The job market may still be tight, but for small business owners looking to hire it may as well be the booming late 1990’s, according to a new survey.

A study conducted by staffing company Robert Half International finds small business owners are struggling to find and retain top talent, despite the numbers of people searching for work.

“Six out of ten small business owners (based on the survey of more than 300 SMBs) are having a hard time finding the staff to hire,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director with Robert Half. “Small business owners have multiple priorities and hiring takes time.”

When it comes to those highly skilled workers, the ones that help a company grow, McDonald says there is currently a talent shortage, and competition is fierce to land them. That puts small business owners at a greater disadvantaged, because they not only have to compete for talent with other small businesses, but they have to contend with their larger brethren.

“Small businesses have to work a little harder to try and attract much sought after individuals,” says McDonald.

Unlike household names, in order for small businesses to lure the right talent they have to sell the company in all forms of communications whether it’s a job ad, social media or on their company website. For instance, McDonald says to focus on the potential for new hires to play many roles in the company and to advance much quicker than at a corporation.  Small business owners can also play up the benefits of working with a small close knit group of people. 

“They need to emphasize their strong points. What about the organization would appeal to that potential new hire,” says McDonald. “If what’s written about your company is mundane, are you really attracting the interest of potential candidates?”

How the small business broadcasts its open positions also matters. According to McDonald, companies need to have an accurate job description that is specific and lists the must-have skills and experience for the job.

“If a description is too broad or doesn’t adequately convey the position’s requirements, you run the risk of receiving an overabundance of resumes from unqualified candidates,” he says. “It’s better to have five applicants who definitely deserve an interview than 100 who don’t.”

For small businesses, time is money, and finding the time to seek out job candidates, let alone interview them, can be tough. But McDonald says small businesses have to make it a priority if they want to sustain and grow their business. If the business owner rushes through the hiring process, he or she could end up hiring the wrong people which will cost them more money in turnover.  On the flip side, they can’t take too long to make a hiring decision or they may see their ideal candidate go down the street to the competitor.

“If you don’t bring in the right people to grow the business you risk losing the people you want to keep,” says McDonald. “You need to put this first. Without people a business can’t grow.”

Being nimble is important for small business owners looking to hire key staff, but at the same time it can be done carelessly. All too often a business owner will skip some of the steps whether it’s checking references or doing a background check, but McDonald says that could be a costly mistake.

“Do a thorough reference check, don’t give up if you can’t reach someone,” says McDonald. “It’s extremely costly to an organization when you have a bad hire.”