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When it comes to HR for your small business, recruitment, that is, finding employees, can be an instrumental responsibility. Not only do you want to simply find employees for your business, but you also want to find the right ones—those people who have the skills and knowledge for the role, who will fit with the team and environment, and ultimately, who will help your business grow and succeed.
However, sometimes figuring out how to find employees can be difficult, especially if you’re adhering to a budget, time-frame, or working with limited resources. In this guide, therefore, we’ll explore some of the best ways to find employees for small businesses. We’ll discuss general recruitment tactics, as well as delve into the unique and creative strategies real entrepreneurs have used to find their employees.
Before we dive deeper into some of the tactics entrepreneurs have used to find employees, let’s briefly discuss some general recruiting strategies you can employ.
First, you’ll want to consider the role you’re hiring for and what you’re looking for in a candidate. The specifics of your business and the job description of the open role can certainly inform how you go about finding employees. Next, you’ll want to think about the recruiting process as a whole. What is your timeline? What is your budget? Who will be involved in the process? Asking yourself questions such as these can be an effective way to help you start recruiting and ensure that you’re well-organized and therefore, setting yourself up for success to find good employees. After you’ve considered the role and the process, then you’re ready to start your search.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, there is probably no one best place to find employees. Ultimately, how you find your employees will largely be specific to your business, and what works well for you might not necessarily work well for another business. This being said, however, there are some common recruiting avenues that all businesses should consider, like networking, online posting, and using referrals.
Networking, whether via LinkedIn, or in-person, is a tried-and-true way to find employees. Although it might not be the fastest way, the process of networking gives you the ability to see what kind of candidates are out there, talk to people who might be interested in the role and generally explore the hiring atmosphere of your business industry. Even if you don’t find employees right away from networking, you never know what other short-term or long-term benefits you may gain from the business networking process.
Perhaps one of the most popular recruiting tactics now is using job postings to find employees online. There is an endless number of job posting websites and tools you can use, from Indeed to Flexjobs to Facebook. Because the internet is so vast, you’ll want to be very specific about where you post your job in order to attract the right candidates. If you’re looking for hourly employees, for example, you might use a site like Snagajob, whereas if you’re looking for tech-employees, you might use Dice.com.
Regardless of your industry, there’s probably a job board out there that you can utilize to find employees who are best-suited for your business. Moreover, another consideration you’ll want to take with finding employees online is budget. Some websites allow you to post jobs for free, while others charge you depending on the number of postings and how long you want to keep them active.
Finally, a common, but sometimes overlooked method for finding employees is by using referrals. If you already have great employees, they might know other great people who they can refer to your business. When you’re looking to find employees, therefore, it’s worth mentioning to your current employees, explaining to them the role and what you’re looking for, and then encouraging them to reach out to their network or anyone they know who might be a good fit. Some businesses offer a referral bonus as an incentive to encourage current employees to keep the recruiting process in mind and reward them for bringing in good talent.
Overall, to manage any of these tactics, you might choose to utilize HR software that accommodates recruiting and onboarding processes. These kinds of platforms will help you stay organized and can also streamline your search process by tracking job postings, submitted resumes, candidate interviews, and more.
With these general recruiting ideas in mind, let’s explore examples that real entrepreneurs have used to find employees for their businesses. These strategies may not necessarily work for your particular business, but at the very least, they’ll give you more insight into creative search tactics and unique ways to find employees.
Having your business card readily available can be helpful if you ever encounter someone you think would make a good employee. By giving them your business card, they’ll have a way to contact you and find information about your business.
“We were looking to find employees for a team that could help us assemble subscription boxes. A few of us were grabbing dinner at a Brazilian steakhouse trying to come up with ways to get it done. Our receiving manager, Walter, seemed to be friends with a lot of the cooks and servers … and we realized that what we really needed was a team that could work cohesively,” said Jan Bednar, CEO of ShipMonk.
