With unemployment hovering at or near record levels, some companies -- especially smaller ones -- may have trouble finding quality employees. It's simply a case of supply and demand. In some professions, there are more openings than there are qualified people to fill the open jobs.

Even in a challenging market, smaller companies can find good employees. Doing so, however, requires creative thinking. A bigger company might be able to pay more or offer better benefits to entice people to join up. But as a leader of a small- or medium-sized business, you have to think outside the box in order to beat out the bigger players for the type of workers you need.

A help wanted sign

Hiring in an economy with low unemployment can be challenging. Image source: Getty Images.

1. Offer flexibility

When I ran a large independent toy store, it was challenging to hire in certain areas. We could land all the part-time subject experts we wanted, but hiring responsible adults who could open, close, and handle cash was a challenge.

To make that happen, we had to offer something other than cash. In many cases, that meant offering flexible scheduling. One employee had a special-needs child and that led to an unpredictable schedule. By accommodating that, we were able to retain her services when she could have gone elsewhere for more money.

2. Offer increased responsibility

While some large companies have career development or mentoring programs, many do not. If you, as a small business owner, make an offer to someone, sweeten the deal by offering to teach them new skills. That could mean mentoring them in running a business. Sometimes it's something simple like teaching a cash register clerk to help with ordering.

3. Offer a path to ownership

If you want to add a top-tier employee, one way to make that happen might be to offer them a chance to someday become your partner or eventually buy you out. This can be a creative situation where the employee earns equity or gets the contracted right to someday buy your business at a fair market value (perhaps even with you offering financing).

4. Hire people who can develop

While you ideally want workers who already know their jobs, it can be a lot easier to find employees who can grow into the role you need to fill. That's obviously harder for you, but it can lead to very loyal employees.

If you give someone a chance when others would not, that ties the person to you. It  also can lead to employees who develop a new perspective on the job that someone already trained may not have.

It's all about flexibility

If you interview someone you want to hire, talk with them about their specific needs. Maybe flexibility around child or elder care will seal the deal, or perhaps the person wants to be able to leave a few hours early on Fridays in the summer.

Whatever it is, talk and listen to prospective hires. You'll likely find that there's a deal to be made if you're willing to be creative and flexible.