Small Business Hiring Manual
Most of us don't represent ourselves in court or build our own homes–we let the professionals handle it. For many companies, hiring employees is no different. That's why recruitment is a $150 billion-dollar industry. Fortunately, you don't have to be a professional recruiter to hire like one.
The SBHM is intended to serve as a condensed tutorial for the process of talent acquisition. It's a step-by-step guide created to help owners and managers find, screen and hire employees. The SBHM combines real-world data and analysis with time-tested methodologies used by top recruiters to find the best candidates.
The topics of hiring and recruitment are both extensive and subjective. As such, the contents, thoughts, and ideas listed herein, unless otherwise noted, are solely that of the author.
The SBHM is separated into four phases:
Phase 1: Job Postings
Phase 2: Screening Applicants
Phase 3: Scheduling Interviews
Phase 4: Conducting Interviews
When it comes to filling an open position within an organization, there are two types of candidates: passive and active. Passive candidates are those who are employed and not actively looking for work. Active candidates can be employed or unemployed, but they are actively seeking work. Phase 1 will center around active candidates, who make up roughly 25% of the total labor market.
Phase 1: Job Postings
Part A: Job Outline
The first step in any hiring process is to clearly define the role and the job specifications associated with it. This will vary based on the nature of the position and the company, but there are a few general guidelines to be aware of.
Consider the following to help determine your exact hiring needs:
What are the essential functions of this role? What will this person be doing on a daily basis?
What skills, knowledge, or experience would this person need to possess in order to be successful? If the role is administrative, for example, you would most likely want someone detail-oriented, with strong social skills and two years of relevant experience.
What are the job-specific criteria and benefits of the role, including pay scale, work schedule, insurance, and paid time off?
It's a good idea to keep documents of these criteria. The job specifications we established in the outline phase will serve as the content of the job post, which is the next step in the hiring process.
Part B: Job Platform
Once an outline of the role has been established, the next step is to post the position online for maximum visibility.
There are numerous job boards and websites available to today’s hiring managers. Some, like Craigslist and Monster.com, are available for all industries, while others like Hcareers and Ladders are extremely niche. In our opinion, the best place to begin is with the largest job post website: Indeed. Because of both the applicant pool and the price, we recommend Indeed. Posting on other sites can be expensive, and they won't offer the same volume of applicants.
Indeed is appropriate for all job postings, regardless of position or industry. The company features a paid or "sponsored" service, which guarantees maximum exposure. However, the free option is typically sufficient. If this is your first time posting a job on Indeed, you’ll need to create an employer account here.
Indeed has a relatively strict set of guidelines regarding the specific verbiage and content employers are allowed to include in their job posts. As a reference, Indeed's "Best Practices" can be found here.
Indeed’s software will walk you through each step of the job post in a user-friendly manner. We prefer using a desktop or laptop to do this, but the mobile version (shown on the left) is equally effective. You'll be prompted to enter all of the job specifications established in Phase 1, including compensation, benefits, and schedule.
A job description is also required on Indeed. This is the actual posting that job seekers will see when they search for open positions. Before we go over how to create an effective description, let's look at what not to do.
Part C: Real World Examples
Indeed for employers - mobile version
This is an actual ad, created by one of the largest companies in the world. For the sake of anonymity, the company’s information and specific job details have been redacted. All additional content, including formatting and errors, have been left as is.
The errors in this job posting are not due to a lack of writing ability, but rather to a lack of effort. Quality candidates will notice these type of errors. They will associate this type of carelessness with the company culture, which will potentially keep them from applying.
In hiring and recruitment, details matter. The "small stuff" is often the difference between a good hire and a bad one.
Now, let's take a look at what an effective job post should look like.
Here is another ad, listed in the same city, for the same position as the previous example. Minus the notes, this post has been left completely as is.
The position, benefits, ideal candidate, and work culture have all been outlined effectively by the company in Example 2. The job posting gives applicants a clear understanding of what is expected of them, as well as what to expect from the company.
Part D: Word Count Analysis
For further analysis, the chart below is a word count breakdown of our ad examples from Part C. It illustrates the amount of content each company dedicated to the categories listed on the left.
Total word counts for each job posting are about the same, so let's take a look at how each company chose to use them:
Notice the total words used to describe each company. Company 1 spent over half of their posting highlighting the business, but only 13% explaining the actual job.
Company 2 used a a mere 20 words to describe themselves, but dedicated half of their posting to outlining their ideal candidate.
Company 2 used twice the word count percentage to describe their job duties.
Company 1 listed no benefits, while Company 2 included them.
After looking at the data, which company would you rather work for?
