Hiring Tips for Small Businesses

Heidi Parsont , President and CEO of Alexandria-based TorchLight Hire, LLC, one of the Washington region’s fastest-growing marketing and communications search and staffing firms and a Carr Workplaces member, shares hiring tips for small businesses and entrepreneurs:

You had an idea, you invested the time, sweat and resources, and now your business has gone from a dream to a reality – to a hiring need. Or perhaps your company sent you to launch a new product or a new presence here in the Washington, D.C. area and you’re finally seeing the fruits of your labor come to life. No matter your story, congratulations!  We are right there with you in the trenches and celebrating your successes with you.

Of course, as with anything, success usually creates more success. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself logging even more hours, taking on even more priorities and wishing you had some extra help. As one of the Washington area’s leading marketing and communications search and staffing firms, we know what that’s like. No matter where you are on your business journey, there will come a time when you’ll need to consider “hiring up”—and when you do, these tips will help you ensure a successful experience.


  1. Know the “warning signs” that you need help—pronto.
    The great Steve Jobs once said that “half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” As a small business owner, you are certainly no stranger to hard work and long hours. After all, that’s what has made you successful this far. But if you find yourself spending more time working in your business than on your business, it’s time to think seriously about bringing in some help.

           Here’s how you’ll know when it’s time:

  • You experience seven or eight times throughout the year when you can’t handle the work volume.
  • You’re making a lot of mistakes.
  • You’re losing business because you can’t keep up.
  • You find yourself increasingly spending your day on tactics and logistics rather than strategy, planning and business development.
  1. Define the skills and qualities you need before you need them—and don’t forget the importance of “cultural fit.”
    No matter the size, every business has its own unique personality and culture. If you’re in solo practice or running a small D.C. outpost of a larger company located elsewhere, perhaps your workplace reflects your passion for entrepreneurialism, independence and individuality. Likewise, if you’re part of a small group of colleagues, your work environment is likely one that is hands-on, collaborative and team-based. When it comes to adding a staff member to your team, it’s vital to find candidates who not only will do well in your particular environment but will thrive in it.
  2. To save time and money, find a trusted recruiting partner.  

As a small business, you may find that your time and your budget are stretched to the max—but resist the urge to take a shortcut when it comes to hiring. Do-it-yourself recruiting tools like Monster and ZipRecruiter.com might seem like a good idea, until you quickly discover that what you’ve saved in time and money now will come back to haunt you with expense and frustration later.These do-it-yourself recruiting tools certainly put resumes into your hand—but they don’t help you screen out the wrong candidates, nor do they help you find the right person, with the right skills, who will fit into your unique company culture, and who will be a long-time valued contributor to your success. In other words, they can’t evaluate non-tangible skills like attitude, work style, personality, career goals.Also, resist the urge to hire the first person who comes along. After all, according to a study by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), you can expect to spend five times the position’s annual salary to correct a bad hire—not to mention endless hours of aggravation and lost time. After all, the time you’ll spend to rehire is time you’re not spending on your company’s most important priorities.When it comes to selecting a recruiter to work with, look for a partner with these traits:

  • They’ve done it before. Find a hiring partner who understands your business, your industry, your unique needs and  goals. Confirm they’ve been successful with clients similar to you in size, objective or industry.
  • They are actively engaged in the community. The best recruiters are those that invest in the business community as a whole and have a wide, deep network. Look for credentials, special designations and third-party awards or endorsements that demonstrate other business leaders value the firm not only for excellence in recruiting but, equally important, excellence in the community.
  • They can point to their success rate. It’s not enough to put a body into a chair, as the expression goes. The best recruiters are matchmakers, taking more than just job skills into account to find the right connections between company and job candidate. Don’t be afraid to ask a recruiter to share success rate data with you. (By way of example, TorchLight’s success rate is an excellent 97%. That means 97% of candidates we recruited are still in place and thriving within one year of hire. It’s a statistic we work hard for and are very proud of!)
  • They can point to satisfied clients and job candidatesand these people would gladly work with them again. Look for testimonials and ask for references. Look for clues that the recruiter has rave reviews from both hiring companies and from job candidates. (This is a clue that the recruiter genuinely has the best interests of both employers and prospective employees in mind, resulting in the most successful and long-lasting matches.)


  1. Consider a short-term contractor instead of a traditional full-time employee.

If, after all that, you’re still not certain that hiring a full-time employee is the right move for your company but you still desperately need help, consider a contractor or consultant to help you on a short-term or project-specific basis. Many smaller companies find this is a great way to try out a new role, add a new set of hands to a specific project or benefit from specialized skills—all without the cost and commitment of adding a new full-time position. A quality recruiter should have an impressive network of contractors and consultants to help you find the person you need for right now.

As Jim Collins, author of best-selling business tome Good to Great, wrote: “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”  You’ve got the great vision—now go find the great people to work alongside you to make it a reality. (And if we can help, know that TorchLight is always here for you!)


Heidi Parsont is President and CEO of Alexandria-based TorchLight Hire, LLC, one of the Washington region’s fastest-growing marketing and communications search and staffing firms. Heidi launched her business in 2012 as a sole proprietor working from her home office; just this year, with a staff of 10, TorchLight was ranked among the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies. Let TorchLight help you find the right marketing and communications talent to help your company achieve similar success. Learn more at www.torchlighthire.com.


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