So that night, along with the tip, we left our business cards with each of the cooks and servers. Almost every one of them called Walter and said they were interested in the part-time opportunity. This was over a year ago, and the majority of them are still with us today, many of them in full-time capacities. They have unbelievable chemistry with each other, and they are incredible employees with us at ShipMonk.”
Using social media, on the whole, can be a simple way to find employees online for free. With all of the different social media platforms available, you can use the one that works best for your business and find the right community to share your job or reach out to potential candidates.
“In terms of how to find employees, the new jobs feature on Facebook is yet another reason why businesses should drive traffic to their company Facebook pages aside from marketing their products and remaining culturally connected,” said The Scott Resort & Spa hiring manager Tanner St. James.
“This feature will make the hiring landscape more competitive, both for recruiters and candidates, as the pool of talent will vastly increase. Employers and recruiters will become more selective as they have a bigger pond to fish from, and candidates will have more to prove in order to stand out enough to be interviewed or accepted for a position. A great feature that will be included is that when a candidate applies for a position, the application will be pre-populated with information from the candidate’s profile. This will be a big time saver and an incentive for candidates to apply for multiple jobs without having to type in the same information over and over again.”
LinkedIn, per design, can be a particularly effective tool for finding employees online.
Carrie Wood, CMO at Leaseref.com said, “We have had success by keyword searches on LinkedIn, followed by InMails to highly targeted individuals. For example, we searched for ‘cold call’ and found someone who made 232 cold calls per day. We InMailed him to see if he was interested in a career change. Turns out he was and we hired him. It saved us from sifting through hundreds of résumés. The response rate is always high when you approach your prospect as they are always flattered.”
Creative businesses looking for employees might find a more visual-based social media platform, like Instagram, helpful.
Regan Cleminson, co-founder and digital marketing director at RPR said, “One out-of-the-box way we find employees for free and to vet candidates is through Instagram. We tap into the Boston Instagram influencer community to find talent that may be a good fit for content creation roles, social media management roles, or just executive assistant roles. Reaching out is really as easy as sending them a direct message. The onus is then on us as a business to also keep our Instagram up to date to be a reflection of our business culture and everyday services. We have found this to be infinitely more successful than searching for talent on LinkedIn or on a job board. We go where our potential new employee’s attention already is.”
Although you might not typically think of Snapchat as a recruiting tool, it can be an efficient way to reach a younger generation, especially if you’re looking for college interns or entry-level employees.
“We recently experienced a period of sudden growth, which led to some serious recruitment activity. It’s quite difficult to find the right people for our roles, as we are based out in the countryside with limited public transport, which often puts candidates off. Our brand is relatively small and not well-known at the moment, which again makes it difficult to find employees for free and that are talented,” said Amy Kilvington, head of marketing at Blinds Direct.
“However, we recently designed a custom Snapchat geo filter and launched it with two local colleges in mind, both of which run marketing and media courses. The filter featured some fun graphics and our careers email address. After running it intermittently for two weeks hoping to find employees, we gained eight applications, which led to placing four new team members in the marketing department. It’s been our most effective recruitment strategy to date!”
Approachability openness can be essential for recruiting. If you’re willing to engage and talk with a variety of different people, you’ll be surprised at the talent you can find, just as you go about your day-to-day.
“As a microbusiness (less than 10 employees), I have to find employees in super-creative ways. I’ve been known to recruit a waitress or two in my time, and I recently struck up a delightful conversation with an Amazon delivery person. If you keep your eyes open, the raw talent is often right in front of you. Employers have to be willing to make an investment in the training to get a new hire to function at a level they need. I will take customer service and good manners over understanding my business’s fundamentals any day of the week,” said Leanne E. King, president & CEO of Seeking HR.
Showing your business’s personality through your recruiting tactics is a great way to attract candidates who have compatible personalities.
CEO and co-founder of Finder.com, Fred Schebesta said, “We’ve always kept recruitment in-house as we look for really unique individuals, and in our experience, we tend to find them through non-traditional means.
