Small Business Recruitment

Hiring for a small business is tough. You know what you do inside out, and you’re excited to expand, but you’re probably not a recruitment expert. With 32% of Australians unlikely to be rehired if their employer was given the option, hiring managers desperately need guidance during this important initial process.

This article will help you reach and select the right people. When you’re ready to make a hire, AbilityMap is here to help.

Recruitment Strategies & Tips

Use this section to attract and retain the right people for your business. Small businesses often find it challenging to maintain their culture as they grow, but identifying the right fit before you make a hire means you can avoid this awkward stage.

Writing a Great Job Advert

Now more than ever, candidates are evaluating you as much as you are evaluating them. To attract the highest calibre of talent, you need a job advert that draws them in. We recommend writing your ad in the same way you write sales and marketing assets.

A great job ad has the following traits:

  • Gender-neutral wording
  • Behavioural-based phrasing
  • A salary, or range
  • Concise wording
  • An emphasis on culture, perks and benefits

Job advert template

Job TitleCopywriter
LocationWhere is the role based? Remote or hybrid?
TermFixed-term contract, part-time or maternity cover?
DescriptionDescribe the typical daily duties of the role. Be as specific as possible and use bullet points to make it easy to read. Who does this role report to? What teams are they a part of and who do they interact with?
SalaryInclude the salary or salary range
QualificationsInclude any professional or educational qualifications and experience necessary for the role. This is where you refer to ‘Hard Skills’.
CapabilitiesThis is where you discuss ‘Soft Skills’. What traits and behaviours would make someone a good fit for this role?
Business InformationThis is where you sell yourself. What perks and benefits can hires expect? What are your core values and business operations?

Getting People Applying

Once you have the perfect job description, you need to get it in front of the right people. It isn’t just about getting as many applicants as possible. It’s about getting the right talent to apply for your role.

If you can’t offer sponsorship visas, for example, there’s no point in advertising on international job sites. If you’re looking to improve your diversity, an inaccessible application process might jeopardise that.

You want to improve the calibre of applicants because reading through hundreds of CVs is… mind-numbing. By improving the quality of your applicants, you can reduce the time spent sifting through ill-fitting CVs.

6 ways to enhance the quality and quantity of your applicants

1. Encourage employee referrals

The best way to find people that fit your culture is to find them through the people that make that culture. Asking employees to refer friends and family increases the chance that they will be a good fit for the team and the role.

People are unlikely to recommend anyone they don’t think will make them look good.

To encourage referrals, consider setting up a referral scheme. The best incentive is financial rewards for the referring employee. For example: 50% when their referral is hired, and 50% when they pass probation.

2. Find the right advertising boards

Getting your ad in front of the right people requires knowing your employees. If you haven’t made many hires, brainstorm your employee profiles to get to know your ideal hires. Perhaps they hang out where your customers do? Brand champions often make great employees.

If this is true for your business, social media is a great place to start. Posting a job ad on your socials means the people who already interact with your brand will see it.

If your ideal employees are very different to your clients and customers, you may want to consider looking at competitors. Where do your competitors’ employees hang out? What are their interests and what do they look for in a role?

Another option is to go through a recruiter. There are specialised recruiters in almost every niche these days – and these are particularly useful for remote roles. Recruiters have access to top talent, and they’ve already screened their experience and qualifications.

3. Make application straightforward

Even the most dedicated applicants might be put off by unnecessarily lengthy application processes. While screening questions can help determine who is keen for a role, consider using just one or two if you aren’t getting many applications.

LinkedIn’s Easy Apply is a great example of a straightforward application process. It filters applications according to your needs and candidates’ answers and doesn’t require lengthy text-based responses.

4. Make entry requirements realistic

Research by LinkedIn’s Senior Editor, George Anders, highlighted a concerning statistic: 35% of entry-level roles on the site’s job board required 3 or more years of experience.

Likewise, you may want to consider whether a degree is really necessary. Studies show that White and Asian demographics are more likely to have a degree, so if diverse teams perform better, new hires without degrees may bring fresh perspectives and skillsets to teams.

5. Include a Hidden Instruction

A great way to filter out the serial applicants is to hide a slightly cryptic instruction in the body copy of your job ad. Directions like ‘write your favourite colour at the top of your application’ are easy for everyone to follow, but quickly filter out anyone who hasn’t read the instructions fully.

