If I had a dollar for every time a hiring manager told me they cannot find high-quality consultants, I guess I would be a wealthy man. 

Equally, when I talk to corporate hiring managers, they constantly bemoan the shortage of quality talent.

Yet, when I ask what they are doing about capturing the best staff to ensure competitive advantage, they often stare at me blankly, or mumble platitudes about job boards and posting ads on LinkedIn.

In the knowledge economy, and in an era of systemic skills shortages, reactive recruiting is not going to work.

Owners and managers of businesses need to build recruitment activities into their daily agenda, whether they are hiring right now or not. Indeed, anyone seeking to hire ‘hard to find’ skills, needs to get with the program.

If you only start your recruiting activities once a vacancy emerges, you will lose the talent battle. And doom your company to being a ‘B’ grade business, at best.

Take a look at this example: 

‘In 2001, I inherited a small unsuccessful operation in Singapore, as part of the Aquent business when I became International CEO. The team comprised three or four modest consultants under the leadership of an inexperienced manager. I resolved to invest in that manager but realised that a change might be required.

On that basis, I began to speak to likely candidates in the market, very confidentially, even though I did not have a vacancy there and then. I made proactive calls, and I met a number of people, one in particular, let’s call him Kevin. And Kevin looked like an excellent fit.

But I was not ready to hire, and Kevin was not ready to move.

Thereafter began a prolonged two-way seduction. Every time I went to Singapore I met with Kevin and we talked about what the job could look like for him. What his responsibilities would be, and what the salary structure might comprise. It turn, I used those conversations, to track his performance, assess his management style, and got to know him as a person.

Kevin came to Sydney and we went for a few beers. We swapped e-mails. Over the course of 18 months, I must have had more than 10 meetings or telephone conversations with him.

In the end, my inexperienced Singapore manager couldn’t cope and resigned. I phoned Kevin, and the deal was done in eight minutes. Literally. Everything had already been discussed. Trust and buy-in were secure on both sides. We had both done our due diligence and were champing at the bit.

Kevin indeed joined Aquent in 2002 and built Singapore office to 18 people and a pre-tax profit of US$1.5 million. When he inherited the business it was making a loss. He was with the company 7 years and subsequently took on a regional role, helping me open several other Asian offices.

One of my better hires.’

Do you think my investment in a few coffees and the odd phone call paid off?

For both of us?

The point is this. If you are serious about getting the best talent, you need to work at it every day. This means constantly interviewing. It means coffee and conversations with a wide range of potential employees. You will be honest and transparent at all times, of course. The message is, ‘We don’t have a vacancy now, but adding the best people to our business is our number one priority, so we would be honoured to chat with you’.

Set yourself a goal to have ‘100 cups of coffee’, with potential hires over the next 12 months.

That is 2 meetings a week. Sure it’s an investment. But think of the return!

All your staff must be given the same brief. The whole company should be constantly in recruitment mode for internal talent. If necessary, reward your team for finding good people who you subsequently hire.

Celebrate the efforts of those who attract talent your business. Build it into your cultural DNA.

Create a database of potential recruits and set notifications to make sure that you find a reason to keep in touch. Make those conversations frank, address issues that will either attract them to your business or knock them out as a potential employee.

Then, when the day comes that an ‘unexpected’ vacancy occurs, you will be ready, with four or five pre-qualified, pre-warmed, top performers, ready to engage.

The truth in recruitment is that the people with the best people always win in the end.

But it won’t happen by chance.

I don’t care if you are hiring now or anytime soon. You should still be recruiting.

Hard.

 

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