Help Wanted: Recruitment strategies for smaller companies

Sooner or later, if you’re the owner of a small business, you realize that you need to hire a complete stranger. The risks of hiring a problem employee are significant; your time and resources are precious. How can you get the best person for your money—and quickly?

It’s who you know—and who they know

Michelle Kuo believes you should tap your network first. “You probably know someone who knows someone,” the founder of recruiting firm JumpSearch explains. Tell your friends and family exactly what you need and why it matters to you. Often, your interlocutor will have her memory jogged by hearing the details.

Kuo’s husband and business partner, Eric Sullano, concurs about the value of personal connections, adding, “it should be more than a referral—it should be an endorsement.” The former implies some vague knowledge of the potential hire, while the latter carries the endorser’s trust and confidence in the endorsee. Sullano even recommends probing the endorser. “Ask, ‘how do you know this person? Can you vouch for their skills? Their character?’”

Taking recruitment online

The next level, after querying one’s friends and family about their friends and family, is posting your job online, per Kuo. “Indeed and ZipRecruiter are the two largest job boards,” she says. “Monster and CareerBuilder used to be big, but they’ve gone down in popularity over the past few years.” Both Sullano and Kuo like LinkedIn’s job-posting feature as well.

Even Facebook has jumped on the job bandwagon: The social media platform just rolled out a feature that allows companies to post open positions. Presumably, the site’s algorithms then match the job to seekers using a user’s signals of intent, much like showing shoe advertisements after you’ve visited

When creating a job posting, “pay close attention to the description,” Kuo says. It needs to be concise and clear, jargon free and with all the right terms. “People search for keywords,” Kuo explains. “If someone wants a position as a social media manager, then that’s the search term they’ll be using. If that’s what you need, don’t use some wacky term like ‘digital networking expert.’” In short, use common terminology and think from the job searcher’s point of view.

Beware the shotgun

Sullano, however, urges caution with internet job postings. “You don’t want to spray and pray,” he warns, adding that an unsuspecting employer can get mired in a deluge of unsatisfactory resumes. “You’re flipped into a reactive mode, and it’s taking all your bandwidth,” he says. “You should be going proactively after the type of people you want, but now you have no time to do it. So you end up settling for a B or C-grade hire just to end the whole tortuous process.”

“The best candidates probably aren’t looking for a job,” Kuo says. Which is why, as Sullano recommends, an employer will need to hustle a lot more to land them.

“Everyone wants A-players,” he says. “Employers just aren’t willing to go the distance to get them.” Or they have no idea how to entice them. “You’ve got to get into their psychology. They’re probably already making plenty of money. What will make their ears perk up?” Job flexibility? Family leave? Something else? “How are they thinking about their career trajectory?” Maybe you can’t compete in base compensation but your future upside is greater. “That’s the story you need to be telling,” Sullano emphasizes.

The hiring narrative

Speaking of stories, “what you need to do is figure out what your company’s is,” says Sullano. “If you don’t have a compelling story, you’re probably not going to attract compelling people.”

It takes a certain amount of introspection on the part of the employer. “When you’re looking for talent, you’re basically looking for someone to become part of your story. But you have to know what that is.” Almost certainly, your ideal candidate has his or her own internal story; how can your story complement theirs?

If all else fails, use an expert

If this all proves too much, you can always hire the likes of JumpSearch to handle the process for you. It’s the proverbial time-vs-money conundrum. Sullano does, however, believe that everyone should experience the hiring process themselves early on. Call it a rite of passage. “Even if you end up outsourcing recruitment to professionals later,” he says, “it’s so important that you at least understand it.”

Jacob Andra is a writer and content marketing consultant in Salt Lake City, Utah. You can find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Jacob Andra is a writer, award-winning digital marketer, and technologist living in Salt Lake City. Specialties include account-based marketing, growth hacking for startups, blockchain, fintech, and international issues. He enjoys history, the outdoors, podcasts, and a good book.