Finding the Best Sources of Candidates in a Constrained Market

FIFTEEN WAYS TO FIND EMPLOYEES: More than ever recruiters and managers have to be creative and willing to experiment in order to locate and woo candidates to their organizations. Here are a list of fifteen ways you can find candidates. 1. Attend conferences just to scout out potential talent. Start building a relationship by chatting, offering them a coffee, telling them about you and your organization. Make sure they know how to get in touch with you and you with them. Other types of meetings or community service events also offer you a chance to recruit. A good salesman, so the saying goes, never rests. 2. Hang out (or get the right recruiter or manager in your organization to) at the places your candidates hang out. If you are looking for programmers into the good life, try micro- breweries or small nightclubs and bars. Pass out your cards. Make acquaintances. Ask around to find out who does what, for whom and how they are regarded. This has worked well for Cisco and other Silicon Valley firms and can work for you too. You have to go to where THEY are. It’s really not hard to find out where the hottest spots are or what hobbies are ‘in’ at the moment and then place yourself there. 3. Go to a job fair like a Westec (obviously an event on the West coast, but there are similar ones all over the country) and raffle off a top-of-the-line bicycle or sports car or Sun workstation. Although the items may be expensive, they are cheap compared to endless and fruitless ads! The publicity you’ll get if you stage this right is worth a fortune. You can even get TV and radio coverage if you get your PR or advertising group to help. Send out press releases. Make it a BIG DEAL! 4. Hold an informational or educational session carefully planned to attract the type of candidate you need. Send out an invitation to a list of people in a certain profession or who subscribe to a certain magazine. Make it an early evening event with wine and cheese or some other snack appropriate to your audience. Offer a real education value make sure you really deliver — but gather business cards and infiltrate the audience with your managers so they can chat and start building relationships. Last year for example, the Charles Schwab Corporation held an event to educate programmers about investing. Invitations were extended to about 1,000 people and over 400 showed up. Schwab collected business cards. Each speaker talked for 2-3 minutes about Schwab and what it was like to work there. Everyone who attended got real value and learned a lot about investing better. Schwab eventually hired about 50 people from that event. And the cost was minimal — just a hotel room and some snacks. All speakers were employees. 5. Offer ANYONE who checks out your corporate web site a chance to find out more about your organization and its jobs. Make it easy for them to click and be led into a well designed series of web pages that entice and explain. Make the candidate want to apply and make it easy for them to do it. Promise them a personal call if they apply after filling out a qualifying form, or promise them some form of contact quickly. Every hour that goes by diminishes your chance of closing the deal. 6. Build strong relationships with professors and instructors on college and university campuses. Many college students rely heavily on the advice of their professors when making a career decision. Some studies show that professors have more influence than spouses, close friends, or parents. So if you and your company are well regarded, you will have a leg up over the competition. But, these relationships are built over years and take a commitment on your part. The good thing is that the relationships often go with you, whether you are a recruiter or a manager, and help you no matter what organization you are with. The belief is that if you are there the organization must be OK. 7. Join everything! Belong to as many professional associations and local groups as you can. Keep your involvement at a professional level, not at a recruiting level. Offer to make presentations, contribute and yet make it known that you are always ready to help someone find a job (even if it’s not in your area of need). The more good will you build up, the easier it will be to tap into the group when you are really in need. I have friends who make this a mainstay of their sourcing efforts. The by-product is in-depth information about candidates. You will really know who is strong, who is weak, who is liked and who isn’t and why. All of this can be invaluable in making the right decision for your organization. 8. Re-recruit those who have left. Remember that a great source of candidates are those previous employees who decided to seek greener grass. Many are more than likely willing to return. Your job is to find out where they are (and actually you should have never let them leave without knowing how to stay in touch), discover why they left (the real reason) and then try to remove objections and overcome reluctance. Get them back to talk to key people, court them actively, and try to get management over any anger at them because they left or were disloyal. We all like to try new things and are probably stronger and more experienced for it. If you are new to the company yourself ask for a list from HR of those who have left in the past six months. Call them up and ask them to fill you in on the company as you are new. Get to know them a little and find out if re-recruiting is feasible or not. You can both benefit from this. 9. Use high school students now and hire them later. I have written a previous column about school-to-career programs (October 1st, 1998) which outlines in detail what these programs are. Basically they are designed to provide a high school student with some work experience and to give them a chance to learn workplace skills. Many go on to college and can work part-time or full-time in the summer and then become regular employees. These programs are wonderful in that they give you a chance to screen and mold future employees. You get to guide their school work and get them focussed on what you need as a company. They get a good job and the guidance that many of them need to make tough choices. Many companies get a significant portion of entry-level people through these programs quite inexpensively. 10. Other similar programs focus on welfare people re-entering the workplace after being trained with tax dollars. Some organizations are using released prisoners in certain types of jobs. 11. Hire the elderly and those who have already retired once. Many of these senior citizens are happy to get back to work, to learn and contribute. They are excellent workers and are obviously less likely to be enticed away for a few dollars. If you are in an area with many retired people, you are siting on a potential gold mine of skills, knowledge and talent. Go to the retirement communities and groups that have a large percent of older people. Offer them benefits that are attractive to them such as medical benefits that will augment Medicare or more expensive eye care instead of life insurance or child care. This is where a partnership with your benefits department is invaluable. 12. Offer more people fewer hours and more flexibility in work schedules. This can be a source of many people who are constrained by family or other duties from full time, 8-5 employment. If you can restructure jobs so that they can be shared, done at different times, or done at home, you can reduce your need for harder to find fulltime workers. 13. Move parts of your business to areas that have attractive lifestyles and high unemployment. Although these areas are harder and harder to find, they do exist. Many high tech companies have opened design centers of 5-25 employees in remote areas of Oregon, Washington, and Colorado because of the life style and the fact that families like to live in these areas. They can then attract the best designers to move there. There are also fewer temptations for these people so turnover goes down. 14. Develop work-while-you-learn programs that are focused on bringing in a group of people who can perform one job while they are learning to do another more difficult or more complex job. For example, C++ programmers can be productively working halftime while studying Java programming. This trend will continue to grow over the next several years as certain skills die away or become less needed and others are growing rapidly. 15. Go global. Many countries have few jobs and lots of skilled people. Central Europe and parts of Asia fall into this category. High tech has been tapping this market for a decade, but others can too. Many of these countries have excellent teachers, mathematicians, physicists, and engineers. Many are willing to learn new skills and may even fit the category above (#14). There are many third party companies that bring these people to America legally and with proper visas and then help them find employment. You can utilize these services easily and at a reasonable cost. I hope these stimulate your thinking. If you have an idea that I haven’t mentioned, I would like to hear about it. Send me an email at Let’s keep this list growing. See you next week. Happy Holidays to everyone.

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at