Headhunting is hard work. And it’s harder still if you’re an entrepreneur or are working in a small business – particularly as it means you won’t have buckets of time and money to play with.

Worse, small business owners and entrepreneurs (understandably) don’t have the knowledge or experience that bigger, specialized recruitment firms do. As a result, you probably feel as though you’re stumbling around in the dark, not knowing where to find the perfect person for a job.

But there is some good news: it’s perfectly possible to find the right candidate, even without extensive knowledge, expensive LinkedIn packages, or any of those other ‘leg ups’ that would make your job a whole lot easier.

All it takes is a little ingenuity, some real resourcefulness and a tenacity to just keep on going. If that sounds like you, here’s how you can headhunt the perfect candidate for your small business or startup…

Know your candidates

Time and money are both precious resources in a small business. You don’t want to waste your time or blow your budget (or detract from other important activities) by not taking the time to really get to know the people you’re considering interviewing.

Of course, you don’t want to act like a stalker, but do what you can to really get to know the candidates you’re considering bringing in for interview. Social media is still one of the best ways to do this, and for the most part, it’s open to headhunters without needing to pay to reveal more useful information – especially if you’re prepared to look on social networking sites that aren’t typically associated with professional development.

When researching candidates find out:

  • What’s their work history like? (If they’ve moved jobs often or appear to have stayed put, ask why).
  • Are those previously held roles relevant? What else could be relevant?
  • How can you best reach them?
  • Do you have any common ground to open the conversation up with?

A candidate isn’t likely to pick up their personal emails until the end of the day at best, so see if you can find them on a social network instead: contacting them on the social network they’ve recently been active on will stop another headhunter beating you to it.

Know your decision-maker

Headhunters in small businesses are keenly aware of the fact that no matter how great a candidate is, it won’t count for much if you don’t know what your manager or key decision-makers are looking for.

So unless you get to make the hiring decision on your own, the chances are that one of your colleagues is going to want to have a say in the recruitment process. Work collaboratively with other team members to find out precisely what they do (and don’t) want, and find out what their pain points are.

Also, take the time to review your company culture so that you’re prioritizing a ‘good fit’ as much as evaluating someone’s professional skill set. It doesn’t cost a dime to go the extra mile in this way, and it’s something that will ensure you’re on the right track as a headhunter.

Use tools effectively

Spreadsheets are great for some things, but they’re next to useless when it comes to headhunting. Don’t get bogged down with this kind of old fashioned technology – especially if it lulls you into the sense of doing something without actually moving the needle. Instead, use tools like the kind we provide to keep tabs on the candidates you’re considering and contacting, aggregating and segmenting the data in as few steps as possible. This is essential, as admin for the sake of admin is a total waste of your time… not something you can afford to do as a headhunter in a small business.

Work as a team

Even if your team is only two people strong, why work separately? Divide and conquer: split your work into phases and move the process along together. For example, one of you could keep running searches while the other is completing profiles, before swapping over to make sure you have as much information as possible. Headhunters in small businesses need to be working closely and collaboratively at all times – you’ll benefit from the extra pair of eyeballs, the extra pair of hands and the extra brain to think of things you won’t consider alone.

Don’t make mistakes

Ok, we all make mistakes… but unlike bigger businesses, when you recruit as a small businesses and startups really can’t afford to make too many of them. This means avoiding:

Spamming candidates – generic emails are a cardinal sin in the recruitment world. A personal touch goes a long way, so don’t hit send until you’re a pro at emails .

Operating with too narrow a vision – LinkedIn can be great, but don’t get hung up thinking you’re going to find the perfect person there. The best headhunters can see the bigger picture, so diversify and look in the places other headhunters won’t look. This means getting offline occasionally and attending events, and not just work events… sport events, seasonal events or anything that’s likely to attract the kind of candidate you’re looking for could be well worth attending.

Prioritizing processes over people: bigger organizations often fall into the trap of following strict processes, which is where headhunters in small businesses can steal the lead: you’re a human connecting with other humans, and sometimes that’s going to mean abandoning a process in favor of being creative and innovative.

Know how to sell

Unless you’re making recruitment decisions alone, headhunting is only half the battle: you then need to successfully ‘sell in’ your chosen candidate as an excellent fit for a position. This means being able to convince the final decision-maker, which requires finding out what’s important to them. Get to know them, dig deeper into what they want, and see what their behavior has been in the past.

And, you need to sell your chosen candidate(s) on the available position, too. It doesn’t matter how great a match the candidate is if they’re not willing to consider a new role, so learn how to ask meaningful questions and really listen, find out what a candidate values, and establish what they might want their future to look like. Making a human connection like this doesn’t depend on extensive experience, big budgets or fancy tools – it’s totally down to you.

Key takeaways

As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can work around headhunting for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Here are some key things to takeaway to make your recruitment efforts more successful:

  • Get to know your candidates thoroughly, and don’t bank on being able to contact them via email.
  • Figure out what makes the final decision-maker tick; what do they say they want, and what can you establish from reading between the lines?
  • Use good talent sourcing and candidate relationship management tools: don’t depend on outdated technology such as spreadsheets.
  • No matter how small your team is, work as one.
  • Beware common mistakes: headhunters in small business can’t afford to make them.
  • Learn how to sell a role or a candidate – great headhunting is only half the work.