How to Hire the Best (for the least expense)

How to Hire the Best (for the least expense)

I wrote last month on Tips and Resources to Hire the Best.

You’ll hire the best only when you recruit the best.

As some readers suggested, and as Coppola did with Godfather II, I’m going to go back to the beginning, the start of the hiring process. And that’s recruiting.

These are the steps and resources I’ve found to Recruit the Best Talent … with the least expense required of your time or money. That’s important to include both: your time and your money.


STEP 1: Clear, Precise, Thorough Job Description.

Make absolutely sure this is your first step. Appropriate levels of detail vary for each job. Include the need that’s solved with this person’s hire. It’s impossible to measure their success, and yours for their hire, without it. Include their incentives. Do not proceed to go before this is completed.

Your goal is clear now. The next step is made easier.

– STEP 2: Clear, Precise, Job Qualifications.

The details make the difference here, too. Your work environment, the setting, their workspace, personality of their colleagues … all must be included along with specific task-related skills necessary to perform the tasks of the job. You’ll hire the person that fits your needs, stated or not. The purpose here is to state them clearly, for everyone’s acceptance.

– STEP 3: TOE the line.

  • Transparent. You’ll be rewarded with greater engagement, participation, input and…forgiveness as you make this recruiting process transparent for all. Tell everyone, tell them repeatedly and put it in writing. And demand the same of everyone else. Small companies usually are at an advantage here. But this is a double-edged sword.
  • Openness. Keep all parties informed, all to all, on the progress of each step in this recruiting process. It’s time-consuming if your time horizon is very short. Otherwise, it’s obvious this is an investment whose immediate return comes in the form of …
  • Engagement. The holy grail of small business success. Recruiting and hiring is a perfect opportunity to create another layer of engagement with the current members, with the future member.

Everyone now knows when and what you want to hire. And why.

And they know they’re engaged in the process.

Who and Where are the next questions. Who has the qualifications? Where do you find them?



STEP 1: Look Within.

The first place, usually the best place, for all your company’s solutions rests internally. That’s everyone in your company: your employees, your colleagues. It’s their evangelism that’s brought your team together. Their evangelism brings your customers to you. Look to them. They know best how to solve your company’s needs. They’ll know best who will work best.

Note: Some company circumstances allow customers and partners/vendors to be included at this stage. I’d label that step 1A. Do it only A. if your relationships make it possible; B. after you’ve asked, transparently, your closest confidantes: your employees.

STEP 2: Evaluate Within.

Vet the potential candidates internally before contacting any directly. This is most important in any small, close-knit community, whether it’s geographical or professional. This step will save time, money and embarrassment for all involved.

– STEP 3: Create a single point of contact.

Identify one person to contact any potential candidates after being vetted internally first. This respects the confidentiality of the candidates, avoids conflicting messages and saves everyone time. Let this person manage the interactions (interview follow-up, additional interviews) with the candidates. It can be the hiring manager. You can also use this process to test the capabilities of a promising member of your company.


You’ve been unable to hire your desired candidate. Maybe, you’ve even interviewed one or two with no success. But any possible candidates for further review have been eliminated.

Now, what? What are your options?

– Ads? Be prepared for an onslaught of unqualified emails, resumes and phone calls.

If you must use an ad, I’d encourage you to keep the name of your company confidential. Competitors don’t need to know. Idle and incorrect gossip is kept to a minimum.

– Recruiters?

Be careful. And I say that having been a recruiter for corporate bankers back in the day. A top-notch, professional, recruiter with high levels of integrity can bring added-value to your company with each search they handle. They can find better candidates, they can do a better job of screening candidates, they can focus your time on meeting only the best of the candidate pool.

Unfortunately, it’s a minority of recruiters who fit this bill. No offense. But the potential for conflicts of interest, the lack of any enforced standards, the lack of loyalty … all increase the risk of an expensive and unproductive experience.

