Finding qualified talent is a top challenge for small businesses. Learn how two business owners successfully hire and retain top talent.

For small businesses, hiring the right employee can jumpstart growth while the wrong one can severely slow it down.

According to NFIB’s 2019 Employee Training Survey, 67 percent of small business owners have found it more difficult to recruit and hire candidates for the most-skilled position in the last two years than in the prior two years, leading many to reduce qualifications and opt for in-house training of new or current employees.

Here are five strategies two small business owners use to find and keep top talent.

Ask Candidates for Revealing Examples

Matthew Ross, co-owner and COO of mattress comparison site Slumber Yard, advises not to ask general questions like, “Tell me about your last job.” Instead, he recommends asking applicants to recount challenges and how they overcame them, such as an instance in which they had to partner with someone else on a project at their last job or stayed late to complete a project. Doing so will give business owners a sense of how applicants have demonstrated their commitment to their previous positions, says Ross.

Tailor Your Search Process to the Role You’re Filling

Before beginning the hiring process, understand what your business needs and determine where to find the best hire to fulfill those needs, says Deanna Baumgardner, president of human resources firm Employers Advantage, LLC in Cornelius, North Carolina.

“If you’re looking for a skilled trades worker, you might not post on LinkedIn,” says Baumgardner. “You may look through a different resource.”

Business owners seeking trades workers can use websites such as Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Craigslist, and Facebook. Baumgardner also recommends developing relationships with local trades schools or skilled trades associations and groups.

RELATED: NFIB Employee Training Survey Highlights Small Employers Expectations, Willingness to Train Employees

Consider Culture Fit Over Skill Set

For Ross, a candidate’s emotional intelligence or personality are more important than technical skills. Unlike the former qualities, technical skills can be refined on the job.

Finding the right culture fit is critical for maintaining the staff’s morale, Ross says. To assess how an applicant might fit in with the team, he examines how candidates get along with others, how they internalize constructive criticism, and how they interact with other staffers.

Offer “Small” Benefits

While some small businesses may not be able to offer as high of a salary as mid-size and large companies, small businesses can attract candidates through benefits such as a supportive work environment, flexible work hours, or opportunities to grow their skills, says Baumgardner.

Candidates repeatedly asked Slumber Yard about remote working during job interviews, so the company decided to offer that benefit. 

“As long as you get your work done and it’s of high quality, we don’t care how you do it,” Ross says. “The flexibility is a big thing for our employees. They like it and it keeps morale high.”

Openly Communicate with Staffers

To keep employees engaged, ask them about their experience after 60 days at the company. Find a way to use their interests and strengths where possible, says Baumgardner.

“Getting that feedback from employees is going to help the organization and help the employees feel invested in the organization,” she says. “It’s going to make them feel valued and respected, which is going to create retention.”

RELATED: 3 Ways to Keep Qualified Workers

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