At the end of 2017, Thryv friend and partner SCORE conducted a survey focusing on hiring challenges faced by small businesses. Of 1,700 local business owners surveyed, more than 50% said it was somewhat or even very difficult to fill open positions. For companies with fewer than 5 employees, that number jumped to 55%.

Hiring is no longer as easy as posting a job online, receiving applications, and picking the best fit. What used to be taken care of by a gut reaction and a handshake has become much more complex in recent years. And it makes sense. After all, you’re putting your business in the hands of a complete stranger when you choose to hire outside of your immediate social circle.

Top Hiring Challenges for Local Businesses

Why is hiring so hard? Top challenges local businesses face:

  • Finding qualified applicants
  • Offering competitive wages
  • Lack of healthcare and other benefits
  • Too time consuming
  • Drug testing

Finding Good Candidates

A study by Alignable agrees with applicant qualifications (or lack thereof) being a top hiring challenge, as 30% of respondents to their recent hiring poll believe matching open positions to “good” candidates is the biggest hiring challenge they face.

Not only that, many local businesses are very specialized in what you do. That’s how you found your niche. So it’s not surprising the average Joe that applies to work with you may not know the exact ins and outs of your trade. You’re on the hunt for specialists in a world of generalists.

Wages, Healthcare and Other Benefits

Many of the hiring challenges above are symptomatic of the sheer size and scale of your operation. If you only employ 1-10 people, for instance, it’s not likely financially feasible or even wise for you to offer healthcare and other benefits outside of a regular paycheck.

Time is Money

The whole process is also incredibly time consuming. Getting interviewees to show up is one thing. But the work doesn’t stop there. To make an adequate hire, you’ve got to follow up with references, work with candidates’ schedules to ensure they can even show up to work when you need them, and train them on the jobs you need them to perform.

Drug Testing

The National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance says small businesses bear the greatest burden of substance abuser applicants. This is because large corporations have such ease in finding candidates and such stringent compliance restrictions that they’re known for conducting regular, thorough drug tests before hiring. Even if the tests weed out a few candidates, there’ll be more left where they came from.

Without the same requirements or financial incentive, small businesses have a reputation for being a little more lax in their hiring of substance abusers.

Whether you drug test or not, it still made the list as a top hiring issue. So here are some quick reminders.

  • If you receive federal funds exceeding $100,000 or federal grants of any amount, the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Act requires you to test employees for drug use.
  • Only test applicants after you offer conditional employment. And if you test one, test them all.
  • State laws may differ from federal laws, especially pending upcoming legislation regarding the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana use. Review your state’s laws here.

Where You’re Looking

These hiring challenges seem to point to a greater problem altogether – where you’re looking.

Only 15% of local business owners surveyed said they use job posting sites to find potential candidates. The rest attribute successful new hire finds to recommendations, networking groups and other online platforms.

Why? Apparently online hiring tools rank 11 out of 13 as far as “trusted hiring tools” go. Yikes.

There are also things called interview scheduling tools. These are the tools larger operations use to streamline and automate lining up candidates for interviews and even supporting the interviews themselves. Heard of ‘em? Using them? Not likely. They’re so few and far between, local business owners aren’t likely to have easy access to these types of resources.

Hire Easier in the New Year

Even without access to top recruitment tools, hiring challenges don’t have to be a pain in your neck. Here are a few quick tips to make it a little easier this year.

  • Diversify the job boards you use. You wouldn’t normally put all of your eggs in one basket, so why do it with recruiting? Avoid paying a hefty subscription to one site and crossing your fingers you get a golden goose. Instead, try out a few different ones using their free offerings. If you find one is bringing you the best candidates, down-select from there.
  • Recommendations are great, but don’t rely on just those from employees. Reach out to adjacent businesses (not direct competitors) in your industry, and ask if they know anyone looking for a new opportunity.
  • Create a list of tried and true interview questions. Many local business owners wing interviews, which can cause you to overlook key attributes of the individuals you’re interviewing.
  • Lean on free resources from sites like LinkedIn, Monster and Forbes. They each offer detailed advice on hiring via articles, blogs, FAQs and more.