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updated 3/1/2013 11:49:25 AM ET 2013-03-01T16:49:25

The employees you hire can make or break your business. While you may be tempted to hire the first person who walks in the door "just to get it over with," doing so can be a fatal error.

A small company cannot afford to carry dead wood on staff, so start smart by taking time to figure out your staffing needs before you even begin looking for job candidates.

Begin by understanding the requirements of the job being filled. What kind of personality, experience and education are needed? To determine these attributes, sit down and do a job analysis covering the following areas:

  1. The physical/mental tasks involved (ranging from judging, planning and managing to cleaning, lifting and welding).
  2. How the job will be done (the methods and equipment used).
  3. The reason the job exists (including an explanation of job goals and how they relate to other positions in the company).
  4. The qualifications needed (training, knowledge, skills and personality traits).

If you are having trouble, one good way to get information for a job analysis is to talk to employees and supervisors at other companies that have similar positions.

Use the job analysis to write a job description and a job specification. Drawing from these concepts, you can then create your recruitment materials, such as a classified ad.

The job description is basically an outline of how the job fits into the company. It should point out in broad terms the job's goals, responsibilities and duties. First, write down the job title and whom that person will report to. Next, develop a job statement or summary describing the position's major and minor duties. Finally, define how the job relates to other positions in the company.

For a one-person business hiring its first employee, these steps may seem unnecessary, but remember, you are laying the foundation for your personnel policy, which will be essential as your company grows.

Use the job specification and description to write an ad that will attract candidates to your company. The best way to avoid wasting time on interviews with people who do not meet your needs is to write an ad that will lure qualified candidates and discourage others.

Look at your job specifications and pull out the top four or five skills that are most essential to the job. Don't, however, list requirements other than educational or experience-related ones in the ad. Nor should you request specific personality traits (such as outgoing, detail-oriented) since people are likely to come in and imitate those characteristics when they don't really possess them.

Instead, you should focus on telling the applicants about the excitement and challenge of the job, the salary, what they will get out of it and what it will be like working for you.

The obvious first choice for recruiting employees is the classified ad section of your local newspaper, both in the printed and online versions. Beyond this, however, there are plenty of other places to recruit good employees. Here are some ideas:

Tap into your personal and professional network.
Tell everyone you know -- friends, neighbors, professional associates, customers, vendors, colleagues from associations -- that you have a job opening. Someone might know of the perfect candidate.

Contact school placement offices.
List your openings with trade and vocational schools, colleges and universities. Check with your local school board to see if high schools or colleges in your area have job training and placement programs.

Post notices at senior citizen centers.
Retirees who need extra income or a productive way to fill their time can make excellent employees.

Use an employment agency.
Private and government-sponsored agencies can help with locating and screening applicants. Often their fees are more than justified by the amount of time and money you save.

List your opening with an appropriate job bank.
Many professional associations have job banks for their members.

Contact groups related to your industry.
Ask them to alert their members to your staffing needs.

Use industry publications.
Trade association newsletters and industry publications often have classified ad sections where members can advertise job openings. This is a very effective way to attract skilled people in your industry.

Go online.
There are a variety of online job banks and databases that allow employers to list openings. These databases can be searched by potential employees from all over the country. One to explore: LinkedIn, an international professional networking site, where you can post jobs and find candidates through the site's automated talent matching system.

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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