As small business owners work to recover and rebuild in the wake of the Covid pandemic, many are encountering yet another obstacle: difficulty filling open positions. According to the June 2021 monthly jobs report by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), 46% of small business owners reported having job openings they could not fill with qualified workers.

The reasons behind the current challenges are complicated and varied, including safety concerns, vaccination-related issues, lack of childcare, housing displacement, unemployment insurance, and more. As employers continue to face frustration, leaders will set themselves apart by continuing to rally through the long recovery ahead.

Needless to say, we are living in unusual times. But the reality is, hiring is often a challenge in any economy. Knowing what it takes to find and recruit the right team members — even against the odds — is a skill set every small business owner needs.

The HR Answers team designs and manages recruitment programs for a wide range of small business clients.

Here’s our insider advice on how to hire if you’re struggling to find employees.

Picture of woman smiling in front of a tree

Hilary Gaylord, SHRM-CP
Sr. Hr Consultant, HR Answers

If an employer is having a difficult time finding candidates, I would advise them to take a step back and evaluate their current strategy to ensure they are appropriately advertising their position; that they are targeting candidates in the places that individuals with the skills, competencies, and education will look or be notified about positions that they are qualified for and appeal to them.

When sourcing candidates for open positions, there are many options for where to advertise the position.

The strategy I use to find candidates varies with each position. For each position, I ask several questions to determine where I should focus my recruitment or advertising efforts.

Some of the questions that I ask are:

  • Where do I anticipate finding my candidate- locally, regionally, nationally?
    • Are there local or national associations that represent the job I need to fill?
    • Many times, these associations have job boards where positions can be posted or announced with no or low cost.
  • Does the position require a degree or specific certification?
    • Is there a university, college, or trade school in the area that prepares students for the position?
      • Many schools now have online job boards where employers can post positions for students and alumni.
      • Many schools also host in-person and/or virtual career fairs for students and alumni.
  • Have I leveraged all internal resources (employees) to promote the position?
    • Is there an employee referral program in place? Make sure all employees are aware of the job opening and application process.
    • Encourage employees to leverage professional social media to promote the position to their networks.

Marina Arciniaga
HR & Recruiting Assistant, HR Answers

If you are struggling to find team members, first of all, I want to assure you that you are not alone. With so many unknowns and variables affecting job seekers, you can control only your part.

Is it clear exactly which position you are hiring for? Do you have a current, updated job description that is both accurate and easy to read? If not, start with this. We can help! You won’t find who you’re looking for if you don’t spell out what you’re looking for.

Keep perspective. Could it be you are having a ‘hard time hiring’ because you are ‘taking the time’ to do it right? Unless you’re at a job fair, look at hiring as a process rather than an event. If at a job fair, make it fun and easy to apply! If not, be encouraged that the right person is out there and they just haven’t connected yet with you.

You are doing the right thing by not hiring unqualified candidates. While the time-to-hire may be longer than expected, remember that you are doing your part to limit turnover and costly errors, allowing managers and top performers to focus on productivity and development rather than re-training and discipline.

Speaking of your managers’ time… help them out. Are everyone in your organization (CEO through interns) and everyone they know aware of which positions your organization is hiring for? You may be able to keep a valuable employee looking for a change; an employee who was laid off last year may re-apply.

While I can’t explain exactly how digital algorithms work, I assure you (I have witnessed) that if you share a link along with an accurate job description with everyone in your personal and professional networks, you WILL have more, qualified, candidates in your hiring pool.

Make sure ‘all roads lead to Rome’ — create a single posting on a hiring platform; make sure it is ‘shareable’ and that your organization’s hiring team collects all inquiries in one place! Share a brief message containing the link across multiple social media platforms. Ask employees and clients to like your post containing the link to begin ‘getting the word out.’

Finally, remember that you are always building and protecting your organization’s reputation. Whatever services or products you specialize in, the way potential, current, and separated team members are treated affects the bottom line.

You can get creative with hiring and longevity bonuses; offer childcare FSA or flexible scheduling to assure the right candidates consider you are the employer they want to work for, but do not hire candidates who aren’t a good fit for the position.

When employees resign with hard feelings or feel like they were set up to fail, they rarely do so alone and/or quietly. Your organization can’t afford this. So, yes, be willing to hire and train when a motivated, ‘teachable’ candidate seems right for your organization; but hiring quickly vs. hiring wisely just isn’t worth it!


Do you need support designing or managing a successful recruitment program in your small business? Contact us for a free consultation today.