One of my favorite things to say is, “You have to know the next five people you’re going to hire or steal.” By this, I simply mean that you must know who your next hire is. Ideally, the next front line money-making tech or engineer, but this can apply to the sales team, admin, or any other department that needs to grow. But most small companies do not quite get it. So when it comes time - “I’ve just landed the big one… HURRY, we need another tech!” - they’re screwed.
So how do you properly prepare? You need to look at your talent-hiring process exactly the same as you do your marketing program. You need your marketing and your sales team(s) to make it rain on a regular basis. You have them looking for the herd and following it, constantly starting new conversations, cultivating potential clients. So for your tech talent (or any other pools of talent), you do the same. Constantly following the herd, watching for strays, and being ready to pounce the minute you’re ready.
What does it look like? I make the assumption that you’ve got a basic routine of how you post a job ad and collect resumes, correct? What if you had the ad running all the time or at least every other month but with slightly different wording in the preamble? “We’re looking for our next great tech. Is it you? Do you have the right stuff? If so, read on…”
Your posting is different in only a few simple ways. First, it doesn’t say, “We’re hiring right now (and holy sh!t we need someone ASAP!).” It says, “We’re looking for quality talent, and we want you to get onto our radar and into our Rolodex.” It’s okay for your ad to actually say, “We do not hire fast, so this is not just a warm paycheck. We hire slow because we want you to have a career with us.” And second, you can come right out and say, “We’re interviewing now for a position opening in Q1 of next year (or 2 quarters away even).”
The end result is people who are more on a career path will respond - those that are a little more mature in their outlook. Yes, you’ll still get the typical 200 submissions from those who didn’t get past the words “Job Opening”. But those who are a little more career-path oriented will be happy to know they are cultivating options. I know I did when I was a young mercenary looking for more money. I had to pay the rent and feed the kid, but I also wanted a career that was more than just a warm paycheck.
What do you do with these valid candidates in order to not waste their time or yours? If they meet your basic requirements, you have them take the basic cognitive aptitude test and customer service profile. If they score well, you ask them for a 5-minute video chat. Have your service manager chat with them, NOT THE HR PEOPLE. They likely don’t know how to do a short, fast interview to validate a tech in under 5 minutes; the SM, however, does. The service manager can explain, “Hey, you look like an ideal candidate, but we don’t want to waste too much of your time, so here’s what we’re going to do. You’re on the top of our list, and when we get closer to the hire date, we’re going to ring you back up and, assuming you’re still available, we’ll go through the next steps.”
Now, what if we don’t actually have a hire date in mind? They don’t know that, and it’s actually quite irrelevant. You’re going to send Christmas cards and birthday cards to this new potential hire, and you’re going to keep track of them. Then one day, you’re going to call them and ask to pick up where you left off. If they’re still looking, they’ll be happy to hear from you. If they’re not, they’ll let you know. And then you move on to the next candidate. But you will NOT delete the previous miss from your database, oh no. You will keep them on your radar and you will call them again one day, maybe even years later and ask, “Are you ready to jump? We’ve got an opening and we’d love to have you get to the next level with us!”
No organization is too small to be doing this in some form or another. You meet some talented man or woman, you put them on the holiday card list. You meet some talented man or woman, you invite them to lunch for an impromptu interview and then you put them on the holiday card list. It really is that simple.
Final tip for success: One of the most important statements Jim Collins makes in his book Good To Great is this, “No company can grow revenues consistently faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth and still become a great company.” So I say, if you want to get to the next level, don’t sell the deal before you have the talent to fulfill your new promise to the client. And to be ready, you need to know the next five people you’re going to hire or steal.