Building the Right Team for Your Small BusinessSixty percent of small business owners and managers say their biggest human resources challenge is finding skilled talent. Heavy competition for workers with specialized skills doubles the difficulty budget crunches impose on recruiters. Some companies with deep pockets are offering generous transition packages to lure workers away from competitors. But for businesses that can’t afford this, smarter strategies are required.

Set the Right Bait

Fishing provides an apt analogy for successful recruiting. Some bass fishermen have sought an advantage in tournaments by planting submerged brush piles marked by GPS coordinates to attract fish seeking cool water. While this may not be sporting in fishing, it illustrates the value of effective baiting, which is a useful principle to apply to recruitment.

Start by knowing what you’re looking for. A review of your organizational chart, functions and personnel can help you identify gaps between your current talent and missing skills. Consider both short-term openings and long-term needs, factoring in how company expansion, personnel changes or industry developments might affect your needs. For instance, Steve Jobs made sure to train people who could fill in for him at Apple.

As you identify areas that require personnel, consider your hiring options. Do you need a full-time staff member, part-time employee, ongoing vendor or project contractor? Each has its pros and cons. Full-time staff bring long-term experience and loyalty, but can increase expense. Part-time employees offer flexible pay and hours, but may get hired away, and can complicate your benefits and tax liabilities. Vendors and contractors can cut your costs, but also limit your supervisory authority. Choose your most applicable option. As a rule of thumb, assign full-time employees to your company’s core strengths, and use additional personnel to fill out peripheral duties, such as accounting, tax preparation and IT.

Once you’ve identified positions that need filling, create the right recruiting bait. Write up a profile of your ideal candidate, describing their skill set, experience level and work habits. Build this into a job description that offers value to prospective recruits in exchange for the skill you’re seeking. What can you offer talented employees to make them want to work for you instead of a competitor?

Fish Where the Fish Are

small business hiring

Successful fishermen know the good fishing spots. A winning talent search focuses on leveraged recruitment venues.

The first place to look is within. Look for talent on your own team before hiring outside. Do you have underutilized employees with skills that could be put to use? Do you have training systems to develop your workers?

When recruiting outside your company, pursue a long-term strategy instead of waiting to hire until you’re desperate for help. Build your reputation in your industry so that talented job seekers come to you on a regular basis. Create multiple recruitment systems to attract an ongoing stream of inquiries and applications.

Using multiple tools to attract job hunters will increase your odds of finding skilled applicants. Ask your employees and vendors for referrals. Develop relationships with recruitment agencies to leverage their resources. Scout other employers’ talent pools using social media job sites such as LinkedIn and databases such as Jigsaw. Place want ads on online job application sites to connect with virtual job seekers. Send recruiters to establish your presence at schools, job fairs and industry networking events.

Keep the Good Ones

After you cast your fishing net and haul in your catch, you face the task of tossing out the bad fish and keeping the good ones. Here it pays to study and follow recruitment best practices.

Your screening process begins by evaluating an applicant’s initial contact with you. Create a checklist of questions and a scoring system to help you review candidates objectively. For instance, how well did the applicant follow directions in responding to your want ad? Does his resume meet your qualifications in terms of skill set, experience and work ethic? Did she demonstrate reliability and persistence in following up on your communications?

Apply similar criteria to your interviewing process. Script a standard procedure for contacting qualified candidates, conducting interviews, and following up. Design a list of standard questions, and supplement these with customized inquiries appropriate to specific candidates. Include opportunities to allow applicants to ask their own questions and demonstrate their interest and initiative.

Follow up with a post-interview evaluation process. Use a checklist of objective criteria to help guide your decision-making, while leaving room for your intuitive impressions.

Once you find qualified candidates, make your hiring process easier by standardizing your onboarding procedure. Create policies and forms for streamlining tasks such as background checks, tax arrangements, payroll set-up and training new employees. You can semi-automate these processes by using software to assist with areas such as induction and project management profile creation.

What tips do you have for building the right business team? Share them in the comments.

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Roy Rasmussen
Roy Rasmussen

Roy Rasmussen, co-author of "Publishing for Publicity," is a freelance copywriter who helps small businesses get more customers and make more sales.