One of the more ‘out of the box’ recruitment channels we’ve used to find employees is sneaking into the City University of New York to post a job ad in multiple prominent positions. We even filmed and uploaded this covert mission.
Breaking into the college to post a job ad was a way to tap into new talent and also show off our company’s personality and how we like to do things a little differently.
In addition to proactively looking for talent, I have a lot of people come directly to me. Some of the ways candidates have stood out is by reaching me through the comments section of my YouTube channel and bringing the entire office hot tea ahead of their interview on a particularly cold New York day.”
A useful philosophy to have when it comes to finding employees is always be recruiting. If you’re always thinking about recruiting, you’ll be more likely to find candidates in a variety of different situations, even those that are not directly related to your business.
Tony O’Dierno, senior vice president and zone manager at Combined Insurance said, “I was on vacation in the Bahamas years ago, in the pool playing pool volleyball with my family and started up a conversation with a young man who joined in our game. He was sociable, outgoing—and a competitive pool volleyball player! We got to talking, I told him about my role with my company, he shared his contact info with me. A few weeks later, I reached out to him, recruited him, and he was employed by the company shortly thereafter.
It didn’t take much convincing; our personalities clicked while we relaxed with our families on vacation, but his outgoing and competitive nature stood out to me, and I thought to myself, ‘He could make a great sales agent.’ And I was right.
I think it’s important to follow your gut sometimes when you meet someone you click with. It happened to me with this individual and it has happened several more times. Sociable, outgoing, competitive individuals make great salespeople.”
If you’re hiring for a particular role, you might consider paying attention to other employees you meet or encounter who are working in that role or displaying that skillset. This will give you an opportunity to find competent individuals for your business in different and unique places.
Deborah Sweeney, CEO at MyCorporation says, “I’ve found some very talented individuals simply by visiting a drive-thru Starbucks or as a walk-in at my local juice shop. My company hires often for customer sales representatives, and I take note of anyone at these establishments that shows me (and others) great customer service. If you consistently love the customer experience you’re receiving from them, it’s worth asking if they are looking for a job elsewhere!”
Just because a particular tool is typically used for one purpose or declines in popularity doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t work for you. When you’re looking to find good employees, sometimes it’s worth trying all kinds of tactics, including those you wouldn’t normally consider.
“Everyone bemoans Craigslist, but we find it to be a solid avenue for picking up local talent. You have to specifically tailor your ad and make it noteworthy. More importantly, you absolutely must make the application process a test. Include a specific way to reply, to a specific email, with specific requirements. We typically require a certain subject line, with PDF résumé attached and only two paragraphs response in the email itself. This weeds out autoresponders on Craigslist,” says Peter T. Boyd, founder of PaperStreet.
As we mentioned earlier, setting up an employee referral program can be a great way to find employees. Your employees might be able to introduce you to other people who are skilled, enthusiastic, and hopefully—looking for a job.
“I pay attention to my interactions with employees at other businesses. If I encounter someone who is energetic, knowledgeable and seems to enjoy their job, they become a candidate.
I hired a staff member that I met at Starbucks and then hired a co-worker she recommended. I also ask my current employees to work their network for candidates as they know our culture and they have a vested interest in finding other good employees to share the workload.
For example, one of my key customer service staff members recommended a friend from his theatre group. He knew her work ethic, intelligence, and people skills were top notch and he would have to work hand-in-hand with whoever we hired. We hired her and she has worked out extremely well,” said John Kinskey, president and founder of AccessDirect, Inc.
A job listing is a candidate’s first impression of your business and the role you’re hiring for. If you’re able to get creative and display your business’s personality and values through the job posting, you’ll be more likely to attract candidates who will fit within your company culture.
According to Babak Azad, a digital marketer, “The best strategy to find employees is to apply the same approach we use in marketing funnels that are meant to bring in customers to attract talent—like writing job descriptions with catchy headlines.
