According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate as of December 2010 was 9.4%. With such a promising potential labor force, you should have no problem finding help—but how do you sift through all of the potential workers and find a great employee? You have options, and some of them aren’t always the most obvious.
If you’re not sure if work has picked up enough to necessitate a new hire but you definitely need some help in the meantime, temp agencies are the perfect no-strings-attached employee pool.
One of the benefits of hiring from a temp agency is that you’ll save on payroll time. You pay the temp agency, and they pay your workers—and if you do end up with a full-time position to fill, you’ve got people who would likely be more than happy to make the transition from temporary to permanent.
Not only does this save you training costs with bringing a newcomer up to speed, but you’ve already had a chance to see how they operate—no more guessing how a potential employee will work out based solely on their interviewing skills, which will hopefully result in a lower turnover rate for you and higher work satisfaction for both you and your employees.
The temp agency takes a cut, which will vary based on your location, industry, and the agency. This is completely fair—but it’s something that you should be aware of when you make your decisions.
Recent college grads
More and more people have made the decision to ride out unemployment by going back to school to make themselves more marketable, hoping to gain a leg up on their peers. Yes, the work experience factor is something you should consider, but don’t make the mistake of relying on it to the point of automatically eliminating otherwise-qualified candidates.
Colleges frequently give their students valuable real-work experience with out-of-classroom research projects, volunteer opportunities, and self-structured study. What a recent college grad might lack in actual workforce experience, he or she could make up for in enthusiasm and willingness to prove themselves in the work force.
An added benefit: with a lack of employer references, you’ll likely be directed to their college professors from whom you’ll get valuable insight into a candidate’s performance, enthusiasm, and willingness to learn and contribute ideas.
Your intern will appreciate the valuable resume-building experience, and you have the same benefit of “pre-screening” potential employees as the temp agency—and you don’t have to pay them! Talk to your local technical school or college’s Career Services department about how you can provide college credit, which would make your company attractive to the up-and-coming talent. Visit Internship.com or USAIntern.com, or try SummerInternships.com for seasonal help.
Disclaimer: as much as everyone wants someone around to do their every bidding, you have a moral—and potentially legal—obligation to your interns to give them some actual work experience beyond learning how to use a fax machine. Take advantage of the free help by giving them proper job training and the tools to help your company best, thereby giving them valuable real-work experience beyond your company’s name on their resume, and let your hard workers know that they can count on you for a letter of recommendation on their next venture.
Your independent contractors won’t count as regular employees, so you’ll save on things like health insurance and paid time off (cha-chinggg).
But what separates independent contractors from regular employees? According to the IRS:
The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if you, the person for whom the services are performed, have the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result.
In English: you’ll define the scope of the project, but they’ll generally have control over where they work, what hours they work, and so on.
Of course, various projects will take varying lengths of time, but the IRS will be none too happy with you if they find that you’ve got employees masquerading as independent contractors. While the distinction isn’t exactly black and white, if you want to stay on the federal government’s good side, ask yourself three questions:
- Do you provide the supplies?
- Are you managing the worker’s time?
- Are you providing health insurance, vacation benefits, or any other standard “employee”-type offerings?
If the answers fall into a grey area, you’ll be best served by consulting with a legal advisor.
[Recommended Reading: “Independent Contractor or Employee?“]
If you want to interview high-quality, personally recommended candidates, ask your associates to send their referrals your way. Maybe one of your vendors recently interviewed for a position and had a hard time narrowing the applicants down—they might be happy to strengthen your working relationship by passing along any leads. Maybe the web developers you contracted out for your website have alums in mind that they can recommend for your IT department.
Your current employees understand the day-to-day aspects of the work itself, making them the logical place to go to nail down specific desirable characteristics for the job position (is it more important for your new employee to be a strong multi-tasker, or be able to focus intently on one thing for a prolonged period of time?).
Ask people you trust for help. You could save yourself time that would otherwise have been spent advertising and interviewing, and you’ll have the confidence of a personal recommendation.
The U.S. Department of Labor has put together an extremely helpful toolkit to help you with your Veterans hiring initiative—if you’re looking for workers, you might consider killing two birds with one stone: filling your position, and helping transition servicemen and –women out of the service and into the workforce. AmericasHeroesAtWork.gov has more details on this excellent program.
[Edit: Now that you’ve got a well-rounded crew, check out our post, “Building the Right Team for Your Small Business!“]