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3 tips for hiring the best talent in 2016

Collaboration & Team Management

As the US economy continues to add jobs at a brisk rate, small businesses across the country are hiring large numbers of new workers. That means business owners are running headfirst into challenges hiring the best talent across the country.

From concerns about finding qualified and experienced candidates, to worries about data security, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. So what should small businesses be doing to hire the right kind of workers? These three major trends go a long way to explain both what difficulties there currently are, and how you can address each and thrive.

There’s a shrinking pool of entry-level workers

This is a huge point of frustration on the part of both workers and business owners. Many young job seekers feel that every position they encounter requires years of experience they don’t see a clear way to obtain. Small business owners, on the other hand, often feel this new generation of workers isn’t willing to put in the time to develop skills and simply want to skip to the better positions.

Both parties have a point. But that shrinking pool of entry-level workers is still a very real fact in today’s hiring market. With US colleges and universities churning out graduates in record numbers, why is there such a mismatch? Why is it that “attracting the right candidates in terms of qualifications, skills and experience” is the number one concern of small businesses in their hiring in the first quarter of 2016?

Sadly, a far larger issue exists which small businesses have little control over: namely, that the US education system is not producing graduates with skills matching what the job market is demanding. Combine this with the changing cultural perception of careers, with millennials moving away from the idea of staying with one long-term. What are small businesses to do?

The short answer is to compete. Small businesses need to be prepared to offer competitive incentives and to update their expectations for entry-level employees. The right talent is still out there if you’re willing to fight for it. That brings us to the second major trend small businesses need to be on top of.

Focus on potential

This gets right to the heart of the conflict mentioned above: job seekers feel that experience requirements are unfair, while small businesses feel that applicants are simply under-qualified. One major step towards improving this situation is a shift in mindset on the part of small businesses away from a focus on skills and experience, and towards potential.

The reality here is that teaching skills is far easier than teaching overall mindset and general aptitude. Bearing that in mind, it makes sense to shift towards finding candidates with the kind of mindset you’re looking for. You can teach a 22-year-old how surety bonds work or how to do basic accounting, but if they’re not a good fit for the culture of your firm, then it won’t be worth the effort.

So small businesses can try removing that “minimum 4 years of experience” requirement and see what kind of applicants come in. There’s a good chance you might find some great potential you didn’t expect in that new candidate pool. But even without those limiting requirements, attracting talent remains an overarching concern.

Appeal to a new generation of workers

Let’s face it, millennials are looking for different things in a job than their predecessors. And, as Rob Asghar pointed out in Forbes, you should really start giving them what they want. He points to startling data that shows the extent to which this generation’s focus is on things like making the world a better place (64%), working collaboratively (88%), being able to work flexibly (74%), and having a good work-life balance (88%).

Sure, you could aim for the tiny fraction of young job seekers who aren’t looking for those things, but if you think your small business is going to attract quality talent without making strides to adjust your workplace culture, you’re kidding yourself. The numbers are too overwhelming to ignore. It’s time to start thinking about how to integrate the values of this new generation into your business.

Adapt to these trends to hire the best talent

What should be crystal clear from all of these trends is that today’s small businesses can’t be stuck in their ways and expect stellar candidates to come to them. With economic growth projected to continue in the near future, hiring is only going to become more competitive. By 2020, nearly half of all workers will be millennials. If small businesses don’t adapt for this new reality, they simply won’t survive. Why not start evolving now?

What other trends are you noticing in hiring and how are they affecting your business? Let us know what you’re experiencing today in the comments.


Eric Halsey is a historian by training and disposition who’s been interested in US small businesses since working at the House Committee on Small Business in 2006. Coming from a family with a history of working on industry policy, he has a particular interest in the Surety Bonding industry and loves sharing his knowledge for JW Surety Bonds.

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