Part E: Do's & Don'ts
Every job is different, so the content in every job posting will be different. We can, however, establish certain guidelines that apply across the board, regardless of position. Here are some general do's and don'ts of posting jobs online:
Indeed requires certain job-specific information in the advertisement, but leaves the description wording to the discretion of the employer.
Q: Should I include compensation in my job posting?
A: For questions like these, it helps to look at the data. According to Stack Overflow, job postings that include a salary range get 75% more clicks than those that don't.
You can look at compensation like a grade point average on a resume. If the number is average or higher, then list it. If it's below average, then don't.
For more information and examples on writing an effective job posting, visit Indeed's how-to page here. They go over how to make your content stand out as well as how to properly format a job description.
Phase 2: Screening Applicants
Part A: The Laws
Before we begin the best practices of screening candidates, I'm obligated by profession to outline the federal laws governed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), that make...
Hiring professionals must remain unbiased at all times and never disqualify an applicant based on any of the criteria listed above.
"...it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered.
The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits." (via https://www.eeoc.gov/)
Part B: Qualifying Candidates (Longlisting)
Once a job advertisement has been placed, the next step in the hiring process is qualifying candidates. This involves reviewing every resume received and deciding if it matches the criteria of the job.
It only takes one glance for a professional recruiter to weed out what they don't want. The initial focus is on three primary points: name/address, employment history, and education/training. We call this the 3-Point Method. Using these three elements as a guide, recruiters can effectively screen the hundreds of applicants they receive each week. Large organizations use resume parsing software to automate this process.
The applicant pools will be much smaller in our case, so take as much time as you need looking through resumes. Screening candidates is like any other task--the more you do it, the better you’ll become at it.
Use the initial job outline as a reference point. The criteria established as a requirement will help eliminate unqualified applicants.
For example, if one of your job requirements is a Bachelor’s degree, then eliminating applicants without a degree is easy when you use the 3-Point Method. Likewise, if the candidate's resume has an out of state address and you're looking for someone local, you can eliminate their resume from the pool of applicants.
Reasons to exclude a resume:
Job Hopping. Job hoppers are candidates who bounce from one job to another. If a resume contains multiple positions with less than a year of tenure, that's a reg flag. One year is the general rule of thumb. Anything less than that is a bad sign. If a candidate left their last role after four months, there's a good chance they'll do it again.
Employment Gaps. Employee turnover is bad for business. Notice the amount of time between each job on the applicant's resume. Long periods of unemployment are a bad sign.
Typos. Multiple typos and formatting errors are another red flag. One error on a resume or cover letter is a simple mistake. Multiple errors are a sign of carelessness.
Puzzles. These are resumes that are hard to read, inconsistent, or vague. The Internet is littered with resume builders and templates. If an applicant can't take the time to format a proper CV, then they're probably not someone you want to hire.
Indeed's platform makes viewing and parsing resumes easy. Below is the actual UI (user interface) you'll see once a candidate applies.
Once reviewed, you can set the status of a candidate to one of five different classifications. The three most often used are:
Rejected. If the applicant does not meet your job requirements, use the "X" in the top right to mark the candidate "rejected." Their resume will no longer appear under the "Active Candidates" tab.
Reviewed. If the candidate meets your requirements, use the check mark to set them as "reviewed." Their resume will remain visible for future assessment.
Maybe. Use the question mark to sort resumes that you are undecided on. Those resumes will also remain visible.
Part C: Shortlisting
Recruiters use a listing system to filter applicants. Longlisting is what we did in Part B. This consists of rejecting all of the resumes that do not match your basic job requirements.
Let's say you receive 100 applicants from your initial job post. After parsing resumes and removing unqualified candidates, you may have 30 names left. Instead of doing 30 interviews--which would be an inefficient use of time--create a short list of people you want to talk to. This is known as shortlisting.
Shortlisting is the practice of determining which set of candidates to interview based on criteria such as cultural fit and experience. You can think of this as the final cut.
Shortlist criteria should include:
Accomplishments. Five years of relevant experience is great, but what performance metrics does the candidate have? Accomplishments like "reduced costs by 20%," "increased top line revenue by 30%," "achieved top salesperson award," or "honored at regional marketing conference" can set a indicate a quality candidate.
Training/Certifications. Some candidates will exceed your minimum job requirements. Look for additional training, skills, or certifications that might raise the bar of the position and thus the team.
Online Persona. What can you find out about the candidate from social media and online searches? This should play a party in who makes the cut. More on this in Part E.
Part D: Falsifying Resumes
A CareerBuilder study found that 75% of HR Managers have caught a lie on a resume. Candidates will often misstate or exaggerate their background and qualifications to make themselves seem more appealing. This happens most commonly with employment history and education.