Other ideas for instructions are to email the hiring manager, apply on the company website and record a 5-minute video to attach to the application.

6. Screen from the start

Receiving hundreds of applications for your roles? Consider using an up front screening tool to fast track shortlisting. AbilityMap takes 45 minutes to assess a person’s capability for your role. By asking candidates to complete this assessment early on in your recruitment process, you can filter out the people who aren’t keen or suitable.

By narrowing your CV-sifting time in this way, you can spend interview time assessing whether you want the candidate to join your team. See if you get on with them on a personal level, safe in the knowledge they have the skills that make them suitable for the role.

Building an Attractive Workplace Culture

You might want to consider the distinction between employee benefits and perks. Benefits that have financial or otherwise significant use to employees are great for attracting diverse talent.

Perks, on the other hand, are nice-to-haves. They should not be relied upon to draw in candidates.

Examples of employee benefits:

  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Insurance (Life, Group Health, Private Medical)
  • Flexible working
  • Enhanced parental leave packages
  • Vocational training
  • Career progression plans
  • Reimbursed travel expenses

Examples of perks:

  • Free lunch
  • Work drinks
  • Cycle to work scheme
  • Puppy yoga
  • Ping pong table

Reference Checks: Still Relevant?

Employment references are a traditional recruitment strategy, but they don’t necessarily give us the information we need to assess someone’s fit for our role. There are many reasons references fall short in the modern recruitment methodology.

For a more detailed explanation, check out this article: Why Reference Checks are Worthless. But here are 3 quick reasons references are no longer relevant:

  • They are subjective: If a candidate’s previous employer valued different capabilities than you do, you will likely have differing opinions on that candidate.
  • They are selective: Candidates are unlikely to use someone as a reference if they don’t expect they’ll speak highly of them.
  • They are subject to bias: Implicit and explicit biases affect our judgments every day. So, taking one or two people’s opinions about a candidate seems senseless.

Rather than using reference checks as a screening tool, organisations are increasingly using them to get to know their candidates. Some managers find references useful to understand how best to support their reports as a manager and identify areas where they may struggle in their new role.

The Interview Process

The interview process doesn’t need to be painful. Preparation is key for making sure you get the information you need (and avoid wasting anyone’s time). It’s the perfect opportunity to learn more about the candidate.

Use interviews to discover whether or not each candidate possesses the skills required to perform well in your role and environment.

If you’ve conducted pre-interview screening, you can spend the interview focusing on whether you and this candidate get on well. Concentrate on the vibe they bring and how well they communicate. Relying solely on the interview process can lead to hiring numerous people with fantastic persuasion skills, rather than those who have the skills to do your job well.

Have a set of questions ready that directly assess the capabilities needed for success in the role. You can use these to create a fair playing field by asking each interviewee questions that relate to the same capabilities. Then, you can compare their responses like for like.

AbilityMap tailors interview questions to the capabilities required for any specific profile. So, you can ask a variety of questions to assess candidates’ skills. This is beneficial for organisations conducting many interviews that may struggle to distinguish between candidates if they ask everyone the same questions.

Sample Interview Questions

General Questions

  • Tell us why you’re interested in this role.
  • Share a notable achievement or project from your past that you believe could benefit a smaller company like ours.

Skills and Qualifications

  • What skills and experiences make you a strong fit for this position?
  • Can you provide examples of your contributions in previous roles, particularly where resources were limited?
  • How do you manage multiple tasks or priorities?

Behavioural Questions

  • Describe a challenging work situation you’ve overcome.
  • How do you approach teamwork and collaboration in a small team?
  • Give an example of how you’ve used initiative to improve your work situation.

Cultural Fit and Values

  • What workplace values are important to you, and how do they align with the culture of smaller companies?
  • How do you handle feedback from colleagues or supervisors, particularly in a close-knit work environment?
  • Share a situation where you’ve positively influenced company culture or team dynamic.

Future Contributions

  • What contributions or improvements do you think you might bring in the next 6 months?
  • How do you envisage your role evolving over time?

Situational Questions

  • How would you handle a project facing unexpected challenges, taking limited resources into consideration?
  • Imagine a task with limited resources and a tight deadline. How would you ensure its success?

