You know the scenario: You have a mission-critical position open at your company, and the right candidate has been impossible to find.

You might be looking for the head of product with specific industry experience, the sales person who blows out her numbers every year, the engineer who knows how to properly scale large web apps, or the user experience lead whose design is so smooth that it makes butter melt. You know this is one of the most crucial hires for your team. Ultimately, if you bring on the right all-star A-player, the impact will be substantial to the overall success of your business.

But you're concerned because you have been looking for a while and can't seem to find the right fit for one reason or another. You start to doubt whether or not the ideal candidate is out there. You know, the old needle in the haystack analogy. But you're not a quitter, and you'd like to stick to your mantra, 'Never settle for second best.' I don't blame you.

As a recruiter for start-ups, I deal with this challenge every single day! I know the feeling and have compassion for you. I also know that if you put in the time, energy, patience, and dedicated focus, you can find that ideal candidate.

Here's how to hunt down the best of the best:

1.     Network, network, network

I can't stress the importance of networking enough. The more time you spend meeting and talking with new talented people, the more valuable your network will become.  Networks are like spider webs; great people know other great people and when the need arises for you to inquire with your network for candidate referrals, you'll increase your odds of finding your ideal candidate exponentially.

2.     LinkedIn groups 

If you are looking for someone with a very specific skillset or work experience, check out LinkedIn groups. LinkedIn has a group for almost every industry or topic and the odds are high that potential candidates are a member of a group that is targeted toward their professional background and interests.

If you are looking, for example, to hire a user experience person, you probably want to poke around a LinkedIn group called UX Professionals. It has more than 23,000 members. Yes, 23,000!  Join the group and then search for people within it that are located in your targeted location.

3.     Meetups

Like LinkedIn groups, there is a Meetup just about everywhere on almost every topic. If you're looking for a mobile developer in New York, for instance, check out the New York iOS Developer Meetup, which has more than 2,200 members. Meetup has a search function that allows you to search for groups via keyword and location. Join the relevant Meetups and then start attending in-person gatherings.

4.      Quora

Quora is a community website where questions are asked and answered on a wide variety of topics. It is a great online forum for people to share expertise and get recognized as subject-matter experts.  The site has a search function that allows you to mine through questions and discover the most relevant and intelligent answers—and maybe even, in the process, that ideal job candidate.

For example, if you did a search on Quora for "web analytics" you'd find that it is a designated topic with a variety of questions underneath. It also has a list of "top answerers"—people who have responded to the most questions on the topic—as well as a list of people who are "following" it. In the case of "web analytics," it has more than 3,000 people. 

The only downside of Quora is that it's tough to search the site for people in a specific location. It's time-consuming to review each person's profile to find out where they are based.

5.     Hire an up-and-comer

You probably remember a time in your career when someone gave you a shot to step up and take on more responsibility. You were ready for it and, once given the chance, highly successful in the new role. Now might be a good time to give someone else the same opportunity. This can be an especially useful idea if you run a start-up and need someone to be a leader, but also involved in hands-on day-to-day execution of the business. You might find this now gives you a larger pool of exceptionally talented people, those who are at a crossroads in a current position and ready to take the next step forward. One caveat: Be sure you do due diligence to ensure a proven track record of success, and that the up-and-comer is really ready to tale this next step.

Happy hunting!