Personnel Best

It's a business investment as crucial as finding the right product and taking it successfully to market. Attracting top employees is key to securing your company's thriving future. Here are some tips for finding – and keeping – the best people.

Detail those Duties: To find talented employees, you must first determine what you want them to do. Carefully consider all direct and associated responsibilities and incorporate them into a written job description. Be careful with general titles such as typist or sales clerk, as they have different meanings to different people.

Outline Expectations: Fulfilling job responsibilities will require some level of skill and experience, even if it is an entry-level position. Be reasonable about your expectations. Setting the bar too high may limit your available talent pool; setting it too low risks a flood of applications from those unqualified for the job.

Sweeten the Deal: While you certainly don't want to overpay, you also don't want to drive the elite workers away by offering too little. State and local chambers of commerce, employment bureaus and professional associations can help you determine appropriate wages and benefits. Scanning descriptions of comparable jobs in the classified ads and other employment publications will also provide clues about prevailing wage rates.

Get the Word Out: How you advertise your job opening depends on who you want to attract. Some positions are as easy to promote as posting a “help wanted” sign in your store window or placing an ad in your local newspaper. For jobs requiring more specialized skills, consider targeted channels such as trade magazines, online job banks and employment agencies (though those may require a fee). Don't overlook sources such as friends, neighbors, suppliers, customers and present employees.

Meet the candidates: Because you have clearly defined the role and requirements, you should have little difficulty identifying candidates for interviews. Make sure you schedule them when you have ample time to review the resume, prepare your questions and give the candidate your undivided attention. After the interview, jot down any impressions or key points while they are still fresh in your mind. This will be a valuable reference when it's time to make a decision.

Follow-up on interviews: You want to believe your candidates are being honest, but never assume. Contact references to make sure you are getting the facts or to clear up any uncertainties. Professional background checks are a wise investment for highly sensitive positions, or those that involve handling substantial amounts of money and valuables.

Keep ‘em happy: You've gone to a lot of trouble to hired ideal employees, make sure they stay with you by providing training and professional development opportunities. Invest some time in establishing fair human resource policies and incentive plans that will ensure your company remains the small business employer of choice.