The way people hunt for jobs has radically changed. Gone are the days of printing out dozens of resumes and sitting at the kitchen table with envelopes, stamps and a list of prospects. When e-mail gained widespread adoption, the job search shifted to e-mailing those same letters and resumes to potential employers or in response to posted job ads. But even that practice is losing its effectiveness, as the job market remains volatile and the competition for each open position stiffens.
Reports from early August show that small-business hiring has slowed to its lowest point in seven months, but the small-business sector is still doing more hiring than large corporations. Amid a struggling U.S. economy, small businesses have been one bright spot of hope thanks to continued job and revenue growth. Here's a look at how today's small businesses are–and aren't–finding their most qualified employees.
Needle, Meet Haystack
Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com were the prime venues for finding open jobs at one time. But those sites became flooded with hundreds of applicants applying for the same positions. So much so, that small-business owners have mostly opted out of using these services to find candidates.
"The influx of applications in response to a hiring manager's job post puts the onus on the potential employer to sort through hundreds of resumes to try to pinpoint the best candidates for the position," says Suki Shah, CEO and co-founder at GetHired.com, a hiring platform geared specifically to meeting the needs of small-business owners. "The onus needs to be on the job seeker to differentiate themselves for employers in some meaningful way."
Social Networking: A Mixed Bag
Melissa Anzman, career coach and author of Stop Hating Your Job, says, "Today’s best talent is coming more from LinkedIn and local networking, than any of the big employment sites. With the cost being so high to post on sites such as CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com, coupled with the down-sliding reputations of those sites, being able to pick up talent from a more specialized search has resulted in better quality candidates and less resume match hunting."
Still, not all small business owners are embracing social media as a primary means to source talent. Joel Gross, founder and CEO of Coalition Technologies, a Los Angeles– and Seattle-based Web design, development and online marketing firm, says he's found a few qualified candidates through LinkedIn, but he's not certain that social recruiting is a trend that will stick around over the long term. "A solid e-mail or letter of interest with a good resume is all I need to offer that first interview. I don't think I will ever need social media to find and recruit great employees, but it can certainly complement the process," Gross says.
It certainly can't hurt job seekers to showcase their talents on the popular social channels. Websites like YouTube can be a good place to discover candidates with presentation expertise in your industry, Shah points out, and Pinterest offers a unique platform for highlighting graphic skills and other visual talents. In addition, a search of sites like SlideShare.net and DocStoc.com can uncover hidden talent with a knack for creating impressive presentation materials or with specific industry experience.
Friend of a Friend
Small-business owners are typically willing to take recommendations from their current employees to fill open positions. But this practice can be awkward if the hire doesn't work out. "Personal recommendations from current employees can be tricky, and is a good starting point for hiring on new talent, but should not be the only touchpoint in the process. Personal recommendations are usually coupled with Employee Referral Programs and most are friends, who perform differently in a work environment," Anzman says.
On the other hand, Aaron McManus, an HR consultant and recruiter at HR at Work, LLC., makes the case for personal referrals. "Personal recommendations from current employees are always the most desirable. Current employees are often the best at assessing a candidate's cultural fit, and they usually won't make a recommendation without having strong reasons for backing a candidate," McManus says.
Small-business owners should choose wisely when accepting personal recommendations from current employees, and ask employees to back up their referrals by making a convincing case that this is the right candidate for the job and the company as a whole.
"Today's best talent uses multiple platforms to access information and communicate on a constant basis, and the job hunt is no different," says McManus. Small-business owners are using a combination of personal recommendations, social media talent sourcing and specialized job boards to find the top talent in today's competitive market. Because the job search has changed so drastically over the past few years, it's now possible for employers to seek information on a single candidate from multiple sources.
Angela Stringfellow is a PR and MarComm Consultant and Social Media Strategist offering full-circle marketing solutions to businesses. Angela blogs via Contently.com.