Talent scouting – Finding the Best People

Turn your workforce into an army of bounty hunters

Dangling a cash reward in front of employees is a good way to get their attention. Ninety days after a candidate was hired, we added a bonus of up to $500 to the referrer’s paycheck. (We also gave finder’s fees to suppliers and vendors.) One caveat: Employees can be your best recruiters—or your worst. In an enlightened environment, they’ll deliver a steady stream of quality candidates. Unhappy employees, however, tend to bring in unhappy prospects.

Pluck prospects from your web of business partners

When we needed a new CFO, the first thing I did was contact our accounting firm. I asked the partner in charge of our account if he knew anyone who might fit. He recommended a financial wizard named Jim Bemis who had just resigned from a troubled company. Snapping up Jim was critical to taking our company to the next level. Word travels fast in professional circles, so don’t be shy about mining business contacts for referrals.

Crank up your visibility

The real estate mantra “Location, location, location” doesn’t apply just to land valuation. It also helps land valuable employees. Ask yourself, Where are the people we want to hire? Go there, and start schmoozing. Join the chamber of commerce. Attend all the business, community, and charitable events you can. The hand you shake maybe your next superstar.

Keep your radar on high alert

Wayne Shimmer, who headed up our recruiting and retention, was in Omaha in 1998 to guide some store openings. Standing at an ATM machine, of all places, he met a guy who was wearing a shirt, tie, and name tag. “I asked him, ‘How are you doing?’” Wayne recalled. “‘I’m doing great!’ he said.” Impressed, Wayne struck up a conversation and discovered that the guy was bored with his sales job at a hat shop in the mall. They exchanged cards and Wayne returned later to scout him out. “The guy was fantastic,” Wayne said. “I hired him on the spot and he’s still with the company today. And doing very well, thank you.”

Draw quality like a magnet

Attracting quality employees is a lot easier when you’re a quality employer. Talented people seek organizations with exceptional standards and sparkling reputations. To paraphrase the Center for Ethical Business Cultures, the most valuable employees want to contribute to their customers and to society, and to learn and grow themselves in the process. In the war for talent, and ethical edge can hook the best people.

Don’t take no for an answer

We didn’t mess around when somebody was right for us. We took him to dinner, introduced him to the team, and did whatever it took to persuade him to sign. One of my recruiting execs once said we should ding a candidate because he wasn’t pursuing us vigorously enough. “Heck no!” I said. “The stars don’t have to go hard after companies. We’re the ones who need to pursue them.” Some twenty years ago, we were searching for a specialized sales rep. I knew Tom DuPont was the guy for the job by the end of our first interview. But he had just left a similar job at a competing firm and nursed doubts about staying in the business. More on this topic can be found at Isaimini blog.

Last thought

Forget the buried treasure. Network at universities and vocational schools, consistent sources of leads. Search firms and employment agencies produced some three hires for us at every job fair we attended. Trade shows and industry meet- and greets are full of hungry job seekers. Subscribe to newsletters. Scour the business section. Whatever you choose, be quick and efficient.

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