Mastering your niche isn’t always enough to ensure long-term business success. You may also need expertise in related areas, such as recruiting and employee retention. Though these disciplines may not be what excite you about being an entrepreneur, managing and motivating people is a job requirement shared by most small business owners.

Keeping good employees on your payroll is a tall order in and of itself, but you have to first recruit top talent before you can even start worrying about retention. Finding and courting the best your industry has to offer – or, at least, the best you can afford is a top priority when first filling key positions and along the way, as you replace employees.

Developing Your Greatest Asset

Sprout Funding logoWhile you might argue the merits of your products and other aspects of your business, it’s hard to deny the importance of competent, committed employees. Without them, your business can’t help but falter, lacking the human resources to execute your entrepreneurial vision.

A standout staff brings limitless potential to your entrepreneurial endeavors. With stellar personnel in place, anything’s possible, but finding the right people to fill key positions is easier said than done in a competitive labor market. There’s no doubt recruiting, hiring, onboarding take time and resources you could devote elsewhere, but the value of consistently hiring well translates into real profits.

Inc. contributor, Heidi Zak, recently outlined several recruiting rules capable of raising your recruiting success to the next level. The author brings her personal insight to recruiting responsibilities, sharing experience drawn from her years running a startup.

  • Don’t turn recruiting into a popularity contest – Small business owners trust their instincts – their confidence is one of the factors setting them apart. While going with your gut may prove prudent under some professional circumstances, recruiting is not the best time to wing it. Chances are, if a prospective hire has earned an interview with you, he or she has a likeable personality – to at least a certain extent. As your company’s recruiting representative, it’s your job to delve deeper, understanding candidates’ qualifications, experience, and even their weaknesses, if you’ve conducted a thorough vetting process. Before sitting down for in-person interviews, take time to customize candidate questions, pointedly probing the most important areas. And identify at least a few “must-haves” for each position, ensuring you don’t compromise your standards.
  • Embrace evolving expectations – Recruiting needs are not set in stone. As your company evolves, so do your personnel requirements. It’s important to adapt recruiting practices to account for organizational growth and expansion, which often alters the type of employees most needed to move your venture forward. In the early days of an organization, for example, employees commonly wear multiple hats, calling for flexibility and a jack-of-all-trades skill set. As a company grows and recruiting requirements evolve, the value of adaptable generalists may wane, in favor of highly specialized team members. Your willingness to change recruitment standards as your company comes into its own presents opportunities. By hiring specialists ready to hit the ground running, you’ll save money on training and productivity lags from inexperienced staff.
  • Make sure job candidates are prepared to compete for positions – Time spent vetting potential hires is used to test various competencies, as well as job candidates’ resourcefulness. While you want to challenge finalists to provide thoughtful interview answers and think on their feet, you don’t want to leave them confused or unprepared for the interview process. Before meeting with interviewees, outline your expectations for interview day. Who is participating in the interview? How long do you expect to spend with the candidate? What’s the interview format? Answering these questions prepares finalists to put their best foot forward, rather than creating tense uncertainty, by leaving them in the dark.
  • Get a little help from your friends – Job interviews cover a lot of professional territory, so splitting-up the evaluation process between multiple interview panelists can help you focus on desirable (and not so desirable) applicant traits. Conducting interview panels generates detailed analysis – more precise than a single interviewer’s perspective – helping decide who’s hired. Before meeting an applicant, each panelist agrees to focus on certain skills, traits, and experiences, while interacting with the candidate. After the interview, members of the panel compare notes and discuss their impressions, relative to their specific assignments. Panels are thought to provide more information than interviews conducted by lone recruiters.
  • Learn from your mistakes – This general life lesson applies to small business recruiting. If you always hired perfectly, you’d be the exception, rather than the rule; countless small business owners grapple with personnel issues every day. Despite your best intentions and procedural precautions, hires don’t always pan out – at least not how you’d hope for, every time. When personnel missteps disrupt your labor flow, you can only learn from staff setbacks and avoid similar mistakes in the future. What did you miss during the hiring process? Did you give the employee everything needed to succeed? How can you adapt internal processes to reduce the likelihood of recurrence?

Finding, hiring, and retaining competent, committed employees are substantial undertakings, but the time and resources spent recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and developing top performers is a small price to pay for a stable, high-achieving staff. Whether you’re just beginning to staff your startup or replacing team members midstream, you can rely on these and other recruiting rules for help filling key positions.

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