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New Year’s Resolution Series: Tips on How to Hire the Best Employees

January 9, 2013
Small Business
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

When we surveyed small business owners and asked for their New Year’s resolutions, we small business owners described six goals for 2013:

  1. Attract the best employees
  2. Improve the office culture and employee culture
  3. Increase profits and efficiency
  4. Use more technology
  5. Reflect on what works and what your customers want
  6. Give back to the community

In the first of our six-part series, NerdWallet interviews small business owners on what specific steps they will take to accomplish the first goal: finding the best talent possible.

1. Use a filtering process

Andres Riggioni of GIZN, a Costa Rica-based marketing agency, uses a strict 3-step filtering process to determine which candidates are qualified and truly interested.

“The toughest part of our hiring process is whittling down the candidate list to a number small enough and filtered enough to give them all the attention they deserve and make sure they and we are a good fit. I’ve focused a lot on improving our process to get to what we currently use: a filtering system with homework tasks in both directions.

Filter 1: Use the exact subject line explained in the job posting. The system will only respond to the exact wording.  Believe it or not, filter #1 eliminates more than half the respondents. No attention to detail or the requirements.

Filter 2: The candidate gets an e-mail with instructions and a link to the form. The form has a series of questions and small tasks that together take 45-60 minutes to complete and add in the web form. Incomplete webforms are not processed. This is critical because the biggest time waster for us has always been sifting through the initial batch of kinda-wanna-perhaps-only-if-I-get-more-money applicants.  Filter #2 then eliminates more than 50%.

Filter 3: The candidate then gets a confirmation e-mail with a direct e-mail account and personal instructions for the next step.  Filter #3 has only a 10% drop.

So, we’re usually left reviewing less than 20% of the initially interested candidates. The decisions are harder because there’s a good match by then, but we have a live interview with each and every candidate that makes it through the 3 filters.”

2. Offer great incentives to attract talent and show appreciation for employees

Anthony Casa of Garden State Home Loans offers great incentives and perks to employees.

“I think once we recruit the talent and get them to come see what we are all about and what we have to offer, there is no doubt they will want to come on board. We are focused on our employees maintaining excellent health. We provide healthy organic meals from Whole Foods daily for all employees, we built a custom onsite gym available to all employees to be used before, during, and after work hours. We provide daily group P90X work out sessions. On Fridays we have a masseuse come into the office to provide massages for all employees. It’s a part of our culture, we want everyone to be eating healthy, feel healthy and be healthy. We have created a very enjoyable working environment for our employees, very pro creativity, and discussion, and debate. In addition we offer a 4% match on our company 401k, a match on flexible spending accounts, and a match on health insurance. But more than anything I believe the culture, the passion, and the dedication all of our employees have will make new employees, and individuals considering joining our company; want to come work here.”

Chuck Cohn of Varsity Tutors plans to increase incentives to build up his team.

“We are constantly looking to build up our team while still maintaining high standards for incredible talent. There are many tactics we use to keep this up and there are some new initiatives we will be practicing in 2013. For instance, we plan to increase our technology bonus for new employees from $1,500 to $2,000 in order to further attract high levels of talent.”

Lou Mosca of American Management Services, a consulting business, will tie monetary incentives to performance.

“As the hiring market tightens you need to be more surgical. Don’t be afraid to be more precise on what you are looking for in a candidate and stick to it; make sure new hires are fully briefed on your policies and culture in advance; offer generous incentive plan tied to performance.”

3. Recruit from your staff’s network

Aly MacGregor of ReiCura, an international creative agency, will encourage her staff to search their own creative networks for new employees.

“Being in the creative industry, it can be a real challenge to find the type of talent that fit in with our own ethos, have the skills  needed to execute the work, but also have the open-mindedness needed  to be a creative innovator – all traits that our current team have. So I thought, considering that birds of a feather flock together, why not go to the source and utilise our own staff’s networks? Everyone has that really talented friend or acquaintance, so one of the ways we’re expanding our hiring practices is by encouraging and incentivising our staff to retain people from their own creative networks. A lot of talent flies under the corporate or head-hunting radar, so we’re hoping to tap into these personal pools.”

Stephanie Ciccarelli of Voices.com, an online marketplace connecting businesses with voice talent, will ask top performers to recommend others.

“Something we are doing to hire the best employees possible this year is seeking referrals from our top performers. We have found this strategy to be particularly effective given we are in a rapid growth phase. In addition to posting open positions online, we rely upon word of mouth via our local business community, social media and direct referrals from our own staff. If you have top performers who know other people that might be a good fit for the role in question, encourage them to refer their peers to help you ramp up and find the best candidates possible.”

4. Use recruiters and professional services

Erika Pearson of Pandemic Labs, a social marketing agency, will try new avenues to find the best of the best.

“At Pandemic Labs, 2013 is already a big hiring year for us (we’re increasing headcount by 33% by March 1st). To adapt to the increased hiring needs, we’re increasing both our use of recruiters and our testing of new services like HireArt. At the end of the day, I want my teams to be filled with the best of the best, so I’m very open to trying new avenues that will increase quantity or quality of applicants.”

Hiring image from Shutterstock.