From left: Angela Muhwezi-Hall and Deborah Gladney are the cofounders of the recruiting business QuickHire.
Small-business owners are still competing with their peers and large companies for talent.
Many entrepreneurs still have vital positions to fill and are scrambling to find employees.
Two cofounders share their advice on how entrepreneurs can target the applicants they want.
This article is part of Talent Insider, a series containing expert advice to help small business owners tackle a range of hiring challenges.
In 2019, Angela Muhwezi-Hall was working with inner-city high-school students in Los Angeles and observed that young people from underserved communities had trouble finding work after graduation.
Oftentimes, the young adults didn’t have the financial means or resources to access opportunities like college, so they were overlooked by employers looking to fill certain full-time roles, she said. In response, Muhwezi-Hall and her sister Deborah Gladney launched QuickHire, an online platform that aims to pair job seekers in the service economy with open positions, in 2020. Their goal was to link underrepresented people with solid jobs in the service industry as it recovered from the pandemic.
Today, small-business owners are still competing with their peers and large companies for talent in the wake of the Great Resignation, leaving many founders with vital positions to fill. The QuickHire cofounders said this was especially difficult since bigger employers were offering better pay and more enticing benefits, which many entrepreneurs can’t match because of the associated costs.
“For a lot of small businesses, if they aren’t able to fill these roles, they might have to close down or stop their business for some time,” Muhwezi-Hall said.
QuickHire is in Wichita, Kansas — where some of the nation’s largest employers are headquartered, like the multinational conglomerate Koch Industries and the airplane and jet manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems. That makes competing for prospective hires very challenging, she added.
Based on their work helping 45 businesses recruit for open roles, here is the cofounders’ advice on how entrepreneurs can target the applicants they want for open positions.
Dropping certain requirements will diversify your applicant pool
In recent years, more young adults have been skipping college, according to data released by NPR earlier this year, and experts theorize that they’re joining the workforce straight out of high school or rethinking the value of a higher-education degree. Gladney said that they’re subsequently gaining more work experience but may lack the educational qualifications required in a job description.
She encourages small-business owners to drop the traditional education requirements, like high-school or college degrees, from their job descriptions to open talent pools. She and Muhwezi-Hall believe that will help entrepreneurs find a wider array of talent and a more diverse pool since marginalized groups have more barriers to completing school compared with their white counterparts.
“Look at what you have typically reviewed as requirements and revamp them,” Muhwezi-Hall said. “Sometimes, the people who are the most qualified for the job are those who have hands-on experience, even if they don’t have a degree.”
“Small businesses are the backbone of this country, so if we don’t have a workforce to support them, then it’s going to be extremely detrimental to the economy,” Gladney said. “Small businesses need to thrive and grow, and they can’t without the talent needed.”
Use your size to your advantage
While pay is important, job seekers are also looking for more in a role, Gladney said. This can work to an entrepreneur’s benefit since a small business can offer workers the opportunity to shape the company’s mission, set goals, and be part of a tight-knit community, she added.
Unlike large corporations, small businesses have a unique opportunity to connect one-on-one with candidates in interviews and throughout the recruiting process to answer questions, Gladney said. This helps founders see if the candidate is right for an open role and could help persuade the job seeker to accept an offer.
“To stand out, lean in with your mission and why people would want to work with you,” Gladney said.
Consider remote employees for hands-off roles
Muhwezi-Hall and Gladney have noticed many brick-and-mortar businesses struggling to recruit talent, and they believe it’s because the entrepreneurs aren’t considering remote work as an option. Since more than half of job seekers prefer to be remote, removing that option can significantly reduce your applicant pool, a survey conducted by the consumer-financial-services company Bankrate found in February.
They suggest looking at what roles can be performed remotely and then including that option in the job posting.
“You need to meet people where they’re at,” Gladney said. “The pandemic proved that small businesses can survive even if people can’t come to the store, so founders need to start thinking differently.”