IF… you choose a recruiter, make sure it comes recommended from a trusted source. And, follow these recommendations:

  • Verify their universe of candidates? What companies, competitors, do they have an existing relationship? This is the list from which they cannot recruit candidates for your job. The bigger the list, the smaller pool of candidates to draw from.
  • Testimonials. Do NOT move forward without 5-10-15 wonderful testimonials.
  • Expenses. Don’t pay them … unless it’s a very high-level position that requires a high-level of personal, confidential handling and it’s a limited universe of candidates.
  • Maximum fee. Most recruiters are compensated based on a percentage of the salary of the candidate you hire from their recommendation. That incentivizes them to encourage you to pay more. Fix a maximum fee, regardless of the candidate’s eventual salary.
  • Timelines and deadlines. Get them in writing. Hold them accountable with penalties for non-performance.

– Two potential resources.

I’ve used neither. But if I’ve told you to NOT use a recruiter … and you’re out of candidates … I should offer a solution.


I chose this company in recent weeks as my Small Business Resource of the Week. I’ve met the CEO, Chuck Smith. He came recommended by Steve MacGill, CEO and founder of Peersight Online. The testimonials for New-Hire were plentiful and their responses were near immediate and universally enthusiastic. I had created a partnership with them while CEO at another company.

Their key is that not only will they work with you to craft the text of your and work to place your ads for maximum responses, but they have an online application that lets you create a screening questionnaire and filter the candidates based on their answers. This let spend time only with those candidates you want to meet.

Chuck has had many years in the recruiting and hiring business. And if you really, really want a recruiter they offer that service also.

Hire Insight.

If I didn’t know New-Hire, I’d talk with Chad Hayward at Hire Insight. We’ve exchanged emails. I like his approach:

In terms of fishing or farming, the key is treating the process like a marketing activity. Basically, this means developing an employer brand and designing appealing materials, such as postings, around that brand (i.e., “why would someone want to work for you?”). Of course, then there is the need to find the right places to market that job (generic job boards are not the only option, and is often not best); maybe we could offer suggestions on where readers could post vacancies.

In summary, I hope some of this helps clarify some steps to take to insure you recruit the Best Talent for the least expense.

The Best …for the Least. (It should be every small company’s motto in every thing they, we, do. It’s an easy way to (a)  be a stand-out; (b) keep the cash-flows positive.)

Image: Shutterstock


Zane Safrit Zane Safrit's My passion is small business and the operations' excellence required to deliver a product that creates word-of-mouth, customer referrals and instills pride in those whose passion created it. Zane's blog is Zane Safrit.

9 Reactions
  1. HI Zane, my brain definitely wants to agree with your first step (clear and precise job description).

    But interestingly, I have found when an organization is small but growing fast, the job duties keep morphing. It’s that way here at Small Business Trends.

    What that means is, just when I think a job is well defined, the business shifts direction a little or you have to adjust for the competition or the market.

    Plus, when an organization is very small, there’s a tendency to define roles around the skills people bring to the table, If they happen to be great at certain things, there’s a tendency to adapt the job to suit the person. What do you think of that tendency? Good? Bad?

    — Anita

  2. Chaitanya Sagar

    Zane, Anita,

    Small businesses have so much work, usually in small work load, that it makes more sense to hire just plain vanilla ‘smart’ people instead of those who fit just one role. e.g. You would want to hire not just an ‘interview scheduler’ but also someone who can do other HR work. Small businesses should place less reliance on ‘prior’ work experience and should focus on ‘learnability’ ( and ‘adaptability’ so the employee can quickly react to the changing requirement.

    I would really like to know how to recruit a ‘senior’/top management person into my organization. Usually, senior management guys are usually ‘settled’ in life. Why should they take the risk of joining you? What should you sell them? Yourself? Your company? Their freedom if they join you? Success?