Experienced recruiters know that candidates lie on resumes. In fact, they expect it. For this reason, they always have an eye out for red flags and inconsistencies. As the saying goes, "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is."
Here are some of the most common resume lies:
Obscure Employment Dates. Pay close attention to the applicant's work history. If they list start and end years (like 2016 to 2018) instead of months (like 03/16 to 07/18), it could indicate an employment gap.
College Degree Ambiguity. Candidates will often try to cover up an incomplete college education with verbiage. Anything other than a B.S. or B.A. listed under the college typically means they didn't finish the program.
Job Description Fluff. This is easiest to fabricate, and thus the most common of all resume lies. Fancy words will often be used to oversell actual job duties. In hiring, the job title and tenure are always more important than the functions.
Part E: Online Screening
As we finalize our shortlist, remember that resumes tell part of the story, but it's never the entire story. You might be surprised at just how much you can learn about a candidate from a simple online search.
That number is even higher for recruiters: 90%. The Internet can be a recruiter's best friend when it comes to screening candidates.
Start with a simple Google search. Candidates with distinctive names are typically easier to locate. More common names require more information. Use the candidate's resume info for better results.
For example, a Google search for "John Smith" will yield:
But a search for "John Smith Chicago Illinois Home Depot" will narrow your results significantly. By 33, 942% to be exact.
This type of search methodology actually has a name: Boolean Logic. It's a form of algebra centered around the words NOT, AND, & OR. It's highly effective at removing unwanted search results.
Using Boolean Logic with our previous example will guarantee only those results. Narrowing our search by another 118% in this case.
Likewise, using NOT and OR in the same manner, will yield only those specific results.
Social Media gives us a glimpse of an applicant beyond the resume. The chart below outlines the four main platforms recruiters use and how they function in regard to screening candidates:
An initial Google search will often display associated social media profiles in the results.
Twitter and Instagram both use @ handles as usernames, which can dilute results when searching directly from the platform. E.g. John Smith can be @nickname John Smith
LinkedIn and Facebook are the go-to's for most candidate screenings. Usernames are typically the person's real name, making searches more efficient. Adding the current city to your search query usually helps narrow down results. Boolean search logic also works on both of these platforms.
The objective here is to take all of the information that is available and use it to form an assessment. Below are a few questions to ask yourself while conducting online screenings.
Does the individual's online persona align with your current (or future) workplace culture?
2. Does the manner in which they conduct themselves online parallel your company's values?
Phase 3: Scheduling Interviews
Part A: Demographic Analysis
Once your candidate shortlist has been finalized, you can begin the process of scheduling interviews. There are three basic ways to contact candidates: email, phone call or text.
Email has its place in the recruitment process, but it’s not always effective for an initial contact. Not everyone checks their email regularly and there is always the risk of your email ending up in a Spam folder.
Phone calls and text messages are typically the most effective ways to initially contact an applicant. Choosing between the two, however, requires knowing your audience. Having an idea of the candidate's age range will allow you to choose the most effective method of correspondence.
Current labor market age ranges are broken down as follows:
Generation Z: Born 1997 - 2010
Millennials: Born 1981 - 1996
Generation X: Born 1965 - 1980
Baby Boomers: Born 1946 - 1964
Let's circle back to the legal section before proceeding further. As outlined in Part A, it is illegal to discriminate against a candidate based on any EEOC criteria, which includes age. It is also illegal to ask about age during an interview.
That doesn't mean that you can't make basic observations about a candidate. You just can't disqualify anyone because of those observations.
Gen X & Boomers
If employment dates on an applicant's resume go back to the early 90's, it's safe to assume that he or she is at least 45 years old. The minimum age to work is 16, 16 + 30 (years ago) = minimum current age. The same concept applies to education, although not every applicant will include graduation dates. If the candidate graduated high school in 1987, we know that they're roughly 51 years old (as of this writing).
Work tenure and education are great indicators of an applicant's age. This is important when deciding how to contact candidates. A good rule of thumb is to call Gen X and Baby Boomers to schedule an interview. Here is a basic phone introductory dialogue:
A few notes regarding phone calls and dialogue:
If the applicant's last name is difficult to pronounce, use their first name. If both seem difficult to say, lead with"Please let me know if I'm pronouncing this incorrectly" before attempting their last name.
Always have the candidate's resume open and visible while making a call. A pen and paper are recommended as well.
Always use "Ms."(pronounced "Miz") when addressing a woman on the phone. "Mrs." implies marriage, which you should not assume.
