How to Recruit for a Small Business on a Small Budget

You need employees to run your business — preferably top talent that can put you ahead of your competitors. (Not a crazy news flash, right?)

But to find those essential people, you need to recruit.

The problem?

Recruiting isn’t cheap, and that’s especially tough when you’re recruiting for a small business.

Don’t give up just yet!

There are ways to recruit like the big guys that won’t break the bank. It just requires a little planning and some creative solutions.

Another thing that doesn’t have to break the bank? Pricing those jobs you’re hiring for.

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If there’s a little bit of wiggle room in your budget for prospecting, hooray for you! The next step is to build a recruiting budget.

Here are some things to consider as you prepare to recruit for a small business.

  • Take All Potential Fees into Account

You’ll likely have to invest a little money into some tools and tactics to effectively recruit.

Some aspects — like hiring a recruiting team or purchasing HR software — are going to be more expensive than posting on social media or paying to post jobs on sites like Glassdoor.

Other ideas to consider?

Running employee referral programs (this could have some kind of incentive, which may or may not be monetary), revamping your career site, and submitting to have a booth at college job fairs.

  • Estimate an Annual Expected Number of Hires

Next, determine how many roles you need to fill. This will help you figure out what you need to spend on recruiting by breaking it down per role.

It might be helpful to estimate the number of job openings you’ll have per year, then rank the roles by importance. That ranking could help determine how many roles you’ll have to account for each quarter.

  • Track Your Spending

Once you estimate how much you’ll be paying in fees and on how many roles, go forward and spend wisely!

The best thing to do from there is to track your spending as it happens.

This will help you get a sense of where most of your budget is going and observe how close you were to your initial estimate. (Make cuts and adjustments where necessary, of course!)


On the other hand, you might not have wiggle room in your budget for recruiting.

That’s okay!

There are creative ways to pull off recruiting for a small business without dropping too much money. Here are a few of our favorite tips and tricks.

  • Referrals make the world go ‘round

The best thing you can do for your low-budget recruiting strategy is to use employee referrals.

Consider this: each person you bring onto your team brings with them a network of professional and personal connections.

And if the people you’re hiring people have the right experience or personality for the organization you’re building, then the odds are high that their network is going to be equally well-suited for your company.

If you’re saying to yourself, “But I can’t afford to offer monetary compensation for these great referrals,” don’t panic.

One of the great gifts of running a small business is the opportunity to build honest, more personal relationships with your employees. If you want to utilize their networks to hire, just be upfront with them about the fact that there can’t be a bonus at this time.

You may be pleasantly surprised — oftentimes, employees at smaller companies are just eager to play a role in how the staff grows and how company culture is shaped.

  • Keep your options open

You interview someone for an open role… and it’s not quite a fit. Don’t burn your bridges, unless there’s some serious reason why they shouldn’t be hired!

Who knows, a candidate might not be the right fit now, but they could be perfect for another role that hasn’t opened up yet. If you’re responsive, attentive, and enthusiastic during the interview process, they’ll remember you as a great potential employer.

  • Make the most of networking

Whether you’re swinging by a free networking event in your area or attending an industry conference, always keep recruiting at the top-of-mind.

These face-to-face opportunities are the perfect chance to meet potential job candidates — consider them screener interviews that you didn’t schedule ahead of time!

Go into these networking events with your hot jobs in mind and always have materials on hand for inquiring candidates.

  • Blog about it

When a potential employee is checking out your company, you better believe they’re heading to your website. (Side note: this is a great case for having a strong, informative website in general.)

One aspect that could be helpful for recruiting specifically? A company blog.

Your blog is not just a great opportunity to share a slice of your company culture, but it’s perfect for promoting open positions for free. Between your industry-relevant posts, sprinkle in posts about your hot jobs, including lots of links to your “Careers” page!

  • Use social media to your advantage

Not only is social another great way to show off the company culture (again, prompting potential employees to seek out your jobs) but, like blogging, it’s another low-cost way to promote open roles.

Dedicate some of your social efforts to recruiting, and maybe even incentivize your employees to share those posts. (Free lunch for whoever’s retweet gets the most likes, maybe?!)

  • Put it in the email signature

This is an easy one!

Ask your employees to put a “We’re hiring” link in their email signatures that directs to your “Careers” page — and don’t hesitate to put that link on your company social pages, either.

  • Perfect your job descriptions

Job descriptions matter.

A well-written job description can mean the difference between attracting top tier talent and attracting underqualified candidates who didn’t understand what you were looking for.

And, once again, job descriptions are a great opportunity to show off your company culture! Use every opportunity to convince potential employees that they want to work for you.

(Need some help perfecting your job descriptions? Check out our job description templates for administrative assistants, project managers, and accountants!)

  • Stay in touch with your Chamber of Commerce

Traditional job fairs can often be expensive and concentrated in urban areas.

Whether you don’t want to pay the steep fee or you’re too far from a metropolitan area, there are other options for attending these events — sometimes right in your own backyard!

Make sure to stay involved with your local Chamber of Commerce. They’ll often hold events, like job fairs, to introduce job seekers to local business owners.

  • Utilize the college job boards

On the hunt for interns or entry-level employees? Then you’ll want to check college job boards.

The young workforce is hungry for experience and they’re likely using their tech-savviness to search for opportunities.

One great resource is Handshake, a free platform that over 9 million students and young alumni use to check job postings. And, yes, it’s free to set up an account and free to post jobs!

Recruiting for a small business is equal parts challenging, costly, and crucial — but hiring your next rockstar employee doesn’t have to break the bank.

Use the free resources at your disposal, like your employees’ network and your social media channels.

And remember, highlight what’s great about your small business at every opportunity. Show every candidate that scrolls by why they should want to work for you, and your workforce will come.