Small Business Hiring Troubles? Turn to a Recruiter

By Robert Half on April 3, 2017 at 11:26am

Canadian small businesses are feeling bullish about the future. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) reports that optimism is trending upward in 2017 with business owners expecting their company's performance to be stronger in the coming year.

But if your company is to adopt and capitalize on that optimism, you’ll need the right employees in the right roles. And that's not easy in a today's tight job market.

A new survey from Robert Half suggests many small businesses are facing serious hurdles when it comes to recruiting and hiring. Here are some of the findings of our survey of more than 400 Canadian small and midsize business owners:

  • More than half of respondents (54 per cent) said they have underestimated the complexity of the hiring process.
  • Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) admitted to problems with their hiring process.
  • The vast majority (86 percent) confessed to having made a bad hire.

A recruiting Catch-22

One reason for the hiring difficulties cited by respondents could be that many small businesses lack in-house recruiting resources. That often leaves hiring duties in the hands of the business owner or top-level managers whose time and resources are already stretched thin. Because of competing demands, hiring often drops to the bottom of their priority list.

This could well leave your company in a Catch-22: You're short-staffed because you're so busy. But you're so busy because you're short-staffed.

The real costs of a bad hire

When you don’t have time to properly vet candidates, you increase the odds of hiring the wrong person. And that risk is coming home to roost for small business owners. Four out of five survey respondents said their business has been saddled with a bad hire.


And bad hires cause more than a bureaucratic headache for small and midsized businesses. Canadian business owners estimated that their team wasted an average of 52 hours of precious time hiring and onboarding people who ultimately did not work out.

That's bad enough, but the effects spread much further. For example:

  • More than half (56 per cent) of respondents reported increased stress on the team that worked with the bad hire.
  • Thirty per cent noted increased stress on the hiring manager.
  • Nearly one in five (19 per cent) business owners said bad hires have caused them to lose confidence in their managers’ ability to make good hiring decisions.

“Successful businesses rely on employees who are invested in the company’s vision and goals, so it all starts with hiring the right people,” said Greg Scileppi, president of Robert Half, International Staffing Operations. “Smaller organizations, in particular, may face hiring challenges as they might not have a human resources team dedicated to recruitment, nor do they have time to focus on hiring due to competing priorities.”

Got 27 weeks to spare?

When you've hired the wrong person for the job, you usually find out right away; most survey respondents said they knew within a month.

But that's just the first part of a six-month odyssey, the study found.

To begin with, while it took small business less than a month, on average, to realize they had a bad hire on their hands, it took an average of 16 weeks — almost four months!  — to terminate an employee. And that only got them back to square one. They still had to search for, and hire, a new employee, which took them another seven weeks, on average.

That means more than 6 months (27 weeks) of increased stress for the team, decreased productivity and — depending on the role — damaged customer relationships.

Hidden small business hiring hurdles

Still, managers are often unaware of all that’s involved in starting over — and not making the same mistake again. They simply repeat the process of recycling an old job description, posting it online, and then waiting for the “right” person to appear from the ether.

And even when that person seems to appear, your work is not yet done. You need to check references. And even if the person has the perfect resume, you have to consider the soft skills — organization, communication, leadership — that make for a great employee and colleague. After all, failed hires often result from personality conflicts or a poor fit with the culture. And in a tight job market, the chances of hitting the nail on the head with that approach are even lower.

Once you consider the hiring process as a whole, you begin to see why nearly half of the small business owners surveyed said they underestimated its complexity before diving in.

The power of a recruiter

If posting a recycled job description doesn't do the trick, what’s the answer for a small business? Many survey respondents reported success from reaching out to a recruiter or staffing agency. It helped them get the right person for the job, get them up and running more quickly, and left them free to concentrate on the pressing demands of running the business.

How exactly did that approach work? By partnering with a staffing firm, business owners said they were able to:

  • Reach more candidates. Among respondents who have used recruiters, 71 per cent said the recruiter was able to find a candidate they wouldn’t have found on their own.
  • Save time and resources. For 48 per cent of business owners, evaluating candidates based on their skills and potential fit was the most challenging step in the hiring process, and  per cent admit it takes them too long to fill open roles. Thirty-nine per cent said working with a recruiter saved them time because the staffing agency did most of the work with twenty-six per cent said they saved money by finding someone more quickly than they could have on their own.
  • Get a guarantee. Almost one third 27 per cent) of businesses working with recruiters said they do so for the service guarantee. Be sure to ask recruiters about their placement success rates — and the guarantees they offer if a new hire doesn’t stick.
  • Maintain productivity. The survey suggests that some business owners may be missing an opportunity to lift the burden from existing staff and keep projects moving while they are trying to replace a failed hire: Only 13 per cent of Canadian respondents said they bring in temporary professionals to help with excess workload while roles are vacant. That can also give you a chance to evaluate a temporary employee for a potential full-time role.

Need hiring help? Contact Robert Half. We’ve been finding skilled professionals for businesses like yours since 1948.

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