8 Reasons Why Your Small Business Isn’t Attracting the Best Job Candidates

Despite a national unemployment rate of 8.1 percent and some 12.5 million people [PDF] looking for work, attracting and finding top-notch job candidates can be tough. You’ve likely been overwhelmed by the sheer number of applicants and underwhelmed by their qualifications.

Many job seekers, it seems, are applying for positions they aren’t trained to fill — or simply to meet unemployment requirements. Sorting through a pile of resumes is tedious and time-consuming, especially when your company isn’t finding the person or people you need.

So where are all the people who could help your company grow? They decided not to apply for your open position because your job requirements were unconventional or unreasonable, seven job seekers recently told the Intuit Small Business Blog in candid interviews. These highly-skilled professionals said they are frustrated by various trends emerging in the hiring practices of many small businesses.

The following eight aspects of a job post made them decide they didn’t want to work for a company:

  1. The company asked for a criminal background check for which the applicant has to waive all personal rights.
  2. The company asked for a list of references as part of the application process (before calling the applicant in for an interview).
  3. The company asked for a credit check for a position that doesn’t require handing cash or accounting work.
  4. The company required executive and management candidates to submit to a drug test.
  5. The company asked job candidates to fill out a lengthy application (three pages or more).
  6. The company asked for transcripts and diplomas from high school and college for a position that requires more than five years of work experience.
  7. The company asked an applicant to list their past salaries or state what their desired salary would be for the new position.
  8. The company required many years of experience in a specific industry for a general position (in which the industry really doesn’t matter).

The bottom line: When you require seasoned professionals to jump through extra hoops just to apply for a job, you are bound to miss out on some excellent candidates.

What application requirements have you found to be excessive or even uncalled for? Tell us in the Comments section below.

About M. Sharon Baker

Veteran freelance business writer M. Sharon Baker creates compelling content that helps companies connect with customers. She's also a freelance journalist and blogs at Every Word Counts.
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Jennifer Corso
Jennifer Corso

As an employment law attorney (management side), I think most of these "reasons" are pretty weak.  For example, why should executives/management be excluded from drug tests?  Also, most job applications I've seen over the last decade+ have been 3+ pages.  And, #2 and #7...  really?  What "highly skilled professional" would object to providing references or salary history?  None of these are "extra hoops" - they are all pretty standard for any job, let alone an executive position.  Anyone complaining about these, in my opinion, are not management material.


The only possible valid concerns would be with #1 and #3.  While a background check is certainly ok (and highly prudent), the waiver may be questionable depending on how it's worded.  And while credit checks aren't necessary for every position, there are many positions other than those that handle cash or accounting that would justify a credit check.  (example - customer service personnel who have access to customer credit card information.) 


The author's Bottom Line should read:  Even "seasoned professionals" use drugs and lie on their resumes/job applications.  All businesses should adopt fair and thorough hiring practices for all posiitons.

Jennifer Corso
Jennifer Corso

As an employment attorney (management side), I've heard a number of people comment that on-line job applications ask for a date of birth, and they feel uncomfortable giving this information.  But, if they don't fill it in, they can't proceed to the next page of the application.  EEOC regulations prohibit asking about age on job applications and in interviews, so this should not be on electronic applications.


Most of the reasons stated in the article are pretty wimpy, and certainly don't qualify as "extra hoops".  For example, why should execs/mgt be excluded from drug checks?  And most job applications are 3+ pages long these days.  And #2 and #7... really?  What "highly skilled professional" would object to being asked for references or a salary history?


The only truly objectionable ones (in my opinion) are:

#1 -  background check is ok (and prudent), the waiver part is questionable depending on how it is written

#3 - all depends on the position - there are some that don't handle cash or accounting that a credit check would still be prudent (ex. customer service reps who have access to client credit card numbers)


Bottom line:  even "seasoned professionals" can falsify a resume/application or be drug users.  Smart business owners should not skimp on good hiring practices just to get a warm body in the position.


Plumbing co
Plumbing co

Frankly, if applicants are not willing to do the things you require  them to do during the hiring process it is my firm belief that you will have a heck of a time convicing them to do the things you require them to do while they work for you. I really believe in hiring slowly and firing quickly to really know that you are building a team that will survive the tough economic times we are facing. If someone would rather sit on food stamps than jump through extra hoops to get a job I would say they don't truly have the motivation to be a strong contributor to the team. 

Brenda Seagraves
Brenda Seagraves

The most cumbersome nature is the template application.  Many skillsets that transfer to the job being applied for don't easily "FIT".  There has to be a better way to get the resume and the skills communicated to the ultimate decision maker.  We all know that taking the human element out of the application process has to have an adverse effect. 


@smartbrief Nice post. You might also like this related article on why businesses lose their best employees - http://t.co/WmCTt0vv


  1. [...] are certain practices being adopted by small businesses that tend to drive away good job candidates, experts [...]