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Casting a Wider Net for Top Talent

Published Tuesday Feb 12, 2019

Author Kelley Small

Casting a Wider Net for Top Talent

Companies are scrambling to find qualified people with the right skills, training and personality, and who can help them grow and evolve. Unemployment rates are consistently low, causing the local talent pool to become increasingly shallow. But is that the whole story? Executives need to challenge the assumption that there aren’t enough qualified leaders out there; they need to dip their toes into different talent pools and shift their mindset to consider more creative approaches to attracting that important next hire.

Think of it like this: Lake Winnipesaukee is well known, highly regarded, clean, clear, accessible, and full of many edible creatures, but if you’re looking for lobsters, you’ll always be disappointed. It’s time to cast a net in a few different directions and see how it could affect your recruitment strategy.

First, making sure the incumbent team is happy, productive and challenged is the best way to protect yourself from being in an urgent hiring mode in the first place. Retention should be addressed as emphatically as recruiting. Make sure the two are aligned to help avoid frantic, urgent recruitments in the first place.

The Web May Not Be Best
Online job search platforms are at the center of many companies’ hiring approaches. The process usually goes something like this: Write a job description, post it online, pay a few hundred dollars so it gets nice placement, and wait for the talent to take the bait.

Next, you may have to sift through dozens—maybe hundreds—of resumes belonging to mediocre applicants and bring in the ones whose skills align most closely with your immediate needs. Last, you may end up hiring the one who could get the job done, but isn’t a great fit. You’ve settled for nice lake trout when what you really wanted was lobster.

Use your current talent pool to help spread the word. An internal audience of even 10 people can reach hundreds of like-minded people through casual conversations, social media outreach, or an announcement at their next CEO retreat or networking event.

Stop talking about the tight hiring pool. Nobody wants to feel like they are from the bottom of the barrel. Sure, it’s a competitive market, but rest assured that there are qualified candidates out there for your business. Plus, it’s easy for your current team to misinterpret your frustration as encouragement for them to seek better opportunities.

Politely Pursue Passive Prospects
If you’re looking to recruit, find people who are not actively job searching but may bite if the right opportunity catches their eye. If you consider the overall talent pool, 70 percent of qualified candidates are not actively looking for a change. That means you’re pulling from only 30 percent of candidates—active job seekers or those currently unemployed. It’s essential to focus on the whole picture and develop strategies to connect with the 70 percent in roles similar to the one you want to fill. Then create and nurture those relationships. Making connections with people you can see yourself working with is a creative approach. If your opportunity aligns with your new prospect’s career aspirations, you both have every right and reason to have a conversation.

Is This Net Working?
Chamber of commerce mixers, new business launches, nonprofit committee meetings, and cultural events are all good places to get to know a person’s skill set, personality and overall understanding of how they could fit into your existing team. These people tend to be engaged, conscientious and talented.

They also care about their communities and are eager to make professional connections.

Exchanging business cards is a great start, but after the small talk winds down, be direct. You are recruiting new talent based on their ability to achieve business goals rather than how well their resume maps to a job description or title. The need to plug the hole in the boat prompts many organizations to make hasty decisions and hire someone who isn’t a good fit for the long term. A little networking can go a long way, especially when you’re open and appreciative when your new contacts also start sending candidate leads your way.

Think Strategically
What barriers might be preventing an ideal candidate from uprooting their life, disrupting their career path and taking the risk of applying for your open position?

Consider paying relocation costs to get the right candidate for the position. A small investment up front should translate to a smooth transition into your candidate’s dream career, where you’re already building a relationship based on understanding and loyalty.

Kelley Small is a principal at Standish Executive Search in Bedford. She also serves as an advisor and leadership director to the CEO Connection. She can be reached at or 774-261-0143.

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