The job market owes small businesses a big thank you. A new report from ADP Research Institute  indicates that companies with 499 employees or less accounted for 81 percent of the new private sector hiring in January. Payrolls for businesses with 49 or fewer employees increased by 78,000 jobs in January and employment among companies with 50-499 employees added 95,000 jobs for a total of 173,000 of the 213,000 non-farm private employment jobs added in January.

In “Small Businesses Are on a Hiring Binge,” Bloomberg reporter Steve Matthews points out that small business is finally gaining momentum and leading an acceleration in creating jobs. Matthews attributes the expansion in small business hiring to renewed confidence among small business owners, the recovery in construction and easing of credit conditions.

Flexibility is a key to hiring and retention

If you are among the many small businesses in the midst of looking for new team members or plan to add staff soon, consider the benefits of providing flexible work options. In a survey on hiring that Plantronics conducted among 270 small business owners, 64 percent said that offering flexible, mobile and remote work options has assisted them in hiring and retaining their key employees.

Another study conducted by Cornell University of 320 small businesses showed that companies that grant employees a choice of how they work grew four times faster than control-oriented firms and had one-third of the turnover rate.

Tips for making the right hire

Offering flexible work options can help expand the pool of prospects, but you still want to be sure that the person you hire is the best candidate for the job. Here are some tips to help you identify the right candidates:

Write out the job description: Take time to write out a job description for the position. Especially in a small business, where team members may wear more than one hat, you want to be sure you’ve thought through everything your new hire will need to take do.

Network: While you can run an ad on job boards and also enlist the aid of a recruiter, referrals often are the best way to find new talent. Engage with your social media networks to let your contacts know you are seeking to fill a position and ask for referrals.  If the candidate is on LinkedIn, you can check out their experience, special skills and recommendations to help you decide if you’d like to connect about a position.

Listen attentively during the interview: Too often hiring managers spend more time talking than asking the kind of insightful questions that help determine that a candidate is right for the job. Among your questions, present scenarios that the candidate is likely to experience or encounter in the position and ask how they would handle the situation. That should give you a good idea if the person has the skills and the big picture thinking and judgment to add the right value to your small business.

Look beyond skills: While the right skills are essential, so is philosophy, culture and team work. As you are interviewing candidates, ask questions about a person’s likes and dislikes, experiences in other work environments and as part of a team, to make sure that the candidate will be compatible with the rest of your group.

Take your time: You may be short staffed but it’s not a reason to hire someone without conducting the proper due diligence to make sure you are getting the most qualified candidate who will help your small business move ahead. If necessary, employ outside consultants to help you get through a crunch time while you continue the recruitment process.

Video conference with remote candidates

Since some of your candidates may be out of town, you may want to employ video conferencing to interview prospects. Whether you conduct the video conference from your desktop or mobile device, make sure you use a headset  to cancel out background noise so that you can hear and be heard by the other party. Read about some other things to keep in mind about a video conferencing interview at ”Video conferencing interviews can save your small business time and money.”