If you’ve been in business long, you’ve learned that good employees are valuable assets. They understand your vision and bring a new perspective to your efforts to grow and innovate. Good employees can be hard to find, though. Although there may be a “perfect” job for every worker, clashes in personal style and work philosophy can make locating the perfect employee for your business a lengthy and frustrating process.

Finding the Right Employee

If you’ve suffered sticker shock going through an employment agency or discovered that limiting your list of candidates to those with the best backgrounds hasn’t worked as well as you expected, exploring some other avenues may help you find a great employee and refine your hiring technique:

The long-term unemployed – Current wisdom suggests that the longer a person is out of work, the less effective he’ll be as a new hire. If you want a high powered salesperson with a contact list full of valuable connections, this might be true. If you’re looking for a dedicated administrator with lots of experience, choosing someone who’s been downsized may be a good bet. You’ll get a highly skilled candidate at a reasonable price. In a strong economy, you run the risk of inviting high turnover when new hires jump ship as soon as something better comes along. The protracted economic downturn has changed the way people view steady employment, though. Those who have decent jobs are more inclined to keep them longer. As a small business owner, you can hire a more accomplished employee and worry less about losing him too soon.

Unexpected candidates – Equal opportunity employment laws notwithstanding, you may feel that one variety of experience is preferable over another for an open position in your company, even when choosing entry level employees. Reevaluating your preconceptions may be a good idea, though. Older employees, ex fast food workers, retired military personnel and others you might consider a poor fit for the team you’re building may actually turn out to be ideal. For example, older employees bring experience, and they can also help stabilize a staff of relatively younger workers. On average, older workers have consistently high attendance records, too.

A resume heavy on experience as the “French fry guy” may not be that bad, either. Working with fast food isn’t rocket science, but it requires being able to follow directions well and perform in a fast paced, team oriented environment. Focusing on the individual instead of the resume can be a good strategy for any open position at your company — especially if you think you’re a decent judge of character.

Midlife Career Changers – A salesman who wants to get into tech work or a manual laborer who wants to break into sales may not be your ideal candidate, but before you reject a resume from a career changer, consider the amount of motivation and drive it takes to break into a new field. It could be desperation, but it could also be a sign of the kind of can-do attitude you’re looking for.

When you’re evaluating potential new hires, broadening your net can mean looking for ways to see value where others don’t. Although a resume filled with great experience and impressive references is a respectable indicator of a good employee, it’s not the only way to recognize potential.