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It’s become a common complaint: Small business hiring is difficult due to a lack of good and readily available talent.

At the heart of this issue is the fact that small business owners are usually at a handicap compared to bigger employers when it comes to good sources of applicants.

However, if you make smart use of LinkedIn, one of the best sources of applicants opens up to you, and you can do a lot to level the playing field with your bigger competitors.

The reach of small business recruiting grows exponentially when you start to leverage Linkedin’s networking, messaging, and search tools.

Let’s start with the basics and then get more specific.

Network enables small business recruiting

Successful small business hiring through LinkedIn starts with you and your company’s presence on the social media site itself. If you are the sole employee of your business, you may do fine growing your network through your professional connections.

However, if your business is somewhat bigger, you absolutely must establish a LinkedIn profile for your business as well.

(I would do a business profile in either case, but I understand how some small businesses would prefer not to be burdened with managing two profiles.)

In any case, the standard free LinkedIn profile will not suffice if you are at all serious about building your network and making good use of the tools that LinkedIn provides. For example, messaging is severely limited if you merely have a free profile.

Also — and this is very important for small business recruiting — you have far more search filters available with a premium (paid) account.

Check out LinkedIn’s website for a rundown of their recruiting features.

Create a great profile

Write and construct your LinkedIn profile like a company brochure. Don’t think of it as an online resume. You aren’t looking for a job; you’re creating a profile that will convince others to look at your business for a job or to do business with.

Put together your LinkedIn profile understanding beforehand what you want to achieve with it.

Once established on LinkedIn, your next big project should be to grow your network. There are two major steps here:

  • Connecting with all your current industry contacts, and
  • Joining groups — and being active — where your small business recruits will be, as well as your prospects.

LinkedIn has built-in tools to use your address books to find contacts and it will also suggest people you may know.

Tip: When making a request to connect with another LinkedIn member, personalize the message. That helps get your relationship established on the best footing.

Once your network has grown, then you can leverage it via the LinkedIn messaging service to let people know about openings you have. Just as important is understanding that a strong LinkedIn profile will help give your small business the kind of reputation it needs to draw in the talent you’ll want on your team.

Finally, with a good network in place, you can ask others for recommendations when you have an opening you need to fill.

The simplest way to use LinkedIn as a small business recruiting tool is to post a job. The prices vary by geographic location and the postings are active for 30 days.

However, there is a separate premium LinkedIn feature called Recruiter Lite. This level of LinkedIn membership probably suits professional recruiters better than other business people, but if you’re in a small business hiring situation that requires finding exceptional talent, it might be worth taking out a one-month membership.

After all, if you hire a head hunter, that comes with a price tag as well.

Using LinkedIn to screen applicants

So far we’ve just talked about ways to find the right people on LinkedIn. You can also use it to screen your applicants. When another member of LinkedIn expresses interest in one of your job openings, you can immediately see if you have any shared contacts.

If you do, and it is someone you know fairly well, you can ask this person about your applicant. Further, because LinkedIn profiles are public, you can ask people who know your applicant if the applicant’s profile accurately reflects the person’s accomplishments and skills.

Better small business recruiting with LinkedIn

It may seem like the steps I’ve outlined here are time-consuming, but many of them are one-time efforts. And once you become active on LinkedIn, I think you’ll find that it can serve you well even beyond what it offers in the way of small business hiring help.

Visit Constant Contact’s LinkedIn 101 Page for more resources to get you started.