How Long Should You Wait For the Perfect Applicant?

September 26, 2016 Pete Jansons

With a limited staff size, small business owners depend heavily on the contributions of every team member. So when a new position opens up, finding a great match becomes imperative. A hiring mistake could cause problems ranging from insufficient output to workplace discord. At the same time, companies that take too long searching for the ideal applicant face risks, as well. A prolonged vacancy means lost productivity, and putting strain on your existing employees to pick up the slack could leave you with even more roles to fill if people get fed up and quit.

Unfortunately, no magic formula exists to figure out how long is too long to wait when searching for the “perfect” new hire. Your dream candidate could walk in the door tomorrow – or never. Instead, a better solution might be putting effort into finding worthy talent and working to help those chosen become what your small business needs. Here’s how:

Look internally: Could the person you’re seeking literally be right around the corner? Current employees already are a good fit culturally, and promoting from within can improve morale and increase retention because it exemplifies how you value workers and provide growth opportunities. Likewise, training someone who already knows a great deal about your small business can be faster and more cost effective than starting from scratch. If you work with freelancers or part-timers, consider informing them about permanent positions, too.

Encourage employee referrals: Applicants referred by members of your team tend to be a better match for your needs than those responding to job postings because they’ve been hand-selected by people who know your small business’s objectives and culture. Before they refer someone, your employees essentially do some of the initial screening for you by figuring out who in their network has the right credentials and work ethic; nobody wants to damage his or her own reputation by endorsing a slouch.

Develop relationships: Let those in your professional network know your hiring needs; they may be able to pinpoint appropriate individuals looking for a job. Similarly, consider partnering with professional associations or local colleges. They can connect you to people who are developing the specialized skills you require and would welcome internship or employment opportunities.

Get to the core: Finally, realize that “perfect” candidates rarely exist (and likely not at the price you’re willing to pay). Instead of creating a massive wish list, craft a job posting focused on critical requirements. Specifics discourage random job hunters from applying and increase the likelihood of a relevant applicant pool. In the process, you’ll develop a clearer picture of what the position truly entails. For instance, you might conclude that professional editing experience is nice but that an otherwise stellar candidate with an eye for detail could be trained in this skill.

Then, make it simple for candidates to learn about your small business. A strong career page on your website can save you filtering time by helping prospective applicants self-select. After all, employers aren’t the only ones hoping to discover a perfect match.

Want more advice and resources for building your small business? Learn about the essential elements of a standout recruitment strategy


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