The best times to call an applicant, regardless of age, are Monday to Thursday, between 9:30 - 11:00 AM and 1:00 - 3:30 PM. These times avoid work and personal related interference such as lunch, leaving early for the day, or arriving late. Avoid Fridays altogether if possible.
Gen Z & Millennials
Millennials make up half of the entire U. S. labor force. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that number will grow to 75% by the year 2030. This is whyknowing your market matters. The likelihood of reaching your candidate on initial contact jumps significantly when you play by their rules.
Millennials, those born between 1981 - 1996, actively ignore calls from numbers they don't know. Many don't have voicemails set up on their phones, and if they do, there's a chance they're full. It's always a good idea to text Gen Z's and Millennials to schedule interviews.
Text messaging is a highly effective means of communicating with candidates. It's also becoming the new norm. According to CareerBuilder, 41% of companies now utilize this approach.
Here is an introductory text example:
Try to schedule all in-house interviews Monday to Thursday, between 9:00 - 11:00 AM and 12:30 - 2:30 PM. These time windows work best as they do not typically conflict with lunch or childcare duties such as dropping off or picking up children from school. Additional scheduling suggestions include:
Avoid scheduling interviews on Fridays whenever possible
Avoid scheduling interviews more than a week in advance
Clearly outline where and when the interview is to take place
Let the candidate know who to ask for or what to say upon arrival
Part B: Ghost Data
One reality that today's hiring managers must face, is that a number of applicants simply won't show up for their scheduled interviews. Although the data is difficult to track, general estimates are that between 20-50% of interviews will result in no-shows. This happens so regularly, in fact, that there's even a term for it: ghosting.
When we look at the data that is available, we can see correlations between unemployment rates, salary, and candidate no-shows.
The chart above illustrates a relationship between candidates who ghost interviews and the annual salary of the position they're interviewing for. From this, we can assume that:
Higher Salary Positions = Lower No-Show Rates
Lower Salary Positions = Higher No-Show Rates
The chart below illustrates the correlation between unemployment rates (UR) and candidate no-shows (NS).
Here we see declining unemployment rates over the past six years shown relative to the increasing percentage of no-shows during that same time frame. From these data points, we can assume that:
Higher Unemployment Rates = Lower No-Show Rates
Lower Unemployment Rates = Higher No-Show Rates
This information is critical when deciding how many shortlist interviews to schedule. Another caveat to consider is how interview times affect the likelihood of being ghosted. ERE Recruiting conducted a year-long study that analyzed the interview results of 55,000 hourly employees. What they found was that interview times have a profound impact on candidate no-shows:
PM is the worst time to schedule an interview, with 3 PM receiving the highest number of no-shows at 52%
Interviewees are 27% more likely to show up if the interview is held in the AM.
Too early isn't good either: 50% of 8:00 AM interviews are ghosted
9:00 - 10:00 AM is the best time to schedule an interview according the study
Phase 4: Conducting Interviews
Note: For our purposes, it is assumed that all interviews are to be conducted onsite using one hiring manager. Likewise, for the sake of efficiency, it is assumed that only one interview is needed to make a hiring decision. However, many of the tactics and ideas outlined in Phase 4 can be applied to phone, video, group, and multi-stage interviews.
Part A: Pre-Interview
Once the candidate has agreed on a date and time, you can move forward with conducting a face to face interview. Whenever possible, use the 10 -15 minute window prior to the candidate's arrival to prepare.
We recommend taking these factors into consideration to best set yourself up for the interview:
Get Organized. If an application and/or background check form need to be filled out by the candidate, have those printed and ready to go. Take a moment to look over their resume and recap the three focus points: personal info, work history, education/training. Have a copy of the resume with you in the interview.
Notice the time of arrival - It's important to note the precise time that the candidate arrives. This will always go one of four ways: he or she will either be early, precisely on time, late or won't show at all.
When the candidate arrives great them with a warm welcome. Remember to make eye contact, smile, and give a firm handshake. Slightly less firm is appropriate for females. The following is an example of a standard introductory dialogue:
When deciding on an interview location, choose a desk, table, or office that's away from the noise of the workplace to minimize distractions. A well lit room with a window is recommended.
Part B: Face to Face
During an interview, the candidate will typically mirror the demeanor of a hiring manger. If an interviewer is rigid and straightforward, the interviewee is likely to be as well. Conversely, if a hiring manager is relaxed and open, they will likely receive the same in return. Applicants will also associate the disposition of a hiring manager with the work culture of that company.
The initial introduction (listed above) is designed to capitalize on this dynamic. You set the tone with a friendly, professional greeting, which establishes a congenial atmosphere. The gol is to make the interviewee feel comfortable, but at the same time show that this is a successful business run by professionals.
