Hiring. The bane of existence for many a small business owner. For those of us without the luxury of an HR Department- but who are, in fact, the HR Department- the business of finding the right people is not only tiresome, but also time consuming. Hours spent writing and posting the job opening, collecting resumes, sifting through candidates, and scheduling and conducting interviews takes time that we’d often rather spend chipping away at the mounting pile of projects.

Well, “meow, meow” as my college roommate used to say – and not because she was a cat fan particularly. It was just her southern California way of telling me to stop whining. Cry me a river. Meow meow. Anyway, I’ll let Jason Fried, software designer, entrepreneur, and all around bad boy CEO, chime in on the subject of hiring (and its importance): “Hiring people is like making friends. Pick good ones, and they’ll enrich your life. Make bad choices, and they’ll bring you down.” There you have it. Hiring well is important. It’s worth the time to do it well.

While there’s not much useful advice that we can offer to help with the time-consumption end of things (other than to hire a good HR person) we can offer some tips about where to look for candidates.

There are the usual suspects: online job and resume sites, headhunters, classified ads, and, for the very brave, Craigs List and Facebook. While I (begrudgingly) recognize the importance of social media in modern life I cannot help but roll my eyes, reader, at the level of casualness that has insidiously found its way into the business culture. How long before Casual Friday is synonymous with pajama bottoms? But I guess that’s an article for another day. More to the point, simply reprinting a list of obvious places to find future hires is of absolutely no help (and we do so like to be helpful) so we’ll move beyond that.

Personal experience has dictated that many of the more affordable avenues aren’t accompanied by particularly stellar results; effectiveness is, predictably, proportional to cost. And on that note: have you (or your company) ever contacted a recruitment firm and inquired about their service fee? I strongly suggest that people with heart conditions refrain from engaging in that particular exercise! The results are truly astounding. I can only assume collusion between HR Departments the world over and professional recruitment firms, whose fees could serve as a great piece of leverage for HR folks intent on a raise.

So what’s a small business to do? Wade through the mediocrity of traditional channels in the hope of finding a diamond in the rough? Sell a kidney in order to hire a professional? Neither! The following are a few bits and pieces from our strategy: low cost, mostly effective, methods for finding good candidates.

1) Networking. After years of living and working in the Baltimore/ D.C. metropolitan area, I was irreparably scarred by the concept of networking. For a city that deals in favors and contacts, attending a networking event there is actually code for, and could only be compared to, the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” ( Is it a coincidence that the Discovery Channel has headquarters based in D.C.’s northern suburbs?) Anyway, as I’ve acclimatized to life on the ground, I’ve come to slowly understand that to the rest of the world, networking is quite useful, normal, social, and (most especially) civilized. At JSE, we have found the whole networking process to be one of the most helpful means of finding awesome employees. The JSE crew is a wonderful, dedicated, hardworking bunch, and we learned about many of them from word of mouth.

2) College Career Centers. Perhaps the only downside of using networking as a recruitment tool is that timing is out of everyone’s hands. If time isn’t on your side (que the Rolling Stones, please) and you need someone “yesterday”, another pole to cast into the water is a college career center. Most colleges and universities have on-campus career centers. These little havens are staffed to the gills with friendly people who are only too happy to help employers find suitable candidates from among their alumni- and usually for free (take that, headhunters!) Whether it’s an entry level position for a recent grad or a seasoned alum, universities are eager to connect their graduates with potential employers- not only as a service to their students, but also because it helps their graduate placement numbers.

Win-win.

3) The Chamber of Commerce. Take advantage of those membership dues! Check your local Chamber’s website- many chapters have a portion of their website dedicated to posting job openings for their members. The Chamber of Commerce website typically has resources available for those planning to relocate to the area… so that’s convenient if you’re hiring outside of it. If internet canvassing is your preferred method of recruitment, the Chamber is a good venue to add to the Monsters, Linked Ins, Facebooks and Craigs Lists already in your candidate search playbook.

4) Your company website (and maybe your friend’s, too?) An obvious choice to some. I defend its placement here only by saying that it’s amazing how often companies don’t bother to post job openings on their own websites! A person looking for a local position will likely first research the local firms within their field to see what’s available. It makes sense to have a tab on the company’s website devoted to open positions within the company.

And who’s to say that you can’t form an agreement with your fellow business-owning friends and colleagues in the field? Post on each other’s site- sure it’s a bit out of the ordinary, but thinking out-of-the-box has its benefits (and sometimes strange looks, but as they say “no guts, no glory.” And if it lands a great candidate, who cares.)

5) Trade organizations. Again, take advantage of your membership dues! Most trade organizations have websites and publications- a great place to announce an opening within your company.

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