Questions About the Company

  • What do you know about us and our industry?
  • How does your background align with the unique needs of smaller companies?
  • How do you plan to contribute to our mission and goals as a valued member of our team?

Interview Etiquette

As much as the interview process allows you to suss out your candidates, they are evaluating your fit too. Proper etiquette is a two-way street that goes beyond turning up on time and being polite.

Prepare by reading the candidate’s CVPhrase questions in a behaviour-based way (e.g. “How do you organise your workload?”)Explain the role at the start of the interviewAsk if the candidate has any questions at the endAllow enough time to cover all questions and responses plus questions at the endBe prepared with responses to questions such as start date and salary expectationsInclude countless in-person interviews with different executivesPhrase questions in a personality-based way (e.g. “Are you an organised person?”)Let cognitive biases cloud your judgementRush through the interviews without considering the candidate’s answersSchedule multiple interviews back-to-backAsk trick questions that can only be answered by people already working for your company

Identifying Deception

Studies show that a strong awareness of deception indicators helps experienced and non-experienced interviewers detect deception in employment interviews. Well-structured interviews are able to detect inconsistencies, but some people are deceptive.

For a better chance of detecting deception while you interview candidates, learn these subtle ‘tells’ that indicate deception:

  • Sudden quietness or chattiness
  • Micro-expressions (these tend to reveal the true expression)
  • Contradictory statements or actions
  • Seemingly false expression, such as uncomfortably long eye contact

If you suspect a candidate is lying, try not to jump to conclusions. Most ‘lie detection’ methods simply identify heightened emotions, and these are common in any interview scenario.

Candidate Red Flags

  • Poor Preparation:
    Candidates who haven’t researched your company or the role may not be genuinely interested or committed.
  • Arriving Late:
    Punctuality is often a reflection of professionalism and commitment. But, this alone may not be cause for concern.
  • Negative Attitude:
    If a candidate displays a consistently negative attitude, it can indicate they may not be a good fit for your team’s culture.
  • Inadequate Questions:
    If a candidate doesn’t ask thoughtful questions about the company, role or team, they may not be interested or prepared.
  • Lack of Enthusiasm:
    Candidates who show little enthusiasm or passion for the position or industry are unlikely to fit in with a dynamic team or role.
  • Inconsistent Responses:
    Inconsistencies between a candidate’s resume and interview answers raise integrity concerns.
  • Blaming Others:
    If a candidate frequently blames others for their past failures or conflicts, it may indicate a lack of accountability.
  • Limited Adaptability:
    Inability or reluctance to adapt to new situations, technologies or challenges can be a problem in rapidly changing environments.
  • Resistance to Feedback:
    Candidates who become defensive or dismissive when provided with constructive feedback may not be open to growth.
  • Inadequate Communication Skills:
    Poor communication skills, such as difficulty in explaining past experiences.
  • Limited Teamwork Skills:
    Candidates who struggle to provide examples of successful collaboration or express a preference for working alone may not fit well into team-oriented roles.
  • Unrealistic Expectations:
    Unrealistic expectations about the role, responsibilities or career progression can indicate a poor understanding of the position.
  • Short Job Stints:
    Frequent job changes without a clear progression or reason can suggest a lack of commitment or stability.
  • Inappropriate Behaviour:
    Any unprofessional or inappropriate behaviour during the interview, such as disrespectful comments or rudeness, should be a significant red flag.
  • Incomplete Work History:
    Gaps in a candidate’s work history without reasonable explanations may raise concerns about reliability.
  • Limited Interest in Personal Growth:
    Candidates who show no interest in professional development or skill improvement may not be a long-term asset to your organisation.

Seeing is believing

See how AbilityMap’s technology can provide detailed insights into your people and organisational dynamics.

Getting Ready to Hire

Getting Ready to Hire

Hiring for a small business is tough. You know what you do inside out, and you’re excited to expand, but you’re probably not a recruitment expert. This article will help you get ready to hire!

read more
The Current Recruitment Landscape

The Current Recruitment Landscape

Hiring for a small business is tough. You know what you do inside out, and you’re excited to expand, but you’re probably not a recruitment expert. With 32% of Australians unlikely to be rehired if their employer was given the option, hiring managers desperately need...

read more

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