Keep in mind that an interview is only going to give you part of the story. The good story. Experienced applicants will tell you what you want to hear. That's why the best interviews aren't interviews at all. They're professional conversations. To further illustrate this, download our candidate dialogue guide below.
H2H Candidate Dialogue Guide
It's important to remain engaged and focused all times during face to face interactions. It's beneficial to:
Maintain eye contact with the candidate
Turn your phone to silent mode
Try to avoid employee interruptions
You want the candidate to feel like a priority–because they are. It's important to remember that candidates are evaluating you as you're evaluating them.
Part C: Candidate Evaluations
The overall assessment of an applicant begins with their resume and ends when the interview process is
complete. Your job as hiring manager is to evaluate and analyze each step along the way. From cover letter to reference check, every detail matters.
Use the Candidate Evaluation Checklist below as a guide:
This checklist is broken into six sections: resume, online screening, initial contact, appearance, interview and reference/background check. Use the drop-down box to mark each reference point of the candidate's evaluation accordingly:
Leave the box blank if the criteria was not met
Insert a ✔ if the criteria was met
Type an X into the box if the criteria does not apply
When complete, tally the number of empty boxes. Results are as follow:
0 - Top Candidate
1 - Good Candidate
2 - Average Candidate
3 < Poor Candidate
Each empty box should be considered a red flag. Red flags are warning signs that recruiters use to predict future behavior. How a candidate conducts themselves during the interview process–a time when they should
be on their best behavior–is likely how they will conduct themselves as an employee.
For example, if a candidate interrupts you during an interview, there's a good chance they'll interrupt customers and coworkers too. This logic applies to their personal appearance, communication skills, and overall attitude as well. A candidate's bad behavior during the interview process is the same bad behavior you can expect from them as an employee.
Top-tier candidates will almost always score a 0. Ideally, for all managerial and leadership positions, you want a score of 0 to 1. A 2 or 3 is acceptable for most hourly positions and line level employees. A score of 4 or higher is not recommended for employment.
Part D: Post-Interview
Reference and background checks are the final stage of the interview process.
Obtaining personal references can be handled several ways. One approach is to require them as part of the initial application process. Another approach is to email the candidate after the interview and request the names and numbers of three professional references. These individuals should not be friends or family.
To avoid any potential delays or scripted answers, call each reference directly instead of emailing them. Explain who you are and the nature of the call. Try to keep the dialogue short and to the point. Questions to consider asking include:
How long have you known [candidate's name]?
What was the nature of your relationship with [candidate's name]?
How long were they employed at [company name]?
On a 0 to 10 scale, how productive would you say they were as an employee?
How did they interact with managers and coworkers?
Would you rehire them?
Keep in mind that candidates generally choose references who they feel will give them a positive review. As such, any negative feedback should be noted and strongly considered.
Conducting a criminal background check on potential employees is highly recommended. This is last step in the hiring process and one of the most important. Employee safety and guaranteeing quality hires often depend on it.
37% of employers who made a bad hire said it was because
the "employee lied about his or her qualifications"
As always, it's important to know the laws. The U.S. EEOC has specific criteria regarding background checks–which can be found here. The Fair Credit Report Act also stipulates that employers must obtain written authorization from each candidate before performing background checks. More info regarding the FCRA can be found here.
Additional laws and regulations vary by state. To save time and avoid any unnecessary violations, consider outsourcing background checks to a company that specializes in such a service. Recommendations include:
Good (morning/afternoon), may I speak to Mr/Ms (last name), please?
This is (your first & last name) at (your company). I was wondering if you had a few minutes to chat.
Hi (first name)! This is (your first & last name) at (your company).
I received your resume in response to the (position) ad I placed on (ad platform). Are you available for an interview this week?
You: "Mr./Ms. Smith?"
"Your Name, nice to me you. Thank you for coming in!"
"Follow me, if you don't mind."
"How's your morning/day been so far?"
(arrive at interview table/seat/office)
"Have a seat right here if you will."
"Can I grab you anything to drink before
we get started?"
The objective here is to be professional and polite, while not coming across as rigid or closed off.
Personal Info, Experience, Education
Google, for instance, receives over 3M+ resumes every year. About 8,200 per day, 340 per hour, or 6 every minute. Using the 6 second tactic, it would take a recruiter 2.4 years of regular work weeks to parse that many resumes.
"Acquiring the right talent is the most important
key to growth. Hiring was - and still is - the
most important thing we do."
/ Marc Bennioff
Our goal is the make the candidate feel comfortable and welcomed.