Businesses of all sizes are struggling to find qualified workers, and for small businesses, the competition is even more intense. In a USA Today survey earlier this year, three out of 10 small business owners say it's gotten harder to find qualified employees: Positions are staying open longer and receiving fewer applications.
Hiring new employees in today's labor market is challenging, but it can be done. Try these tactics:
- Try a variety of methods to advertise and recruit for open positions. Job candidates are kind of like customers — you need to provide multiple ways for them to learn about and contact you. For example, millennials might prefer to be able to apply for job openings on their phones, so your listings must be mobile friendly. Go beyond the basics of placing ads on job search sites and "market" your open positions on social media, on your company website and in your physical location. Seeking entry-level employees or recent college grads? Investigate local job fairs that might be relevant to your needs.
- Tap into your personal and professional networks. Experts advise job hunters to network with friends, family and colleagues when looking for a new job, because many if not most positions are filled "through the grapevine." As an employer, you can use the same strategy in reverse. Tell everyone you can think of that you’re hiring. You never know who might know someone who knows someone who knows someone who's the perfect candidate. Don't forget about your existing employees: They may be able to refer suitable candidates.
- Think outside the box. Depending on the experience and skills required for the position, and how much training you're willing to provide, you might consider hiring from traditionally underemployed labor pools. The federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program provides tax credits to employers that hire eligible workers from targeted groups including unemployed veterans, food stamp recipients, former felons, people referred by vocational rehabilitation programs and residents of certain rural or urban areas.
- Rethink the job. Modifying the structure of a position can open up your possible talent pool. For example, could you split a full-time job into two part-time positions? This could enable you to hire seniors, stay at home parents or others looking for part-time work. If the job you're trying to fill can be done remotely, you can expand your search from your immediate area across the country — wherever qualified workers live.
- Offer better benefits. Assuming your compensation is competitive for your industry and market, improving benefits could make the difference in attracting employees in a tight labor market. Employer-based health insurance is an extremely desirable benefit, and with insurance offered through the Affordable Coverage Act (ACA) possibly under threat from Congress, it's something more and more candidates will care about.
- Promote your business as a good place to work. In the same way you build your brand among prospective customers, you also need to build your brand in the job market. Maintain an active presence in your community, your industry and on social media to raise your company's profile as a good place to work. Be sure to share information about your team, your company culture and your job openings on your business website.All
- Never stop recruiting. The best way to ensure that you can find the right candidate at the right time is to always be on the lookout. Even if you don't have an immediate need to hire, keep your eyes and ears open and take note of promising candidates you see on social media, at networking events or meet through friends or colleagues. Keep detailed records on your "also-rans" — job candidates who came in second or third on your list. The next time you have an opening, see if they are still interested.