where to find qualified employees

Small Business Week 2016

small business week

Don’t miss yesterday’s Small Business Week post, “7 Smart Steps to Protect Your Small Business.”

We read a lot these days about the lack of qualified employees. But is there really a shortage, or is the skills gap simply a myth? During the Great Recession, with plentiful job candidates to choose from, the few companies that were hiring got super-picky about who they hired — and some of that attitude seems to remain today.

Personally, I think the first step to finding qualified employees for your business is recognizing that you’re unlikely to find someone with the exact skills, experience and personality you need. You’ll always need to provide some training to get the person up to speed — don’t expect to just drop them into the job and have them hit the ground running.

In fact, I think being “qualified” is highly overrated. Having managed people for over 20 years, I’ll almost always vote for attitude over experience when hiring. Some of the most problematic employees I ever worked with were those whose experience was a perfect match…on paper. Some of the best employees I ever worked with came to me completely green, with nothing but a lot of heart. You can train people to do a job, but you can’t train them to be a team player, persistent or positive — all traits that every small business needs in its workforce.

Once you accept this reality, here’s where to find qualified employees for your small business:

  1. Get social. Reach out on social media to let your contacts know you’re hiring and what type of candidate you’re looking for. LinkedIn is the obvious social media network to use for recruiting, but it’s not the only one. Facebook and Twitter can be good sources of job candidates too — especially if part of the job is being familiar with social media! Don’t sit back and wait for candidates to come to you: On LinkedIn, you can look for people with the skills you need and quietly approach them to see if they’re interested.
  2. Network in person. Supplement your social media networking with real-life networking. Whether you’re at a business networking event or industry conference, at church or the gym, “always be hiring” (to paraphrase the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross.”) You never know when your workout buddy’s cousin’s son will be looking for a job.
  3. Use your employees as recruiters. Spread the word to existing employees that you are hiring and ask if they know anyone who might be a good fit. Very few people recommend a job candidate who might embarrass them, so you’ll know that you’re getting quality referrals. Sweeten the pot by offering a hiring bonus to the referring employee if the person is hired and makes it through their probationary period.
  4. Reach out to local colleges, universities and trade schools. College and university career centers are a great place to connect with students about to graduate. If you have more specialized needs, local trade schools or adult education programs can be a good source of job candidates.

Did you notice that none of the tactics mentioned above involve paying for help-wanted ads? Think of help-wanted ads as a last resort: You can often find more qualified candidates using the tactics I already discussed. Don’t believe me? I talked to one small business owner who has successfully hired more than 90 employees without advertising at all. Learn his secrets for how to hire qualified workers–without spending a penny.

What are your secrets for hiring qualified employees? Share your tips in the comments. And check back tomorrow at SmallBizDaily, when I’ll share tips for finding new customers.