by federal, state, and local governments.

 

Prepare some questions that will help you confirm your candidates’ experiences, test how they might respond to typical on-the-job scenarios, and evaluate how they would think through difficult problems they might face. Some of the questions you might ask include:

  • What were some of your primary responsibilities in your last position?
  • What would your past coworkers, friends, and family members say about your punctuality?
  • How would you describe your work ethic?
  • What motivates you to perform at your best?
  • How do you feel about following a set of procedures?
  • What would you do if you thought of a better process than one that’s currently in place?
  • What is an accomplishment that you are proud to have completed?
  • What would you do if you didn’t get along with a coworker or manager?
  • What would you do if a customer accused another employee of wrongdoing?
  • How would you handle a customer who makes frequent purchases and returns with little explanation?

 

7

Be specific about the workload, responsibilities, and opportunities to learn and advance.

Interviews are a great opportunity to learn about your potential new hires, but you should also devote time to explaining the role, the expectations you have of each employee, and the perks of the role and organization, including opportunities for training, growth, and advancement. The time you invest in this step is important: It can help your candidates assess whether the role is a good fit for them.

 

Consider narrating what a typical day in the role would be like. If possible, plan to walk your candidates through the workstations in your site and show them the environment in which they’d be working.

 

You might also bring some of your current employees into the interviews and allow them to share their own experiences.

 

8

Address their concerns.

At various points of your interview, you should encourage your candidates to ask questions about the role. Try to answer their questions thoroughly, and ensure that they understand your answer before moving forward to other parts of your discussion.

You might not be able to anticipate all of the questions your candidates will ask, but you can log their inquiries and ensure that you touch on those topics in future interviews.
9

Make your selections.

After completing your interviews, you should assess how well each candidate met your qualifications, prepared for the interview, answered your questions, and left you with a favorable impression.

 

Eliminate candidates who show a lack of interest, a negative attitude, or any other red flags that could signify a potential problem in the future. Move forward with candidates who seem dependable and eager to take on the challenges of the work that’s required, provided that they pass their background screening and receive favorable reviews from the references they provide.

10

Set up programs for training, support, and feedback that’ll help you retain your top talent.

Be thoughtful about the strategies you’ll need to employ to retain your best employees. Best practices include:

  • Set up a thorough training program as part of the onboarding process
  • Offering frequent training or job shadowing opportunities
  • Providing regular updates and feedback
  • Offering incentives that will keep your employees engaged and excited about working for your business

Frequently asked questions

Who should I hire first?

When you’re starting your business, you should hire a person who can take a significant amount of your work off your plate—or take on tasks you feel you're not qualified to handle. Many owners prefer to start with employees who show management potential, but others are more interested in people who can provide administrative or customer support through the early stages of operation.

 

Which experiences matter most?

Ideally, your employees will have experience working in similar roles or with similar businesses. Look for transferrable skills, such as working with customers, handling cash, stocking shelves, or following workflows, that might help them succeed in a role within your business.

 

How much should I pay?

Pay what you can afford, but at a minimum, you should try to keep compensation in line with your competitors. If at all possible, you might consider paying a little more than your competitors to attract their top talent.

 

How can I leave a favorable impression on my favorite candidates?

Strategies that can help you leave a favorable impression include:

  • Demonstrating your competence in the business and the requirements of the role
  • Voicing your confidence in a candidate’s ability to succeed
  • Explaining the perks of the role, which may include time off, incentives, training opportunities, or opportunities for advancement
  • Keeping lines of communication open so your candidate knows that you’re interested in continuing the process

 

How do I navigate other hiring concerns, such as setting up employment taxes?

Before you hire your first employee for your small business, you should file for a federal tax ID number. Follow this link to visit the IRS website and complete the form.

 

 

You must also register with your state’s labor department and learn about your state’s labor requirements. Each state has a website you can visit to begin the process. You can find the contact information for the department in your state in the chart below.

Some states have a separate process that must be followed to ensure proper taxation and withholdings. Those states may require you to complete additional steps through its department of job and family services. Be sure to ask the representative you speak with about other steps that should be taken when hiring a new employee.
Alabama

(334) 206-6020

Hawaii

(808) 586-8982

Massachusetts

(617) 626-7100

New Mexico

(505) 841-8437

South Dakota

(605) 773-3101

Alaska

(907) 465-2784

Idaho

(208) 332-8941

Michigan

(517) 335-5858

New York

(800) 447-3992

Tennessee

(844) 224-5818

Arizona

(602) 542-4661

Illinois

(217) 782-6206

Minnesota

(651) 284-5070

North Carolina

(800) 625-2267

Texas

(800) 628-5515

Arkansas

(501) 682-4500

Indiana

(800) 457-8283

Mississippi

(601) 321-6000

North Dakota

(800) 366-6888

Utah

(801) 526-9675

California

(916) 654-7241

Iowa

(888) 848-7442

Missouri

(800) 735-2966

Ohio

(888) 405-4039

Vermont

(802) 828-4000

Colorado

(303) 318-8000

Kansas

(888) 396-3725

Montana

(406) 444-2840

Oklahoma

(405) 521-6100

Virginia

(804) 371-2327

Connecticut

(860) 263-6000

Kentucky

(502) 564-3534

Nebraska

(800) 833-7352

Oregon

(503) 947-1394

Washington

(800) 987-0145

Delaware

(302) 761-8482

Louisiana

(225) 342-3111

Nevada

(775) 684-1890

Pennsylvania

(833) 722-6778

West Virginia

(304) 558-8000

Florida

(850) 245-6000

Maine

(207) 623-7900

New Hampshire

(603) 228-4033

Rhode Island

(888) 870-6461

Wisconsin

(608) 266-3131

Georgia

(800) 436-7442

Maryland

(888) 634-4737

New Jersey

(609) 292-1704

South Carolina

(803) 737-2400

Wyoming

(307) 777-6367

 

Finally, visit irs.gov to review the federal requirements you must meet. Through this link, you’ll find essential forms and information that will help you assure tax compliance.

 

Final advice: Focus on continuous improvement

Every time you post a new position, you should take notes on the quality of responses you receive, the effectiveness of your screening process, and the kinds of questions you could ask to avoid a consistently occurring problem with your process. You should also ask for feedback from the people you hire to learn what they liked about the process, where they felt it fell short, and what they think you could do to improve the experience.

 

What’s next?

After hiring your team, you can work on other key tasks, including preparing for opening day. We can help you with every part of your preparations. Log into your owner’s portal for articles, checklists, and advice you can use to make your venture a success.

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