Hiring Tips for New Business Owners During a Pandemic

PRemployer on December 1, 2021

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Hiring the best employees is challenging under the best of circumstances. Right now is not the best of circumstances. The pandemic is driving a massive shift in worker mindset and attitude, putting more power in their hands and a worker shortage that puts the market in their favor.

Attracting the talent your business needs to grow and succeed is particularly challenging. Many companies receive fewer applicants, even as more people change jobs than ever.

So, what do you need to do to set yourself up for hiring success? 

Conduct Research and Organize Your Paperwork 

The first step is to understand where you stand in terms of the local economy. Most talk on the job market discusses national trends, whereas you need to understand your local market. 

Learn about your competition by reviewing job postings in the area. It will give you a better idea of competitive salaries and help you determine your area's highest-demand skills. 

Also, look at resume posting sites to see the kind of strengths candidates might be showing, then use that information to craft your recruiting strategy. It will let you know what skills might be easier to find than others, what you can recruit for, and what might need training. 

The second stage is to make sure that you have all your paperwork and company-side components in order. The last thing you need is to find the perfect candidate, only to have them poached because you didn't have a contract ready. Partnering with a PEO or other HR outsourcing company can help you gather all the necessary components. They will know what you need to hire and help you organize or develop your components. Their expertise can analyze your current system and develop a new one, which you can use for all future hiring. 

Decide on Your Recruiting Strategy 

Once you have all the essential information, you must develop your recruiting strategy to distribute and interview workers. Many new businesses make the mistake of not having one instead of making ramshackle postings and hoping they find a good candidate. 

For each position, you intend to fill, write a clear, detailed job description. Your job description is your wish list, describing your ideal candidate. After writing, read through it and prioritize your candidate's essential skills. You likely won't find a candidate who has everything you need immediately and finding a candidate with these exact traits is unnecessary. Instead prioritize finding a candidate who displays integrity, initiative, and a willingness to learn and adapt.  

These soft skills matter more than their specific experience. You can teach someone how to do their job, but you can’t instill their work ethic. If you narrow your search that drastically, you risk slowing down the hiring process and screening out candidates who will make a tremendous, longstanding addition to your team. Make sure to develop an efficient and effective training strategy to help them onboard quickly and become thriving members of your team. 

Plan on hiring more candidates than you need to account for turnover. It’s not uncommon that new hires will start and leave within one to three months, whether they find the position isn’t a good fit or get a different offer later. Having more people also keeps you from getting short-staffed again and keeps your core staff from getting burnout.  

Once you have your position set up, post it on recruiting sites such as LinkedIn and Indeed. The more places you post, the wider the net you cast. Be aware that if you cast your net too wide, you might have issues narrowing down candidates. It is generally better to have too many than too few candidates, however. Depending on the nature of the role, consider posting on industry-specific sites as well if your industry has them. 

Always revisit this after the next stage to make sure you find the most qualified and suitable person. Revise postings based on what you have learned from the review stage. Also, be sure not to overly rely on algorithms to filter out possible candidates. Too often, these algorithms remove suitable candidates because their resumes don't have specific key phrases, lowering your applicant pool and making it challenging to find people for the position. 

Review Applicants and Interview 

Resumes and cover letters only tell a tiny part of the story. Resume writing is a skill in and of itself, and it might not be a skill you think is that important. Use resumes to sift out the unsuitable. Depending on how many applicants you have, be flexible about what you expect on the resume. Bear in mind that candidates often know how to write resumes to get past this stage. 

You must narrow it down to a reasonable number of people to interview before reaching out and scheduling interviews. Prepare for the interview by having a set of critical questions in advance. More scripted interviews help overcome unconscious bias and improve your ability to treat each candidate fairly. If you have a lot of candidates, you might want to do multi-round interviews. An initial quick screening interview often filters out unsuitable candidates or those with misleading resumes. Consider carrying out the first round remotely as either a phone or video call, so you have fewer candidates on site. 

Make sure not to ask any illegal or inappropriate interview questions. You can't, for example, ask somebody if they have children or how much they weigh. Keep your questions very focused. Remember that the ideal candidate may not be the person you expect. 

Follow Up and Background Checks

You want to be as confident as possible that your selected candidate is, indeed, the right person for the job. Follow up with your shortlist of candidates and test them further. Consider a test work assignment, call their references, and conduct appropriate background checks. 

At this stage, you are looking for the less tangible factors as well. Will this person fit in? When you hire your first employee, it does matter that this is somebody you are comfortable with and that you are on the same page about work style and ethic. As your company grows, you will want to build a culture that reduces turnover and increases talent. 

When you do make the offer, be willing to negotiate and make sure you act quicklyThe job market is competitive and the quicker you act, the less likely they’ll accept an offer elsewhere. Remember the salary data you have been collecting, and make sure your offer is competitive. If you cannot afford a high salary, look at other perks, such as flexible scheduling to attract talent. 

Once an offer is accepted, partner them with a mentor in your organization to get them the information they need and guide them along the way. You want them to feel supported as they onboard until they reach self-sufficiency within their role. 

Hiring your first few employees is always a challenge, and right now, it is a workers' market. A professional employer organization (PEO) can help you through this process. They can provide technical assistance and help with onboarding and give advice based on their experience. You can then focus on finding the perfect employees to help your company grow.

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