Just like any professional sports team, your firm is made or broken based on how effective you are at recruiting talent.
In any professional sports team, recruiting is a really big deal. Teams are made or broken based on how effective they are at recruiting the best raw talent and experienced players alike. Both are critical to their short- and long-range success.
Firms in our business are in much the same situation, except our “season” never ends! When it comes down to it, what AEC firms really do is assemble teams and then market the talents of those individual and collective team members to their clients. Those teams perform the work that the client wants or needs done – either successfully or not so well. That’s it!
So recruiting is a really big deal and a function that has to be done well. Here are some things you can do that I have found actually work when it comes to recruiting:
- Save every single resume and application that ever comes into your firm indefinitely. Get all of these into a searchable database. If you have any firm of 50 people or more and you do this over a period of years, you will eventually have information on thousands of people you may want to hire at some point. Just because you passed the first time doesn’t mean they won’t be someone you’d want to hire after they just got four more years of experience working for a competitor, or someone you’d want to hire for a completely different role or location than what you were looking for when they first contacted you. Go back to them. Update your information. See if they would be willing to talk to you now. I could fill as many as 50 percent of job openings an individual firm may have through a database like this if it was built over a multi-year period.
- Find out who is in the role you need filled at one of your competitors. Call them directly and tell them you would like to get to know them better. Suggest a lunch or coffee meeting. Stroke their egos. Tell them you want to “compare notes” on what is happening in the marketplace. Ease them into the idea of a job change slowly. And if they turn down your invitation, don’t just give up. Try again at a later date. So much of recruiting is about timing. Just because someone won’t consider making a move today doesn’t mean they won’t want to six months from now or two years from now. Persistence wins the race.
- Get your marketing people to help you. Do you have a video where actual employees are interviewed giving testimonials on what a great place your firm is to work for? If not, you need one. Do you sprinkle quotes from those people on the recruitment section of your website? If not you need to. Do you even have a recruitment section on your website that is more than a list of job openings? If not, you need one. Do you ever send out recruitment emails to a database of potential candidates – one that you put together through state professional registration lists, rented magazine subscriber lists, or other lists you assembled in-house? If not, you should. Do you ever send out any press releases to the media about what a cool company you are to work for? If not, you had better start. These things all take the help of your marketing department. Involve them.
- Involve your CEO in the effort. You may think it doesn’t make any difference, but believe me, it does. If the top person in a recognized firm shows interest in hiring someone, that person will be much more willing to talk in the first place – and, if the CEO creates a positive impression, more likely to take the job should an offer eventually be made. Use this resource! Putting the right people on your “team” is super important. Act like it is. And while I am on this subject, use your top technical and design staffers more as the first contact with your potential hires as opposed to someone in your HR department who has been with you for a year or two. People are much more likely to go to the next step if someone they would actually work for and with shows an interest in them.
- Promote the unique aspects of working at your firm. Are you totally flexible on where and when your line professionals work? That’s a huge deal if so. Are you an open-book company that shares all of its financials? Not every company is. Do you sell stock to key people or are you an ESOP company? Talk about it. Do you have any unusual benefits? Share them and promote them. Stop acting like the whole universe of potential job candidates already knows this stuff. They don’t.
As I regularly find myself saying to our readers, past and present clients, and friends, there is ALWAYS something you can do. You don’t need a big plan. You need action. Meet and talk less about what you COULD do, and instead just start doing it!
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at email@example.com.