The unemployment rate in the United States reached 4.3% in the last unemployment report. It is the lowest it’s been in 16 years. For small businesses, hiring people with the necessary experience has only gotten more challenging. Although many businesses don’t want to pay headhunter fees, they start to feel like they need to if they want to have any chance of competing with the bigger companies.

I know this, because I own a building products recruiting firm and in the last few months I’ve had multiple small business owners reach out to me about using our services to find sales representatives. In each of these initial conversations it was very clear that the owner was reaching out to us because they felt like they didn’t have any other options if they wanted to find people with the experience they needed. They were willing to pay what felt like an exorbitant fee, because they didn’t know what else to do.

As a result of these conversations, I wanted to share with you five steps you can (and should) take to position your business for recruiting success now and into the future.

Identify someone on your team to function as your recruiter for four hours a week. They should be outgoing, tech-savvy, and able to create rapport with people easily. They may not be your HR person. I’d suggest looking in your marketing, inside sales, customer service, and support roles for the right person. The individual has to be excited about your organization and interested in learning more about recruiting. So, they need to want this opportunity, not just be assigned it.

Give them some time to educate themselves by reading blogs, attending conferences, and learning what is happening in the world of sourcing and recruiting. When you’re researching resources, I encourage you to check out my blog at and my book Hire Power.

Once they’ve educated themselves, let them test out some of their ideas and knowledge. Recruiting is like marketing. It’s hard to know what is going to work until you test it and track your results. You need to empower them to try things out, knowing that some of them won’t work. They need to know they can be innovative without fear of failure.

You can do a lot of sourcing and recruiting for fairly low cost, but the reality is to compete with the big guys you will need to create a budget for them to use on developing your employer brand, using job boards, and resume database access.

If they are doing this task outside of their normal job duties, but for the same pay, you need to figure out a way to reward them for each successful hire. Have an employee referral program? Give them the “reward” for any new hires that come through their efforts. Maybe it’s $500 a hire. The cold hard reality is recruiting is hard. Sometimes hiring managers are way too picky for the reality of the market. Sometimes candidates get cold feet at the last minute. It is easy to get frustrated, so give them a reason to get excited and keep working.