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By Wendy Crandall Weber

Large or small, every company depends on its staff for success.
But, unlike large firms, small companies have little margin for error in any area, most particularly, hiring.

Smaller firms, especially those without a Personnel Department, face significant problems in attracting producers. More than in big firms, each employee plays a critical, if not vital role, in shaping the future of the company.

Going It Alone

Candidates exploring options send resumes to large firms for several reasons: they know that a larger staff means more opportunities and that turnover will be greater. smaller firms, with their lower profiles, often have difficulty capturing the attention of superior candidates.

But it can be done.

In small companies, the recruiting responsibility for executives usually falls on the CEO, who can least afford the necessary time to ferret, winnow out, interview and interest likely candidates.

He or she may not know what salaries competitors are offering for similar positions, or how to interest a candidate with hesitations about working for a small firm.

The result of "do-it-yourself" recruiting can result in a staff which is less ideal. The company may find itself falling behind in goals and performance. But there is a solution.

Systematic Approach

A small company can recruit its own highly qualified personnel using a systematic approach.

Before launching a search, the most important step is the preparation of a job description with a salary evaluation.

The job description will contain specific job information, including the number of people to be supervised, responsibilities, necessary experience and extent of authority. Care should be taken to insure that the language is precise and detailed enough to eliminate ambiguities, possible conflicts, and unqualified candidates.

A salary evaluation, for in-house use only, determines the relationships between the salary being offered for the current job and various other salaried jobs in the company. The relationship is based on skills, required experience and amount of knowledge needed to perform each job.

The person responsible for the drafting of the description should, ideally, enlist the help of the incumbent or the supervisor.

Effective Ideas

There are a number of methods small firms have found effective in recruiting:

1. ASK YOUR STAFF: People who enjoy working for your company can recommend likely candidates. To encourage your staff to submit likely candidates, consider incentives, ideally cash bonuses.

NOTE: Employees seeking the incentive may spend an inordinate amount of time and lose productivity in seeking personnel.

2.TRADE JOURNAL ADS: According to a psychologist at the University of Missouri who studied performance patterns among scientists recruited through various media, those who answered trade magazine ads outperformed those who answered general newspaper ads. Further studies have shown similar findings for other professions. The professor speculates that trade magazine readers do their job-seeking homework more thoroughly and were thus less likely to accept jobs which did not match their skills and needs.

NOTE: Many likely candidates might miss your ad.

3.USE YOUR SUPPLIERS: They know the good producers.

NOTE: They may suggest friends who buy the most from them, not necessarily the best qualified candidates.

Internal posting: Done properly, internal job posting Is an excellent method of in-house recruiting, even in very small operations. The process lifts morale by providing upward mobility for your staff. Jobs should be posted a minimum of one week,preferably two, in a public place. Any restrictions or exceptions,lateral transfers, duration in previous position, etc.) should be absolutely clear.

NOTE: Rejected employees may feel frustrated, a situation that can be avoided by introducing someone from another firm with recognized credentials for the position.

Online posting: Online job posting can yield a huge response, but often results in the time consuming and nonproductive chore of separating the wheat from the chafe.

5.CONVENTION CONTACTS: YouŽd be surprised how many sophisticated candidates are happy where they are working, but could be happier. Create your own talent bank by asking for business cards of those who impress you.

NOTE: Many qualified candidates do not want to be exposed as Possible candidates, particularly with a competitor.

6.CONTACT TRADE GROUPS: Your trade association is a great source of referrals of highly qualified applicants.

NOTE: You have to be careful not to alienate your own business community.

7.ENLIST YOUR ALUMNI: Keep in touch with ex-staff members. They may wish to return at some point themselves, or they may recommend likely candidates.

NOTE: Their contacts may be limited and, as with suppliers, may recommend friends, not necessarily the best qualified individual for the position.

8. CALL A HEADHUNTER: Generally an efficient method of identifying and attracting extraordinary candidates on a local and national level.

NOTE: There is a cost to recruiting this way.

Know Your Company

When you have decided to recruit on your own, there are a number of practical steps to take.

Analyze your company and its organizational structure. What kind of a personality fits into the open slot? A go-getter? A decision maker? An idea person? Or a combination of all? Ask yourself whether the candidate could grow and assume expanded responsibilities if the company were to grow twice as big.

A new employee need not have the same personality and drive as his or her peers, but the difference should be complimentary, not opposite. A workaholic manager under an easy-going vice president may lead to decreased productivity and friction.

Compare Salaries

Second, take a good hard look at your salary structure. The right salary and benefit package is often difficult to determine. Of great help are the salary guides available from your association or industry publications.

Use the following checklist for assistance:

  • Is the salary competitive?
  • Is the salary commensurate with the degree of profit and loss responsibility, the budgetary authority, the degree of supervisory talent that is necessary?
  • Will the "package" attract a top person, or just a "maintenance" executive who is grateful for a job, any job?
  • Will the salary be perceived as a fair offer by the candidate?

Realism Important

Your company must be realistic in terms of its own resources, its reputation, the value it places on the job being filled, and the going rate for qualified candidates in Direct Marketing.

As a rule of thumb, a candidate will be looking for at least a 10 percent increase in his or her salary as an inducement to change jobs. In making an offer, it is always wise to assume you are competing with other firms to recruit the "stars."

Third, recognize that as a small company, you may have to reveal more information to a candidate than you would like, particularly if you are the sole proprietor. In order to get the right candidate, you may have to be open about sales figures, profit margins, productive promotions and other matters you feel more comfortable keeping confidential.

For a small company, using a recruiter is an expense, but when viewed in light of a highly competitive field and measured against the time and effort necessary to recruit on your own, the cost might be more justifiable than you think!

Article courtesey of Family Business Strategies.

About the author: Wendy Crandall Weber can be reached via email or at http://www.crandallassociates.com. She is president of Crandall Associates. Founded in 1973, Crandall Associates, Inc. was the first executive recruitment firm to recognize the emergence of direct marketing as a major marketing channel.

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