When Kelly Cutler researched job applicants for a recent opening at Marcel Media, her Chicago search engine marketing company, she didn't stick just to the information they provided. She and co-founder Ben Swartz, both 33, checked out prospects on social networking site LinkedIn. "You get recommendations from their colleagues and customers and see their entire network of people," says Cutler.
Hiring has changed from the days when resumes, interviews and reference checks were an employer's sole means of screening candidates. Technology is opening up more possibilities to compete with larger companies for the best hires, says David Nour, managing partner of Relationship Economics LLP, who coaches clients on using technology to acquire top talent. Take networking sites, for example. "Traditional resumes tell you what you want to hear," Nour says. "I'm looking for different perspectives on this person. LinkedIn shows you guilt by association." Entrepreneurs can contact the candidate's associates to learn more about the person. Other networking sites include ZoomInfo and Spoke, but that's only the start.
- Establish a Google alert for each candidate if you expect the hiring process to last several months. You'll learn when and where they are quoted in the media.
- Do your candidates blog? Find out by searching engines such as Blogsphere or Technorati. The posts can be revealing. "Are they ranting and raving," says Nour, "or can they get their opinion across?"
- Create a company blog and use it for recruiting, as Cutler plans to do. This can be effective as long as you allow employees to contribute to it independently and describe what it's really like to work at the company, Nour says. WordPress is one free tool that can get you started.
- Take advantage of video. If you're interviewing Gen Y candidates in particular, you're likely to see blogs created as resumes, including video clips and quotes from references. Take the hint and add video to your company blog to convey your workplace culture or post it on YouTube.
- Join a virtual job fair. Some chambers of commerce and other associations host these.
- Invite other entrepreneurs to join a job fair on your website. Create a URL and promote it on blogs. People will send the link to friends who are job hunting. "It can grow like wildfire," Nour says. The first page of the fair can look like a floor plan, with a box for each company. Include video clips and podcasts, and give candidates the means to submit their information.
If you're wondering why you should bother with all this, Cutler points out the appeal of a cutting-edge workplace. "What's the cost of not doing it?" Nour asks. Large companies have deeper pockets and more perks to offer. Why not showcase what makes you distinct? And these tools can reduce the risk of a bad hire. After all, says Nour, "you don't want to go in the wrong direction with gusto."