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Why small businesses should always be hiring—even when they don’t think they need to

Your employees are the keys to your success—if you keep them in stock.

Why small businesses should always be hiring—even when they don’t think they need to

Small businesses can’t afford to be caught off guard with a hiring gap or shortage. The smaller a business is, the bigger the impact when you don’t have someone to do key tasks.

This is particularly true in industries that are seeing talent shortages, such as manufacturing and even financial and business services, according to Korn Ferry. For businesses that need skilled workers, an open position can mean a weeks- or even months-long vacancy while a company locates and screens candidates.

“What happens is that if they have turnover, or if they want to expand, they find themselves scrambling to figure out how to hire talent,” says Jill Johns, who runs a professional service provider consulting business outside of Savannah, GA. “What they end up doing is grabbing whomever seems to fit on the surface, but they don’t really have a strategy.”

For that kind of business, always-on hiring can help in several ways.

Why it’s helpful to be “always-on” hiring

You won’t be forced to make poor hiring decisions

In a pinch, if you need a worker and you can’t find a great one, you may end up plugging the spot with someone mediocre or—worse—problematic. This happened to a client of Johns’, when one of their skilled technicians left with no notice. “She was just, overnight, gone,” Johns says. “It took three rounds of interviewing, screening, hiring and firing to finally be able to find a qualified candidate to fill her shoes. And each one of those is time and money.”

You can be uber responsive

If your product or service is a function of people doing something, having a backup stack of people who can step in is crucial to your ability to perform. “You absolutely have to have a bench for every time you scale and to not disrupt your delivery cycle or whatever it is that your people do for you,” says Antara Dutta, a SCORE mentor in Delaware and founder of healthcare startup Ayuvia Galaxy. If someone quits or is sick or unavailable, you won’t be in a tight spot to find hands.

You might find someone you need

If you’re only placing “help wanted” ads when you have vacancies, you could miss out on that candidate who’s exactly what you want—but they’re not actively looking when you’re actively seeking. If you’re accepting resumes all the time, you’ll be able to find the great people and flag them for the time when you really need them.

You might find someone you never knew you wanted

As a small business, you might not realize you need a person that does X and Y—until you meet them. Then you might find yourself creating a position to accommodate them. “You never know who’s going to come across your desk,” says Johns, who is also a mentee of SCORE. “Small businesses in particular are extremely agile, and they can shift and change depending on what’s available to them.”

How to make it work for you

Use subscription-based job postings

Putting your postings on a subscription service, like Monster’s flexible job ad options, allow you to be an always-hiring employer, with ads that attract qualified candidates during all hiring cycles. These solutions can be flexible and reasonably priced, allowing you to turn your attention to other aspects of your business.

Do whatever takes the longest—in advance

If you have a process that requires candidates to be vetted before they can be hired, do it before you need to hire them. “Let’s say a position requires some kind of background check,” Dutta says. “I would probably have them not only interviewed but also security background check cleared. It’s like pre-cooking a meal—how much can a chef do ahead of time?”

Find flexible candidates

If you’re constantly interviewing so you’ll have a bench full of talent, but you aren’t equipped to hire people right away, you’ll need to look for candidates who are content to work on your timeline. “Where I see it works is where there are a lot of independent contractors or mothers re-entering the workforce,” Dutta says. “That’s where you’d find people who are flexible on timing and starting.”

Attend job events

Even when you aren’t looking for hires, take advantage of local job fairs to meet people and take resumes. This is particularly true if you’re near any colleges or universities, because you’ll have access to a fresh and enthusiastic talent pool.