    On Anita’s point about creating roles for a skill set, that invariably happens – not just in small companies but even in large companies. If there’s need for the skill, or the person, may be it is worth doing it. But typically, role creation happens because the entrepreneur does not want to ‘lose’ the person. I don’t necessarily think such hiring is good. We should always base our hiring on the need for that role now or in near future.

  3. Martin Lindeskog

    I think it will start to develop open career networks in the future. I have seen a new player in Sweden called MyNetwork that is trying to create a career site in a different way, compared with the traditional sources, e.g. Manpower, Adecco, et al.

    Zane Safrit: Have you heard about that you could hire your own employer? It is an organization that takes care of all paperwork, paying the taxes and so on and then you get paid after their cut. Here is one example:

  4. Learnabilty and adapability. . . very good point Chaitanya and one that I think particularly would apply to small businesses. A nice, clear job description helps not only the employer but the employee as well as a tool to understand exactly what is expected of them. You’ve provided a really nice timeline of steps to follow when it comes to locating talent that’s a fit for you and your business.

  5. I do think an employee needs to know what will be expected of them on a daily basis. It helps to keep them focused and productive. Flexibility would be an added bonus. Hiring someone who is flexible enough to do various duties will only make an office run more efficient.

  6. ” STEP 1: Clear, Precise, Thorough Job Description”

    Wow, very true …..
    I am still amazed to read job offers that are not clear and precise.

    And employers (banks, hedge funds) pay a fortune to place ads !

  7. This approach is generally right, but the managers tend to search for the best coming candidate. Accidentally.
    The HRM has to be strong enough to press the manager to prepare a clear job profile.

  8. Anita,

    You’re right. Startups and very small companies (under 10?) have many hats to wear and few people to wear them. And who wears which ones and when, for how long, is as you describe. Morphing, changing, evolving (hopefully…) with the people and their skills. It’s one of the great advantages of a small business.

    Having said that, you remind me I overlooked that very important point. And it’s a point that deserves more attention.

    It’s possible we may be getting into gray areas poorly served with text only, one-way communications, in comments. But I’m thinking, with your help, …the term ‘job description’ may be a misleading term for these companies. As you describe, most if not all the jobs at this have not been ‘described’ in real life, for what they do. The Big Bang occurred when the company started. And the heat from the explosion hasn’t cooled into defined planets or jobs and departments or solar systems. (You weren’t expecting that metaphor!)

    Still, some description needs to be articulated for the needs at that point. It may focus more on intrinsic, personal virtues (flexibility, generalist, many good skills minimal expertise in any one, energy, enthusiasm, etc) than on specific/narrow expertise.

    I think, maybe stubbornly, that it leans towards a content issue. Can the small biz articulate their needs clearly knowing, the position isn’t formalized but the needs are, and this new position/person will have a huge impact on the company. And that makes it even more vital the existing members be very clear on their needs, even if the needs are more personal than professional, more generalist than specific. It makes the step even more important and more challenging and the right person more difficult to find.

  9. Great discussion. Before I read the comments Point #1 also struck me as one of the most valuable and often overlooked, however, after reading the comments I think there are a couple ways to go:

    1. In the larger organizations – not clearly defining the roles can lead to misconceptions and as Paula says – people like to know what is expected of them. However, a job too well defined can foster the “that’s not in my job description” mentality. Ick.

    2. In smaller/start up organizations the roles will ebb and flow as many others have commented and looking for skillsets would be important, however, I would also add that perhaps along with defining the roles you might also want to define the EXPECTATONS. So if a role is expected to grow sales or increase awareness/brand or build a cohesive team – perhaps the actual steps to get there aren’t as important as achieving the end result.

    Another important aspect to define is the corporate culture. You need to add new team members that fit the culture. If they will be expected to be big picture thinkers in a company that provides little or no feedback – will that be a good fit? Or is it a company that is run by a detail oriented, in the weeds, CEO that needs their stamp on every little movement – these are also important components to be honest about before adding to the team. All cultures are good cultures so long as the new members understand the environment into which they’ll be living.

    Agree? Disagree?