How to Network with the Intent of Hiring for Your Small Business Since the pandemic, most businesses have experienced the challenges of finding a great new hire. Even with jobs that require relatively modest background experience, it’s hard to find someone who will be reliable, effective, and willing to do the job. The more specialized the position you are trying to fill is, the harder it will be to find a great fit. You can correct this problem to an extent by knowing where to look. Networking is a great way to find good candidates, but only if you know how to use it to your advantage. In this article, we take a look at how to network with the intent of hiring for your small business. What Do We Mean By Network? Networking isn’t about striking up a conversation at a cocktail party and bolding proclaiming “You’re hired!” at the end of the night. It’s more about understanding the niche your business operates in, and being able to find and identify people who are a good fit for it. Running a small business is challenging, both logistically and psychologically. Hiring comes with pressure, but knowing how to do it well can be life-changing. Good networking can be an invaluable resource for finding people who will make outstanding contributions to your business down the line. Social Media Is Your Friend Social media is where businesses go to tell the world who they are. Certainly, it is used for marketing but it is also used for branding, a subtly distinct category in its own right. Branding can be a form of marketing, but the sole point isn’t to sell a product or service, it’s to tell the world what your business is about. This is something that modern job seekers take very seriously, but it’s also something you should look to as a good way to find like-minded individuals. Use your social media accounts as a way to establish your company values and culture. If you can paint a vivid and enticing picture of what it feels like to work at your company, it will naturally attract people with the same values. Use Your Employees’ Networks Your employees can potentially serve as a rich source of finding new workers. Granted, this is something of an imprecise science, but here’s the thinking: people tend to build their social networks with others who fit their goals, and educational backgrounds. It follows, then, that your chances of picking up a great new hire by talking to your current star employees are pretty good. Here’s the caveat: you do need to tread carefully. If Mary, your star sales team member, recommends her sister, Sarah, things might become a little uncomfortable if the hire doesn’t wind up working out. Nevertheless, if you can strike a careful balance and approach the topic gingerly, it is very possible to find great new hires simply by talking with your existing staff members. Job Fairs Job fairs are a little antiquated in the world of the internet, but they still serve their purpose. Consider finding out if any nearby universities will be having a career day in the near future. This isn’t necessarily the best way to fill a position in a hurry — the people you meet there will probably still have months left to go before they even get their degree. However, career days are good for building a deep roster of contacts for potential hires down the line. Keep in mind that recent college graduates can be ideal hires under the right circumstances. They tend to be (relatively) affordable, and because most are young, the potential for a long-term arrangement is there. Be sure to go in with a strong idea of what kind of candidates you are looking for. You’ll of course learn about the candidate’s educational backgrounds, but this is also a good chance to evaluate their soft skills. What sort of impression does this person make in two minutes or so? When it comes to making a new hire, that’s invaluable intel. Pay Attention to Your Competitors You may not consider it from an ethical standpoint, but your competitors are also interconnected to your network. That’s to say that they exist on the same spectrum as you and your business. Naturally, their staff will (at least theoretically) share many of the qualities that you are looking for in a new hire. This makes your competitor’s rosters a very fertile place for finding new talent. In fact, “talent poaching” is a very common component of big business, particularly in industries where the talent pool might be relatively small and specialized. With only a handful of candidates out there who can do a job well, businesses need to get creative about how they bring in the right people. Granted, there are challenges that come with trying to hire from your competitor’s staff. You need to make a great offer. They are presumably already happy where they are. Your offer will need to be enticing enough to get them to change jobs. That will usually mean putting together a better-than-average compensation package. Additionally, it helps to have other enticing aspects about your business, such as suitable work-life balance and modern DEI initiatives.You’ll need to be on guard. Now that you’ve initiated the talent poaching cycle, you’ll be subject to it yourself. Be on the lookout for situations where competitors will try to draw your team members away. Contract liability. Finally, there is the issue of contract liability. It’s possible that changing lanes to go to work for a competitor would violate your new employee’s contract. In that case, legal action may follow. Usually, these issues are resolved with an out-of-court settlement. Hiring directly from your competitor’s roster is a power move, but it can pay off in the long run. Not only does it improve your business’s strength but it diminishes that of your competition, making it dually effective.