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Ask SCORE: Hiring the right talent for your business

Ask SCORE by Dean Swanson

In my recent conversations with small business CEOs, I hear a common theme related to the frustration of finding employees to hire. As our economy is starting to recover from the devastations of the pandemic experience, I have tried to remind folks to be careful of putting aside best practices for hiring employees for the sake of “just finding someone.”  I know the frustration and the temptation, but a pause in the process to remember a few key items is sound advice.

Dean Swanson

As your company grows and comes back, so too will your need to bring on a team to scale your business. Hiring is a huge investment and costly to get wrong. Before you make your next hire, here are three hiring tips from SCORE CEO and former VP of marketing and communications, Bridget Weston. She focuses on some key steps to take throughout the hiring process and how to leverage your network and mentors, so you make the best hiring decision for your business.

At some point along the way, small business owners realize that they cannot do it all themselves and still do it all well. Running a company is a huge undertaking and the larger and faster your company grows or comes back from the pandemic experience, the more you are going to need to rely on a trusted set of employees to continue to produce a quality product or service.

For a company that is growing, hiring introduces an entirely new variable to running a business and is a big change when you are used to running a company of one. Hiring the right talent comes down to honestly assessing the skills and talents your business needs most, being diligent and having patience in your search.

Hiring the right person is a challenge for everyone. There is a lot at stake.

In its latest estimate, the U.S. Department of Labor is cited as reporting the estimated cost of a bad hire is about 30% of an employee’s annual compensation. Needless to say, most small businesses can’t afford to make the wrong hiring decision.

Making smart hiring decisions is less of a science than an art. SCORE CEO Bridget Weston recommends that small business owners focus on refining the three primary areas of their hiring process to find the best candidates. She offers her advice on how to clarify the role, find qualified applicants and choose the best employee:

Clarify the role

Make the position you’re hiring crystal clear to potential applicants so you can attract qualified candidates and avoid having to weed through irrelevant resumes. Write a detailed job description that identifies responsibilities and required skills and expertise. The more accurate your description, the more effective you will be at attracting the right talent right off the bat.

Find qualified applicants

Half of the battle of hiring the best talent is finding the best talent. Posting a job description to a job board is a good start, but to find great talent, do some work to put the opportunity into the right hands. Leverage your network of professionals and ask who they may know who could be a good fit. Use social media platforms, particularly LinkedIn, and do some homework to uncover other potential candidates. More and more people are finding jobs via social media, and it’s now a hiring pool that employers can’t ignore.

Choose the best employee

The key here is to take your time. Choosing the best employee is a process and requires that you do your due diligence. Review resumes and speak to top candidates. It may take two or three rounds of interviews to get a solid understanding of which candidates are best for the job. When you are interviewing, don’t undervalue the softer attributes that aren’t as easy to identify on a resume, like cultural fit and the candidate’s ability to communicate clearly with clients or customers. Finally, check references. References can help you learn more about how the candidate performed in past roles and whether they would make a good fit within your organization.

Before you take these steps or bring any candidates in for an interview, read the SCORE article, “Are Your Small Business Hiring Practices Discriminatory,” to make sure you are conducting interviews legally.

Also, read the SCORE article, “After they Say ‘Yes’: The 5 Legal Steps You Must Take Every Time You Hire,” to understand what legal steps to take after a candidate accepts an offer.

Rely on insight from trusted mentors and colleagues before you make a hiring decision.

Even if you are a sole proprietor, do not make hiring decisions in a vacuum. Consult trusted industry partners or mentors as you go through the hiring process and get additional insight to round out your thinking.

One of the best resources to help you hire the right talent is with the guidance of a SCORE mentor. Your SCORE mentor will become familiar with your business and help you through your hiring from start to finish so you hire the best talent for your business.

Dean Swanson is a volunteer-certified SCORE mentor and former SCORE chapter chair, district director and regional vice president for the northwest region.