Congratulations, entrepreneur and budding business owner! You’ve reached the point where your hard work, sacrifice, and courage is paying off.  You’ve gained the financial means — whether through external funding, bootstrapping, or revenue growth — to add people to your team and finally reduce the number of hats you’re wearing so you can focus on growing your business.

But not so fast. You’ve got just one more hat to put on before you can move forward — that of “recruiter.” How do you go about getting the right people on board and on the cheap (you are a startup, after all)?

I’m the owner of a recruiting startup, and my colleagues will often say to me, “Mark, I need talent, but I just can’t afford to pay your recruiting fees. What tips do you have for finding the right people?”

Here are the five tips I share to help entrepreneurs find the right first employees for their startups:

1. Ask Yourself: ‘Do I Really Need to Hire Someone Full-Time?’

Hiring someone can be expensive, risky, and a liability. Be honest with yourself and think long and hard about whether or not you can justify the need right now. Perhaps a part-time contractor will do for the time being, or even a virtual assistant who can take some of your administrative workload off your plate.

2. Tap Your Network Until It’s Tapped Out

While it may seem obvious to reach out to your immediate network, I’d encourage you to take it a step further by asking your contacts for referrals. Chances are those first-degree connections on LinkedIn know people who are looking for work and whom they’d recommend.

Pro tip: Don’t simply ask, “Do you know anyone?” That sets the other person up for an easy, “No.” Instead, ask, “I have a need for XYZ position. Whom do you recommend I speak with that I can network with?”

3. Post and Pray!

birds“Post and pray” is a recruiting term that means the employer is passively recruiting for an employee; however, it only results in success about 20 percent of the time.

There’s minimal cost involved for this method, and you just might get lucky. For free, or a minimal fee, you can post job openings on Craigslist, Twitter, Reddit, Indeed, LinkedIn, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, and more. It may not be a perfect method, but it can certainly help — especially when you’re a time- and cash-strapped entrepreneur.

4. Source From Linkedin

Many a blog post is dedicated to recruiters’ love/hate relationships with LinkedIn. There’s no time for me to chime in on that here! My tip? Upgrade your account to give yourself easy access to second- and third-degree connections as well as better access to InMails. It’s the best $100 per month you’ll spend if you’re trying to recruit relevant talent.

5. Be the (Head)Hunter

Not hearing back from an InMail? You’re an entrepreneur. You’re naturally persistent, right? Don’t stop at just sending an impersonal email message. You’ll want to take additional actions to truly be noticed (the whole squeaky wheel analogy).

How? Pick up the phone! Using your candidate’s name and company name, find the company’s main line. Call either early in the morning or after hours to avoid gatekeepers and perhaps reach your candidate when they’re free to talk. Intros to those types of conversations go like this, “Hi John, my name is so-and-so. I realize I called you at work, but I was hoping to set up a time when you can speak freely. I have an opportunity that I’d like to run by you. Can I call you over lunch or on your way home?”

These tips for recruiting may be free from me, but they will cost you your most precious resource — your time. Recruiting is a time-intensive task, so be prepared to take the time to source, screen, and interview candidates for your early hires. Once your business is booming, it may be worth the 20-25 percent fee of your candidate’s first-year salary to outsource the work and focus on your startup.

What questions do you have about hiring your first employees? Feel free to post them in the comments or send them to me at @MarkJBat on Twitter. I look forward to continuing the conversation!

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