For employers on a budget, there are several ways to attract and recruit qualified employees that don’t involve taking out expensive job postings on various job sites. Just because budgets are tight, there’s no reason employers need to lower hiring standards or give up on attracting talented candidates. While your competitors may have access to larger budgets, there are several ways to compete for the most talented employees without matching their spending levels.

Here are 5 ways you can attract and hire the most qualified candidates for your job openings without breaking the bank.

#1 Employee and vendor referrals

The best and least expensive method of finding highly- qualified candidates that fit into your workplace culture is, and always has been, word of mouth. Encourage your employees to refer their peers and acquaintances within your industry. Incentivize employee referrals by offering a reasonable gift to team members whose referral is hired. Inexpensive examples of appropriate incentives may include offering an extra day of PTO or providing a retail gift card.

In addition to your own employees, there are other people who come in contact with your company on a regular basis who are also part of your industry. For example, the vendors and sales people who come into your office are probably visiting other companies in your same industry. Depending on the size of your company, share your employee needs with the people you do business with – tell them what you’re looking for and ask them if they know anyone.

#2 LinkedIn’s social channels

LinkedIn and other job posting sites can be expensive if you’re paying for listings. But, before you give up on LinkedIn as a resource, look at the other available channels on the app to find qualified candidates. In addition to paying for listings, there are opportunities to use your networks and professional contacts to get the word out that your company is seeking qualified candidates. It takes a little more effort, but it’s well worth it. In a recent study, we found that 41% of recruiters use LinkedIn to identify opportunities for their clients. They’ll be looking beyond the traditional job listings and watching the various channels within the digital app to identify opportunities. Capitalize on the recruiter and job seeker traffic LinkedIn generates to get the word out.

Here are a few ways you can use LinkedIn resources without paying additional fees:

  • Use LinkedIn’s groups to seek out professionals. As a member of a group, you can connect with everyone in your group free of charge. Post your needs in your LinkedIn groups and on your own LinkedIn feed.
  • Use your own contact list to search for potential employees or for people who may be able to refer someone. Find potential candidates in your contact list by clicking “my network” and then “see all contacts” to do a search by keyword.
  • Search your competitors on LinkedIn to find people who have worked at your competition and are already familiar with the work and your industry.

#3 Other job listing sites

Local trade associations offer a great resource for a pool of talent and people who are passionate about the type of work they do. You will probably be able to post jobs for free in their bulletins or newsletters. In addition, Craigslist and other local bulletin boards still carry job listings. Take advantage of these inexpensive ways to get the word out.

Looking for entry level positions? Local colleges and universities and junior colleges generally have career centers and welcome job postings that they can share with their students and alumni.

 If you’re looking for someone a little more senior, business colleges and specialty schools cater to people going back for advanced degrees. Contact their career centers or the departments that most closely relate to the position you’re hoping to fill.

Just because someone doesn’t have a job, doesn’t mean that they aren’t qualified. Sometimes, through no fault of their own, talented employees are let go. These people may be checking the local unemployment office for possible job leads. Provide these agencies with updated job listings to capture the motivated candidates using this resource.

#4 Networking and industry events

At RiseSmart, we recommend that our job seekers spend 70% of their time networking and we counsel them that the best job leads will come from an internal referral or through someone they meet, and connect with, at an industry event. While networking is a great way to find a job, it’s also a great way to find qualified candidates.

Your future employees are attending industry events and networking through LinkedIn and other digital apps trying to find you. Instead of hoping they will, meet them where they’re going and use networking as a recruiting strategy. Start attending industry events and meeting the people who are actively seeking new opportunities in your industry. Be open to taking calls from people reaching out to network, and respond to emails from people you don’t know asking about your organization. Reverse networking is a great way to find candidates who have good communication skills, and who are taking the initiative to go the extra mile to find the right job.

#5 Lower the cost of interviewing

Find ways to lower the cost of interviewing. Instead of using time and resources for in-person meetings, use no-cost and low-cost video technology, such as Skype and Facetime. Since the majority of recruiters use live video interviews, you won’t be signaling to your candidates that you’re using it for cost-cutting measures, instead it will appear that your organization is on the cutting edge of current interviewing trends.

Become more efficient with your interviewing processes by narrowing your job requirements down to only those skills that are really required to do the job. Compare your job requirements list to the resumes you receive for the job and find places where you might be able to compromise. You won’t be the first one to compromise on the original job requirements to allow a talented employee to join the organization. In fact, 52% of recruiters tell us they compromise to be realistic when a resume doesn’t match a job description. Before you discount a candidate’s application, consider how their skills might fit into your organization and make sure you aren’t looking for the elusive purple squirrel.

Adopt interviewing practices that follow the old adage, “Time is money”. For companies on a budget, man hours are just as important as money spent. Streamline your interviewing processes and reduce the number of man hours it costs to interview candidates by deciding who actually needs to be part of the interview process. Keep the interview panel to as few people as possible to effectively screen candidates.


If you have an internal candidate, decide whether you absolutely have to interview external 
candidates if your common practice is to pick the internal person after all. Recruiters frequently have an internal candidate, but just want to see what else is out there. In fact, 48% of recruiters say they take internal candidates seriously, but like to be confident in hires so they interview external candidates. Besides the cost-saving benefits, there are many other reasons to consider internal candidates over external candidates, including:

  • Improve employee retention rates
  • Retain institutional knowledge
  • Prevent employees from leaving to work for the competition
  • Establish a positive workplace culture
  • Engage and energize employees with new challenges

Even as you’re lowering the costs of recruiting, be sure that you’re not skimping on the hiring process so much that your new hires aren’t a good fit. For organizations on a particularly tight budget, there might me a temptation to short cut the interview process in order to save time and cut the costs associated with employee time. Take the time you need to properly screen and interview your candidates.

A few more cost-cutting measures to consider

In addition to finding new ways to identify new candidates and streamlined ways to interview them, find ways to use the resources you’ve already invested in, such as your ATS system. Make sure your ATS system is helping you weed out unqualified candidates without becoming the black hole of resumes from qualified candidates that never see the light of day.

Once you’ve spent your time and resources on attracting and interviewing candidates, don’t squander your efforts by making your salary and benefits offer far below industry standards. Make sure your salary and bonuses are commensurate with the industry standard, or you risk losing qualified employees at the negotiation stage, forcing you to start the process again and spend more money. In addition, depending on how difficult it is to find the person you’re looking for, you may need to consider things like hiring bonuses.

Once you use these 5 low-cost initiatives to cut costs during times of tight budgets, you may decide to continue to implement them, even when you have more leeway with your recruiting spending. However, no amount of cost cutting will make the recruiting, hiring, and onboarding process completely free. No matter how you find ways to cut corners, hiring and onboarding is still an expensive process. Make sure the person you’re making the investment in is a good fit for the job and your corporate culture.

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