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OWNER'S MANUAL

If This Isn’t How You Recruit, You’re Doing It Wrong

The six steps every business owner must follow to find better talent.
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I once took an informal survey at a speaking event. “How many of you,” I asked an audience of about 300 entrepreneurs, “are satisfied with the way you find and recruit employees?”

Two people raised their hands. I called on one. “What’s your secret?”

He shrugged, smiled sheepishly, and said, “I only have one employee. And he’s my brother.”

Most small business owners struggle to find and recruit great employees even when unemployment rates are relatively high. Partly that’s because finding new employees is just one of a thousand other tasks you perform. When recruiting is something you only do occasionally it’s hard to be an expert—unless you adopt some of the strategies professional recruiters use.

Enter Art Papas, CEO of Bullhorn, a recruiting software firm whose web-based products like Reach and Marketplace are used by over 45,000 recruiters in 35 countries to handle more than 150,000 job orders and placements every month.

According to Papas, here are some ways any small business can take advantage of techniques used by professional recruiters:

1. Ditch the job boards. Most job board sites, like Monster and Career Builder, have seen a steady decline in traffic. The job seeker audience is moving on to basic search and to search aggregators like Indeed and Simply Hired. Sure, they're easy to use... but you need effective, not just easy.

2. Put more emphasis on social media. Obviously spend a massive amount of time on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Where job searches are concerned, the active job seekers live on LinkedIn, while the more passive job seekers are on Facebook. All you have to do is leverage your existing social media marketing efforts.

You’re already engaged in social media, so why not get even more out of it?

Say you run a coffee shop. You promote your company on Facebook as a way to build your fan base. So start publishing job opportunities there. Tell the people who are fans of your brand that you’re hiring.

Some may think, “Hey, my friend John is looking for a job, and that job would be perfect for him… I’ll tell him!” While only a few people may respond, you only need a few.

If you say you’re hiring, your fans will spread the word. They already like you, and they love to help their friends.

3. Make applying easy. Many companies make the barrier to entry too high and the reward too low by requiring applicants to fill out page after page of information before they can even submit a resume. The candidates you most want to attract—in some cases, people who are so skilled they have options—will opt out. Why should they waste all that time when the employer probably won’t even call?

Making it easy definitely works. One of Bullhorn's systems places a “Let’s Talk!” button next to the recruiter’s photo. That simple addition alone quadrupled conversion rates.

Set the barrier to entry too high and you create a negative selection bias. Instead, make it your goal to facilitate a conversation.

And don’t create a system that only makes your job easier. Create a system that makes it as easy as possible for great candidates to engage—in fact, to want to engage—with you.

4. Follow up. Every candidate you turn down is at the very least a potential customer, at best a person you will want to hire. Job seekers hate when they apply for a job and never heard a word, and they're not shy about sharing their feelings with others. Create a simple system that lets you stay, as best as possible, in the good graces of the people you don’t hire.

Treat job seekers with the same courtesy and respect you extend to your customers. In the long run it definitely pays off.

5. Manage the relationship. Every job seeker has heard, “We’ll keep your information on file and will contact you if we have future openings.” Every job seeker also knows the company never will. Most companies create systems that are optimized for tracking compliance with federal regulations, not for improving the candidate relationship process.

A percentage of the people who apply for your opening already have a job so they may still be interested in working for you six months from now. If you don’t select a candidate but she is definitely a person you may want to hire in the future, set up a simple system that allows you to stay in touch. See great people as leads; you wouldn't throw away a lead, would you?

6. Sell. Ultimately the best talent needs to be sold. Great companies land outstanding employees because they work hard to find and sell great talent.

Think of it from the potential employee’s point of view. When unemployment is high, thousands of people submit applications for any job they can find, playing résumé roulette.

But the typical hiring path is a third-party recruiter or an employee referral. The people who get jobs leverage their connections to get their foot in the door.

You can too.

Say there’s a person you tried but failed to hire because she opted to stay at her current job. You would still love to hire her, though. So pay attention. Watch for things like LinkedIn Profile updates. Bullhorn offers a Reach Radar tool that watches for profile updates, connections with recruiters, new endorsements… various social media signs that an employee may be on the move.

Stay connected the same way you would stay connected to a sales lead. Do more than just send a generic “Have you thought about coming to work for us?” email every six months.

As an employer it’s just as important for you to make and nurture connections as it is for employees and job seekers.

Remember, we’re all in the same boat. We all want to work with great people.

Last updated: Jan 26, 2012

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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