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The best employee for your small business might be someone that you can’t just find on any old job board these days. When you need to find employees that own a certain skill, personality trait, or are generally a good fit for your company culture, sometimes you have to get creative.
So we asked small business owners just like yourself, “What are your out-of-the-box ways to find employees?”
Here are the 16 strategies real entrepreneurs used to find employees and get the top talent through the door.
“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.
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.”
—Jan Bednar, CEO of ShipMonk
“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.
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.”
—Tanner St. James, hiring manager for The Scott Resort & Spa
“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.”
—Carrie Wood, CMO at Leaseref.com
“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.”
—Regan Cleminson, co-founder and digital marketing director at RPR
“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.
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!”
—Amy Kilvington, head of marketing at Blinds Direct
“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.”
—Leanne E. King, president & CEO of Seeking HR
“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.”
—Fred Schebesta, CEO and co-founder of Finder.com
“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.”
—Tony O’Dierno, senior vice president and zone manager at Combined Insurance
“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!”
—Deborah Sweeney, CEO at MyCorporation
“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.”
—Peter T. Boyd, founder of PaperStreet
“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.”
—John Kinskey, president and founder of AccessDirect, Inc.
“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.”
—Babak Azad, digital marketer
“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.”
—Gene Caballero, co-founder of Green Pal
“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.”
—James Gagne, owner of Guru Expertise
“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.”
—Zachary Painter, career adviser and hiring manager at ResumeGenius.com
“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).”
—Amy Shropshire, brand awareness manager at Postali
There you have it—16 tactful, creative, and out-of-the-box ways to find your next best employees!
What’s your best hiring trick? Tell us in the comments!