No more starting a posting with ‘Editor needed’ or ‘Data analyst.’ Instead, using language like the following for job postings: ‘Insanely Obsessive Editor Wanted’ or starting a posting with ‘How many servers do you have in your bedroom?’ or ‘Do you find yourself being the smartest person in the room?’
The key here is using language that will both stand out and attract the type of person you’re looking for. In particular, it’s important to use words and language that will find employees and to attract their attention.”
Never underestimate the power of fringe benefits. By offering different or unique benefits—whether a wellness program, free Spotify, or beer on tap, you can appeal to prospective employees in an additional and influential way.
“We offer a unique perk to all our employees and future employees: a music room. We’re headquartered in Nashville, so most of our employees are either musicians or play music for fun.
Playing an instrument has been scientifically proven to engage practically every area of the brain at once—especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. The brain is a muscle—learning and playing music is like a full body workout. Our employees strengthen those brain functions, allowing them to apply that strength to other activities like creativity in the workplace,” said Gene Caballero, co-founder of Green Pal.
With internet platforms like Reddit, that cover a variety of different topics, you might be able to find a niche, whether by location or interest, to use as a place to look for prospective employees.
James Gagne, owner of Guru Expertise said, “I’ve found great success using Reddit to find employees for free who are dependable over the long term. I’ve found six long-term, loyal, and hardworking hires who are still with us in eight job posts found on Reddit.
The trick is that each city has its own subreddit, or discussion forum, r/Chicago, r/dallas, r/montreal, etc. However, what’s not known by many is that there is almost always a subreddit specifically for jobs, such as r/chicacojobs, r/dallasjobs, r/montrealjobs.
The type of people who frequent these subreddits are (in general) younger, good with computers, and highly educated. Lots of students looking for part-time jobs as well. I found most of the replies I received were from highly qualified people, much more so than what you’d get on job boards.”
Facebook can certainly be more than a tool for your business’s social media. There are a variety of ways you can use Facebook to find employees including posting in job groups, sharing job listings in your feed, and more.
Zachary Painter, career adviser and hiring manager at ResumeGenius.com said, “We’ve found that sharing our job postings on community Facebook pages yields the best results for us. We look for local Facebook job boards with a large number of followers. This gives us a more diverse applicant pool, and it reels in candidates we would never have found otherwise.
According to Mashable, this is becoming an effective way to recruit. I think it’s because platforms like Facebook have such a high viewership, and when your job post shows up on a user’s feed, they feel like your company made the effort to reach them, instead of them coming to you. By including a link to your application page on a job post, you streamline the process for the applicant—they don’t have to hunt down your careers page, and they don’t have to necessarily be ‘in the know’ to hear about your company’s open position.”
Working directly with colleges and universities can be helpful for finding interns or employees to fill entry-level positions. Moreover, tapping into a college alumni network can also be a way to get your job posting out to local candidates.
Amy Shropshire, brand awareness manager at Postali, said “A pretty tried-and-true tactic for me when I need to find employees for an entry-level position is to reach out to individual professors at local universities. They usually have a few standout students who they are more than happy to see find a job. It takes a bit of digging through the employee directory, but it’s worth it (and you get an instant reference!).
To find employees for more senior level positions, I like to use the professional groups I’m a member of in my industry. You can potentially find employees who are active and interested in the industry who may not be actively searching for a new position but are willing to look consider their options (and pass the opportunity along to other stars in their network).”
As you can see from the experiences of these entrepreneurs, you can find employees in a variety of different ways, including in those you wouldn’t typically expect. It’s important to remember, therefore, that there is no wrong or right way (within reason, of course) to find employees for your business. With all of the recruiting avenues available to you, you should try as many as you need until you find the one that works best for you.
Once again, you may find the strategy that suits your business best is different from other businesses—you might also find that a tactic that works for one position might not work as well for another type of job. Your recruiting strategy is fluid and can change depending on a variety of factors. This being said, however, as long as you’re clear in your process and vigilant in your search, you’ll be able to find the employees your business needs.