Don’t Make That Same Big Hiring Mistake Again

To find a great new employee, use all the tools available to you, from low-tech to the latest digital developments.

Don’t Make That Same Big Hiring Mistake Again

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I found my first job like this: I was a teenager, and my dad thought I needed a summer job. He talked to his cousin, who was a golfer and spent a fair amount of money at the local course. This cousin talked to the golf course owner and secured jobs for myself and the cousin’s daughter, too. I stayed the summer and came back for two more. The other hire lasted less than a month, but a 50 percent retention is pretty good for a boss who just waits for help to walk through the door.

I tell that story because I suspect this method of hiring is not uncommon, especially in small businesses in small towns. If you tend to operate like this — hiring the first semi-interested person who walks through the door — your retention rate is probably not much higher than 50 percent, either.

If you’re a small operation, you wear many hats, and company recruiter might not be your first priority — or even in the top 10. Filling a sudden opening with the first breathing applicant is tempting. That might have sufficed back when the only way to look for employees was a sign in the window or a paid ad in the local newspaper. Today, however, there are many effective, low-cost ways to find the best person for the job. And most of these hiring tools require only slightly more effort than waiting for a customer to send his cousin’s kid over.


Craigslist is cheap and local. Plus, most job seekers can — and do — use it. It’s easy to post on Craigslist, too. Just go to and choose a city from the drop-down menu on the right. Click “go,” and then click “post to classifieds” in the top left corner, and follow the directions from there.

While simple to do, posting a job on Craigslist can get messy because it often results in numerous spam emails, unqualified applicants, and pitches from recruiters wanting to sell you their services. Minimize the negatives by taking these steps:

  1. Be sure to click “use Craigslist mail relay” before posting your ad. This guarantees that people who see the ad will not see your actual email address, but rather a generic address.
  2. Clearly state the name and location of your business (a blind ad will just bring an avalanche of unqualified applicants) and provide a detailed, honest job description. Include hours, responsibilities, pay range and physical requirements (how much a person needs to be able to lift, etc.). This should help weed out responses that will waste your time.
  3. Take steps to filter out junk responses. Without a filtering system, you could receive hundreds of responses in the first 24 hours after an ad is posted and miss the qualified candidates whose responses are buried among them. To avoid this, use your Gmail account or set one up just for this (Gmail is Google’s email program, and it’s free). When you set up Craigslist relay, link it to this email account. Then, in your job description, explain that you will only consider email responses with a specific subject line you create like, “I want to sell guns,” “Hire me today,” or whatever you choose. This will filter out people who can’t follow instructions or didn’t care enough to actually read the ad thoroughly, as well as recruiter robots that almost always just click “respond.” Next, set up Gmail filters so responses with the proper subject line are put into a separate inbox folder called “Job Applicants” or something similar.
  4. In addition to following your specific subject line directions, ask applicants to provide other information, like a paragraph on why they want to work for you and what relevant experience they have. Depending on the position, you might ask them to attach a resume. This probably isn’t necessary for an entry-level, hourly job, however. Also, ask the applicant how they would prefer to be contacted: by email, text or phone. And, of course, request that address and/or number.

Beyond Craigslist

When it comes to online resources for job seekers, there are dozens of options beyond Craigslist. Two of the biggest are Indeed and Monster. Posting a job on Indeed is free unless you select the pay-per-click option, which means every time someone clicks on your ad, you pay a few cents. There are different levels, and the more you pay per click, the more your ad will be seen. It’s like paying to go to the head of the line. With the pay-per-click option, your ad is also posted on thousands of Indeed partner sites. This is probably overkill if you’ve only got one job opening and will draw mostly from a local pool of workers.

Monster is another large, well-known online employment site. It, too, is free for a basic post, but it also has paid options like Monster Skilled & Hourly Job Ads, which is a 14-day ad that can be used to target employees with specific skills. Monster is a preferred site for posting entry-level, hourly jobs. 

If you need to do a lot of hiring on an ongoing basis, ZipRecruiter is an online job marketing service that charges a monthly fee to post job openings on more than 40 sites, including Indeed, Monster, Craigslist and more.

The big-name online job boards are effective because they are mobile-friendly. Today’s young job seekers may not read their local newspaper or have access to a desktop or laptop computer, but most have smartphones, which is where they are likely to see and respond to an ad. Keep in mind, too, that for people entering the workforce, texting may be their preferred method of communication. Don’t let an applicant’s reluctance to call you on the phone turn you off. Maybe a job they’d like to leave has them working crazy hours and the only time they have to respond to your ad is when you’re sleeping. Respect the text.

Don't Rule Out Old-Fashioned Methods

While high-tech tools make recruiting easier, you know your market and community best. If the people you are targeting are more likely to see an ad in the local free shopper than on Monster, by all means, try that route.

And don’t forget the tried-and-true method of word-of-mouth advertising. Tell customers you’re hiring. Ask current employees if they know anyone looking for a job, and maybe offer a bonus to anyone who recommends someone you end up hiring. Ask around at church or your kid’s soccer game. Don’t be afraid to ask former employees who left on good terms if they know anyone or if they’d be interested in coming back. Sometimes the grass is not greener at another company and good people are embarrassed to ask if they can return.

Also, don’t forget the resources you already use to get your company’s name out, such as the company website and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. All of your social media followers can share your post in a few clicks with anyone they know who is looking for a job. 

And when you do find and hire a great employee, ask how he or she heard about the job. This will help you target future help-wanted ads.


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