5 ways small businesses can still focus on hiring

May 21, 2020

May is Small Business Month and CareerBuilder is highlighting the unique experience of small business talent acquisition. To read more, click here.

Jared Wagner, Small Business Customer Success Manager at CareerBuilder, is a recruiter at heart – his previous professional life before joining the CareerBuilder team.  

Every day, he leads a team dedicated to maximizing hiring efforts at small businesses and has been at a unique vantage point throughout the pandemic. From supporting clients hit hard by the economic downturn to helping businesses ramp up hiring to meet essential needs, his team has witnessed how small businesses are responding to our new employment climate. 

Here are his insights and advice for small businesses to move forward with recruiting, hiring and retaining employees. 

What does hiring look like for small businesses right now? 

On a broad level, small business owners are weathering a very unpredictable time. This situation could go anywhere, in any direction. It’s my team’s job to help these vital businesses and organizations navigate risk versus reward when it comes to hiring decisions. Everything changes daily. They are asking themselves questions about their business models, who their clients are and continue to be, and what the future looks like. 

I am – really, my team is – helping small business owners understand longer term strategies for their workforce. And while I can’t say anything for certain, and none of us know exactly how this will all play out, but we will get back to work. You’re always going to need people to drive the process forward.  

What hiring trends are you seeing at small businesses? 

Of course, there is the obvious, huge trend of remote work. We, as a society, are understanding what our capabilities are in that capacity, and small business is no exception. While this has been an upward trend in the past 5- to 10 years, we’ve dramatically pivoted from completely on-site work to working in our homes. This is a big a-ha moment for small businesses, because you now have the potential to understand where to spend time and money without the assumed physical space.  

Plus, small businesses are seeing all of the same hiring and employment data that larger, huge companies and corporations are witnessing. Everyone is experiencing the same impacts, just to varying degrees. There is a lot of attention on the behemoths, which makes sense, but for example, a well-respected trucking company that’s not a giant “brand name” is going to have the same supply and demand challenge as larger organizations. We’re seeing that data across the board. Maybe some of the negative economic impacts are hitting harder on small businesses, other companies in the same high-demand industries as larger corporations still need workers. 

Lastly, this is a trend and a takeaway: finance and tech companies are poaching top talent, or simply scooping up great workers who were laid off because of the economics of this pandemic. When you think about having more job seeker traffic than ever, you have a pool of even higher-caliber talent than just three months ago. There are a lot of reasons great workers might be unemployed right now. 

What advice do you have for small businesses for recruiting candidates? 

When it comes time to focus on getting people employed, and to reassemble or add to your team, you’re going to need a talent pipeline more than ever before. Now is not the time to take your foot off the gas. From a small business perspective, it can seem daunting to handle recruitment right now. But the reality is, even though you’re trying to do more with far, far less, something as important to your business as the people you hire will wind up being handled by (otherwise great) team members who don’t typically do that job. 

  1. Understand the data you have available. This might be through your talent acquisition platform or a spreadsheet you maintain. Consider candidates from previous open opportunities, what roles you might have open now or in the near future, compensation, labor market trends – anything you use to make hiring decisions. Things are changing every day, so it’s important to have a handle on your situation.
  2. Everyone should have a pipeline. Realize this is an opportunity to take your organization to the next level. Have a process for growth. If you have a need for a position within your business, keep those jobs open. Now, be honest and transparent about the process with any potential candidates, but the last thing you want to do is miss out on opportunities to hire great workers.  
  3. From a talent acquisition perspective, always know who you want to hire next. Good people know good people, and just like job seekers are encouraged to utilize their networks, small businesses should tap into who they know and build connections. 
  4. It is still a competitive labor market. While things are a little bit slower and budgets are somewhat on hold, you’ll need to focus on who can become a very valuable player on your team. Don’t just fall for the “bells and whistles” in someone’s experience or on a resume. Take this time to dive deep into candidates, prioritize skills, understand how their professional development can benefit your team, and make your company as appealing as possible. 
  5. Make sure your employees are your cheerleader. If you have a great company, your employees want to talk about you. Your employer brand should be positive and strong, so that the talent pipeline you have contains candidates who raise their hand to wait for jobs to be available. Some applicants wait for months and months for a job opening at specific companies, and sign-up to receive emails and alerts, simply because they want to join that team. Build your brand, make sure it stays clean, deal with clients during this time be cognizant of whether they want to do business with you. 

People are going to remember how companies and businesses responded to clients (internal and external) and customers. Decide the name you want to make for yourself and build a culture to provide tools for employees to be successful. 


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