In a nutshell: Reach out, trust your current employees and seek out partners if you’re trying to recruit for your small business. 

You need employees – qualified workers – to operate your business and continue to grow. But, 88 percent of small business owners who were hiring say there are few or no qualified applicants for the positions they are trying to fill, according to the National Federation of Independent Business’ “August 2017 Report: Small.”

It’s possible you don’t have a talent acquisition department – and you may even be trying to do all the hiring yourself. Here are some tips to reach the right audience and secure top talent.

Cast a wide net

You never know where your next star employee with come from. And, because of that, you need to shout from the mountaintops that you’re hiring. Let your professional contacts on social media networks (like LinkedIn or Twitter) and those in your industry trade groups or associations know what types of positions you’re hiring for.

But don’t forget about your friends, relatives and neighbors (and, this category includes your personal social media accounts, like Facebook and Instagram). While these direct contacts may not be your target audience, they may know someone who could be the perfect fit. According to Recruiterbox’s “How to Use Social Media to Recruit and Hire,” unless you’re promoting job openings via paid campaigns, recruiting by leveraging your social media networks will save you money.

Ask employees for referrals

Not only are employee referrals a cost-effective way to hire, but they are typically one of the most effective ways to hire. If you have employees you deem reliable, motivated and honest, chances are their friends share similar values. The first step is to let your employees know which positions you’re trying to fill, then have a strong employee referral program that will encourage your employees’ recommendations. Offer a bonus or other rewards for employees who refer someone you end up hiring. (While some organizations don’t pay up until after probationary periods have passed, this may be considered Your employees shouldn’t be accountable for fully vetting candidates, just referring them; you need to be confident in your own hiring decisions.)

Make it easy for employees to refer their friends to your firm. Just ask for a name and contact information, then take it from there, according to LinkedIn’s “6-Step Guide to Building the Perfect Employee Referral Program.” Be sure to make personal outreach in a timely manner to these candidates and deliver a first-class candidate experience.

Even if you don’t hire the employee referrals, they might be able to refer others who are more qualified or a better fit for the job, provided you’ve left a favorable impression. Consider accepting referrals even when you’re not actively hiring, as this will create a referral-friendly culture.

Partner with local educational institutions

Whether you’re looking for someone with business acumen or technical aptitude, there’s a school for that. And these educational institutions are probably looking for local business partners just as hard as you’re seeking qualified employees. Because many colleges, universities, trade schools and technical programs show their value to prospective students by publishing the percentage who get a job in the field, they’re always looking for business partners to refer recent graduates. Start by reaching out to the career services departments of local institutions. They should be able to direct you to department heads or career-oriented associations for additional contacts.

While an internship program may seem like it will take a lot of maintenance, start small by hiring just one or two students for a term to determine if it’s  a worthwhile endeavor.

And think beyond college. According to the Chicago Tribune’s “Employers Hire High School Students to Build Talent Pipeline,” high schoolers want in on the action. Getting younger cohorts may not only gain your company long-term exposure and short-term help, it helps  students transfer classroom knowledge to the real world.

A big HR budget does not necessarily translate to recruiting high-quality employees. Being proactive about putting your employment brand out there and reaching out may deliver the top-notch employees you seek.

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