I have a colleague who has had three assistants over the past seven years. Although it may look like a pretty good track record, his first assistant lasted for six years, the second was gone in a month and the most recent one was on the job for less than a year.
One might conclude that my friend either 1) got lucky the first time, 2) is a poor judge of talent, or 3) both 1 and 2. In all likelihood, the third factor is at play here. Hiring for a small business is a tricky proposition and finding the right person is not always easy.
In fact, according to a recent survey from staffing firm, Robert Half, the “biggest challenge” facing 60 percent of small businesses surveyed was finding the right person for the job. “While large companies may benefit from a big pool of available talent, small businesses don't have those same advantages when trying to find new employees,” according to the report.
So where should you turn to when you need to hire the right person? Here are several resources to consider:
Referrals: For most small business owners, referrals are often near the top of the list when it comes to finding talent. Often, those referrals come from one’s current staff because who knows your business and its needs better than your current employees? An added bonus is that you can rest assured that the person they recommend will likely be a strong fit. After all, few people would risk their own job and reputation by recommending their friend to you for friendship’s sake.
Other good sources of recommendations include:
- Business partners
- Friends and family members
- Vendors and customers
Job boards: Personally, I have great success finding top talent using Craigslist, although the challenge here is that you usually need to sort through a lot of resumes and cover letters to separate the wheat from the chaff. But once you do, you will almost always find some hidden gems in the stack of applicants.
Other job boards include:
However, the problem with these sites is that they are so broad in scope, which can make it more difficult to find the right talent. Therefore, when it comes to job boards, it is important to think niche and focus on industry sites as well.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a job recruiter’s dream. With this social media site, you can input the exact requirements of the person you seek and can expect that your search results will yield some very qualified candidates. As with the job boards, the key here is to be very specific when describing the open job.
LinkedIn also has an area just for job recruitment called LinkedIn Recruiter, which has tools to help you pinpoint the right person.
It also helps to join the right LinkedIn group for your industry or the position to help spread the word about the opening.
Generally speaking, other social media platforms – Twitter and Facebook in particular – tend to be less useful when it comes to finding a potential employee.
Community colleges, colleges, and universities: Traditional resources, such as institutes of higher learning, can be a resource as well. Job fairs, job boards, career days, career centers, newsletters, and even bulletin boards are a few of the many ways you can use colleges to recruit potential employees.
Finally, whatever method you use, there are two key things to keep in mind when recruiting:
1. Know the job: It is vital that you know what the job entails and that you convey to the employee both the responsibilities and the benefits of the job in a positive light.
2. Stress the intangibles: Small businesses usually cannot compete with larger businesses when it comes to salary and benefits. But to quote the great and mighty Wizard of Oz himself, “You've got one thing they haven’t got: A heart.” When talking to potential employees, it is important to emphasize the benefits of working for a small business, including opportunities to grow and gain experience.
What resources do you use to find talent? Share your story below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss