Small Business Hiring (The Smart Way)

PointofSale we're hiring sign Small Business Hiring


The US unemployment rate recently fell to its lowest point in 50 years. While this is great news for the economy and is surely a milestone to celebrate, it also creates a supply-and-demand issue for small businesses looking to hire new employees. According to a recent report by NFIB Research Center, the percentage of small companies not able to fill open positions recently hit 36 percent — matching the survey’s record high set in November 2000.

Hiring employees at any level is challenging to say the least. Small business hiring is a whole other ball game when you lack the resources readily available at large corporations. Recruiters, training managers, and hiring bonuses are just mythical unicorns in the day-to-day grind of an everyday business owner like you.

So, how can you defy the current odds stacked against you? Simple – you hire smart.

Never Underestimate Passion

While you never underestimate skills and talent when it comes to finding potential job candidates, passion is the real underdog in the hiring process.

Perhaps because there is no qualitative data to measure how passionate a job candidate is, we never take into account their dedication to your business or desire to learn the trade. They may end up developing into a model employee under your mentorship — don’t be afraid to take a little risk.

Read Between the Resume Lines

Let’s be honest, not all job candidates are great writers or even good writers, so passion is hard to convey on a resume. If an applicant writes that they “absolutely love, love, love your company,” it may come off as poor writing and immediately put up a red flag about their communication skills.

However, unless you’re hiring for a role that involves a lot of writing, try to look past it. If the potential employee has an interesting job history or a unique experience, it’s worth a five-minute phone screen to determine if their verbal communication is better than the penned version.

Use Existing Relationships and Network

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your existing network during the recruitment process. Family, friends, colleagues, or acquaintances, put the word out there that you’re hiring. Often, a warm lead or referral by someone you know can be the diamond in the rough.

Chances are the person referring the candidate doesn’t want to tarnish their good name or fall out of your good graces. Therefore, they’re more likely to send you someone who is qualified — or at least really really really passionate.

PointofSale Customer paying with contactless payment at counter Small Business Hiring

Look for Untapped Resources

While your existing network is a great resource, don’t be afraid to experiment with new platforms. Are there job boards that you’ve heard about but haven’t tried? Give it a try! If you’re having trouble finding qualified candidates now, maybe a change of pace is just the pick-me-up you need.

Also, don’t be afraid to get creative. Do you have a seasonal business? Find people whose full-time 9-5 is complementary to the hours you’re looking to fill. For instance, if your business is in a summer community, teachers and students will be your best pool of resources.

Non-Financial Incentives

For some people, it’s not all about the dollars and cents. Many employers make the same mistake in thinking that employees are only motivated by money, when in fact that is not the case. Factors such as more opportunities, career development, and flexible job conditions topped the list about what would make employees more engaged at work.

It also doesn’t hurt to offer perks like discounts, charitable donations, or adventurous team building activities to make employees feel valued and part of something greater than “just a job.”

See Also: See Also: How to Keep Employees Motivated (When Things Go Wrong)


Competitive Pay

On the other hand, for some people, it’s all about the Benjamins. Cold hard cash is the driving force behind their motivation to submit a job application with your company.

However, as much as you’d like to pay employees top dollar, you also know it’s not realistic. Labor costs are a big chunk of your expenses, and you can’t afford to be careless when it comes to defining salary or hourly wages.

  • Know your budget

    You can’t pay out more expenses than revenue coming in. Basic math and business 101 will tell you that formula isn’t sustainable for very long.

    Take a look at your business plan and make sure the money you allocated towards payroll doesn’t exceed your profit margins and revenue forecast.

  • Check out industry competitors

    Regardless of whether you own a restaurant, retail shop, or professional service business, you’re looking at your competitors. What are they selling? How much does it cost? Is our product or service better than theirs?

    It’s human nature, and it’s the nature of the business. However, don’t forget to investigate how much they’re paying their employees. Look at job boards and see if they have any posts that include a pay range for a similar role.

  • You get what you pay for

    It’s also important to keep in mind the mantra, “you get what you pay for.” If you’re not going to pay top dollar or even competitive dollar, don’t expect to attract top-notch job applicants.


Create a Great Culture

In addition to competitive pay, another way to attract top-notch talent is to create a great work environment. Be the business that everyone in your town wants to work for at some phase of their life.

Whether it’s a high school kid looking for their first entry-level job or someone older looking for a career change, create a culture that makes it hard to leave. Alternatively, when they do move on, they become your biggest promoter and advocate for your business.


It All Starts With a Detailed Job Description

We saved the most obvious for last. Before you can hire a new employee, you need to define the role you’re looking to fill. Don’t jump the gun and list a job title with bullet points outlining the necessary qualifications and job duties. Start the conversation by introducing yourself — or rather the business.

Tell the potential employee about your company, and its culture or mission statement. Why would someone want to apply for a position at a company he or she knows nothing about — or one that didn’t bother to make an introduction?

Once you introduce the business, then get into the job details and minimum qualifications or preferred skills. Give the reader a holistic view of what they can expect working for your company.

The Bottom Line

If the small business hiring waters continue to shallow, the competition to attract good job candidates is only going to get tougher and more time consuming — which means you have to play the game smarter.

About the Author

Nicole Walters

As Managing Editor at, Nicole Walters leverages her extensive experience in the payment and POS industry and her background in communications to create valuable content that addresses real problems and solutions for small business owners.