Your small business can lose big from a hiring mistake. Wasted time and costs, the inability to move critical projects forward, and a negative impact on employee morale are just some of the potential impacts.

If you make a misstep in recruiting talent for your small company, you can take comfort in knowing that you are far from alone. In fact, research from Robert Half found that one in three small businesses have recently made a hiring mistake. (Note: Be sure to watch the short video at the end of this post for more findings from our surveys of hiring managers at small companies.)

How can you improve your chances of recruiting a candidate who is likely to succeed as an employee of your small business, be engaged on the job, and thrive in your unique corporate culture? By preparing thoroughly for the interview process.

That sounds straightforward enough. However, many hiring managers decide to wing it, and ultimately, end up with a costly bad hire. Here are three tips that can help set you on the path to small business recruiting success:

1. Look at experience and career goals holistically

Be sure to review resumes and cover letters thoroughly before setting up interviews with candidates. Have they worked at a small business before? What has been their career trajectory so far? Do they specifically mention why they are interested in working for a small business, and what they hope to gain from the experience Considering questions like these can help you gauge whether a candidate might be a good match for the job and your organization.

For example, if the person has worked successfully in a small business setting before, it stands to reason that they would be likely to do so again, especially if they are targeting a job at your firm. And studying the career path of a candidate can help you assess whether your small business would be able to offer them the kind of advancement that they seem to be working toward professionally.

Get tips in this post for mastering the art of reviewing resumes.

2. Create a solid mix of interview question types

The questions you ask a candidate during the interview process, and the answers you receive in return, are obviously crucial to determining whether you are making a solid hiring decision. So, it is vital to develop a list of questions that will help guide the conversation and allow you to learn as much as you can about the candidate during your meeting.

To prepare, see our post on four types of interview questions that can help you dig deeper. You will get ideas for closed-ended interview questions, open-ended interview questions, hypothetical interview questions, and outside-the-box interview questions. (You will gain insight into what types of questions to avoid.)

While preparing interview questions is certainly helpful and helps you compare the responses from potential hires, don’t be afraid to go off-script. If you tie yourself to your prepared questions, you risk missing out on important information that could arise if the interview flows more naturally. You also risk losing an opportunity to start building a rapport with someone who could become your employee.

Want more suggestions for interview questions? Check out the 15 examples in this post.

3. Use different interview formats

Like most employers, you will probably ask promising candidates to take part in more than one interview and meet with various people in your organization. Using a mix of interview formats throughout that process, like video interviews, in-person interviews and/or panel interviews, can be helpful because:

  • It allows you to observe how candidates navigate different types of meeting environments and adapt their communication skills accordingly.
  • It provides a window into how candidates are likely to interact with future coworkers.

Bonus tip: If you need to staff roles at your small business sooner than later, and you want to avoid making costly hiring mistakes, consider engaging contract professionals. They can assist your team with tight deadlines and heavy workloads, and make sure projects keep moving forward. You might even find that these skilled professionals are so successful working in your small business environment, you will want to hire them for your permanent team.


Want more insight into the hiring landscape for small businesses and strategies to overcome staffing challenges? Check out this video featuring research from Robert Half.