Finding good talent continues to be challenge for small business owners and it’s tough to know how to find more qualified candidates.  While posting your open positions on familiar websites can help you find candidates, often times they aren’t the candidates you are hoping to meet.  Hiring a recruiter can certainly help, but for many small business owners this can be too costly to consider.

What if you could connect with an unlimited number of candidates that fit your profile?  That sounds good, right?  And what if you could do this for free?  Even better!  If you aren’t already, it’s time to start using LinkedIn as part of your recruiting process.  Most small business owners are on LinkedIn already; and if they aren’t, they absolutely should be.  LinkedIn is a powerful professional networking site, and can be a great source of helpful information and articles.  LinkedIn also has the ability to connect you with endless candidates for your open positions.  There are paid versions of LinkedIn that can open up additional information and channels, but small businesses can launch a very effective recruiting campaign using the free version as well.  Here’s how:

  1. Create your ideal candidate profile.  You should be doing this already, but if not, you will need to figure out who your ideal candidate is.  Small businesses usually do not have the training and resources of their larger competitors.  Consider looking for candidates with a few years of experience (training!!) from your larger competitors.   Perhaps the industry training is not as important to you but the function or title within their organization might be.  You will want to know the companies and titles of the ideal candidates.
  2. Start searching.  Using LinkedIn, small business owners can simply search for company names under the “People” search.  This will pull up a list of 100 LinkedIn users that currently work for, or worked in the past for the company you searched for.  The results will start with first level connections, then second and third level connections.  You can increase the list from 100 using paid versions of LinkedIn but I don’t believe this is needed for most.
  3. Narrow your search.  To make the most of your list you will want to narrow your search using the ‘check boxes’ on the left side of the screen.  I recommend sorting by geographic location (if this is important for the role) and second level connections.  I have better luck reaching out to second level connections and the first level connections you can simply reach out to on your own.
  4. Take a deeper dive.  Once you have your list narrowed down a bit, take some time to review the profiles of your potential candidates.  You can learn a lot about a candidate; where they worked, how long they worked there, educational history, recommendations, etc.  From here you can create a smaller list that you plan to reach out to.  I recommended making this a fairly large list since you won’t hear back from most.
  5. Reach out.  This step is critical.  You will be sending an invitation to connect to your list of candidates.  DO NOT use the standard LinkedIn message “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”  You’re sending the message that you are too lazy to personalize your message.  You don’t have many characters to work with so you need to be smart about your message.  Briefly explain the position, and compensation.  Ask the candidate if they would be interested in learning more or know someone else who might be interested.
  6. Don’t take it personal.  You should not expect a tremendous response rate.  In my personal experience for every ten invitations sent I would have 3-5 accepted invitations, and 1-2 messages back.  Don’t be upset if you don’t get a great number of responses.  They key is that any response you get is from a candidate that meets your profile.  Even if no one on your list becomes an active candidate they might refer a friend or colleague.
  7. Make it a process.  I believe this the MOST IMPORTANT step.  A mentor of mine (Bob Whittemore from AOA Consulting) gave me one of the most important pieces of advice I ever received as a manager.  Recruiting is not a onetime occurrence, it is an ongoing process.  The time to start building your candidate pipeline is now, whether you have open positions or not.  Turnover happens, and happens for many different reasons, at times that aren’t predictable.  Having a pool of candidates in your pipeline is critical.  It can take a long time to recruit top talent.  Some of my best hires have come through LinkedIn and some of them took years (yes years!) to finally make the move and join my team.  These were candidates that never would have found my ad on because they weren’t actively looking for a new position.

Using LinkedIn as a recruiting tool is certainly not a silver bullet, but it can be a great, FREE, addition to your current recruiting process.

If you have questions or would like to learn more recruiting strategies for your small business please reach out to Genesis HR Solutions at or 800-367-8367.

Genesis HR Solutions is the premier PEO provider for Massachusetts based businesses.