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Five questions on recruiting talent for your business, with expert Roberta Matuson

I spent a lot of time talking with business owners at the Inc. 500 conference in October, and one topic came up continually: how can I recruit more successfully? It was clear to me that many entrepreneurs struggle to get the right people to join their companies.


To provide some solutions, we turned to Roberta Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting. Roberta writes frequently about small businesses’ human resources challenges, including in her blog for Forbes, and for Fast Company and She answered some of our biggest questions.

Where should a small business owner look to find quality job candidates?

First, look from within. Identify your most successful workers’ traits and characteristics. Ask those people “who do you know who’s like you and might be interested in working for us?” You may want to offer a referral bonus.

After that, cast a wider net. Work your network. Make calls and contact other business owners for referrals. Ask at your church, synagogue, the soccer field. Use your LinkedIn network.

If you’re looking for people with very specialized skills, you may need to hire a search firm. I suggest trying through your own network first, however.

Finally, employers often miss their own website. Job aggregators like Simply Hired and Indeed pull from job boards and websites. Make sure your job opening is posted there. It won’t cost you anything.

The bottom line: I suggest less worrying and more action. There’s a good chance you already know of people you’d like to join your company. If you know who you want, reach out to them. Take the time to go out and get them. Be proactive.

What are some ways to keep the time involved in recruiting to a minimum without compromising on quality?

If a business owner is interested in saving time recruiting, I suggest they do a 180 in their mindset. Nothing is more important than getting the right people in your company.

That said, you can make recruiting easier by making your organization “magnetic;” you can create buzz, get good PR, make people know you’re doing great work, and that will help attract the right people.

Make your website appealing to the types of people you want to bring in. If you want to be a “cool company,” your website can’t look like it’s from 1995. You also need to make contact information easy to find. Job seekers in hot industries will move on if it’s not easy for them to contact you.

What advice can you give for conducting a successful interview?

You need to focus on how people say things rather than what they say. Watch their body language and facial expressions. Did they look panicked when you asked what their former boss would say about them? If someone says they are the quickest delivery guy in a lethargic way, be wary.

Also, worry less about your list of questions and engage more in a dialogue. Slow down. Probe the candidate: ask them to give examples, expand on answers. Don’t worry about checking questions off your list.

Finally, if it’s clear the candidate’s not right, end the interview early. That’s fair for both of you.

How can a small business owner convince top talent to join his or her company over larger, more established companies?

It’s actually not about convincing people. If you’re talking to the right people in the first place, it’s because they believe in you.

For that to happen, you need to identify reasons why you’re a better option than a more established company. For example, do your employees work directly with the CEO? Do they have their hands in many different areas? Those things won’t necessarily happen at a bigger company. You need selling points. You won’t necessarily pay what a bigger company will, but people may be drawn to the possibility of being genuinely happy at work every day.

You also need to be willing to do things other CEOs won’t. If you have a great candidate, for example, say “I’d like to take you and your partner out to dinner and you can both ask me any questions you want.” You need to be personal.

How are you seeing Skype used in the recruitment process?

Interviewing on a video call is definitely the next best thing if an in-person interview is not possible. This is particularly the case if companies are recruiting candidates from other cities. I also suggest that you always screen a candidate on a call before meeting in person.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson, who is known globally as The Talent Maximizer, is the President of Matuson Consulting and author of the forthcoming, The Magnetic Workplace (Nicholas Brealey, 2013), Selecting for Success: The Complete Guide to Hiring Top Talent, and Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post Top-5 Leadership pick. Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta’s monthly newsletter, Talent Maximizer.

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