Are you a small business owner looking to hire but having a tough time finding the right person? If so, according to the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), you are not alone. Almost half of the small business owners surveyed in the Spring 2015 SBOR are having similar issues.


The good news is that there are some smart and easy things you can do to rectify the situation.


First, we should note just how far the economy has come in the past few years. For starters, according to this latest SBOR, almost half of all small business owners surveyed planned on hiring additional employees over the next 12 months. Given that the “Not-So-Great-Recession” is not that far in our rearview mirror, the fact that so many small business owners are looking to increase staffing is both remarkable, and welcome.


Indeed, according to the SBOR, small business owners’ confidence in the economy rose eight percent over last year, with more than half stating that they are confident that both their local economy, as well as the national economy, is going to continue to improve.


So yes, hooray, small business optimism is booming!


The bad news (as it were) is that, as indicated, 41% of those small business owners surveyed stated that they are struggling to find qualified job candidates. There were several reasons for this according to the SBOR results. The owners surveyed indicated that the job candidates either:


  1. Lacked the skill sets they are seeking (59%), or
  2. Had salary expectations that were too high (45%), or
  3. Preferred to work for a large or midsize brand (29%), or
  4. Wanted benefits that aren’t provided (26%)


If you are a small business owner, there really is not much you can do about Reason #3; if someone wants to work for a bigger company, so be it. But the other three reasons? There are definitely some savvy ways to work around those so that you can get the employee you want and need.


1. The employee lacks the skill set you are seeking: Back in law school, I had a friend named Eric. Eric was a smart guy for sure, but he was not our top student by any means. But, what he may have lacked in scholastic intelligence he more than made up for in emotional intelligence. People loved Eric. He was personable, funny, easy to work with, and took direction well.


“What people are looking for when they are looking to hire someone Steve, are two things,” he told me. “First, yes, they want someone who is smart and experienced and has the basic skills necessary to do the job. But I think, more than that, what they want is also someone with whom they will like working eight or ten hours a day.”


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Eric’s offers after law school ended up proving him right. He had four interviews with major firms upon graduation and received three offers. Most of us were happy if we got one.


The point is this, skills can be taught. That is what training is for. Indeed, according to the SBOR, “Small business owners are increasingly opting to train and develop existing personnel. Among individuals who plan to apply for a loan, 38% plan to use the funding for employee training and development.”


That’s smart thinking.


So, look for someone like Eric; a candidate who is smart and personable and who is coachable. You can teach people like Eric the skills they need and then you really end up with a great employee – not only someone who can do the job right (because they were trained to do the job right) but also someone who can grow with your company (because that is part of their skill set.


2. Salary and benefit expectations are seemingly unreasonable: I am lumping numbers 2 and 4 together here because they are two sides of the same coin. In some ways, small businesses can never compete with big businesses. When it comes to pricing for instance, their larger volume and buying power usually means that a big corporation can offer lower prices than a small business.


Give them that. That’s their playing field.


But, by the same token, small business can do things that big business can’t, and that’s the secret. Play on your field. Use your strengths to your advantage when looking to hire.


For instance, the flexibility and personal touch you can offer are unique. Whether it’s flex time or a creative title or job sharing or tickets to the ballgame, a small business can often be very creative when it comes to benefits. And you know that once you find the job candidate that appreciates that, you are on the right track to hiring a person who can make a difference.


About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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