Get real about recruiting

Mar 14, 2021

Firms that can quickly fill any opening with excellent people have a major advantage over their competition in any market.

COVID-19 pandemic or not, the fact is A/E firms all over are still facing significant recruiting challenges that are holding back their individual and collective abilities to grow. I have long felt that recruiting does not have the importance it should in an industry where companies only sell labor and expertise. Those firms that can quickly fill any opening with excellent people have a major competitive advantage over their competition in any market. It’s time to get real about recruiting!

So that said, what are some things you can actually do that will help your recruiting effectiveness? Here are my thoughts:

  1. Reprogram your managers. This is number one on my list here for a reason. Most people who are involved with hiring people in this business think it is their job to keep bad people out of the company. That mindset screws everything up. It puts job candidates on the defensive and keeps good people out. When the culture is one of getting good people onto the team, everything is different. The hiring company sees their job as selling versus being gatekeepers. You are far more likely to attract good people when you are thinking the former versus the latter here. So sit your managers down and explain this to them. They won’t all get it, but some will if you try.
  2. Build and implement a recruitment-driven social media strategy. Let me say if there is one thing social media is good for, it is a fantastic recruitment tool. That is, however, conditional on you using it as such. You need to post every day on all relevant platforms. And you need to be featuring happy employees, employee training sessions, employee anniversaries, employee awards, stories on co-ops and interns, employees on interesting job sites, employee promotions, and firm awards for quality of workplace, among other things. You should be hitting LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, at a minimum, and be posting on each platform two to four times a day.
  3. Be a firm that has a purpose and sell what people are really interested in today. First and foremost, people want to work for a business that stands for something. One that is doing some good. This is super important to the kinds of professionals we are all trying to hire, and especially younger ones. Get your purpose clearly defined and communicate the hell out of it using every means available. That includes email signatures, your website, and office decor, on top of all the social media/podcast/video opportunities that you have available to you.
  4. Stop acting like money isn’t important. People want a purpose, they want to learn, and they want interesting work. But they also want to get ahead and they won’t join your firm or quit your firm if the tangible rewards aren’t there. Don’t be afraid to talk about money and have a business that creates jobs at all levels where people can do better money-wise than your competitors. That means you have to be profitable and have to grow, and do so on a consistent basis, or you will negatively impact the earning potential of your employees. Face up to that reality and stop making excuses.
  5. Get the CEO/founder/principals (highly) involved. None of this will happen if your top people aren’t involved and fully supportive of the effort. And let me say this, also – the CEOs who are personally involved in interviewing and meeting job candidates at all levels will be more successful than those who don’t want to be bothered with these kinds of activities. It’s crucial to your successful ability to recruit really good people when they see the top person/people are personally invested in the process.
  6. Speed everything up. I could say this until I am blue in the face. You all are too freaking slow and act like you have forever to make a decision on hiring someone. It’s like how we used to buy houses in my other business. We make offers first and fastest while everyone else sat there and pondered. We got more properties because of that. You need to do the same thing with your recruiting and hiring. Time is the enemy. Fool around and someone else will beat you to hiring that outstanding individual.
  7. Manage your online employee ratings on Glassdoor and anywhere else you need to. One bad review can kill you if someone you are trying to hire sees it. Protest anything fishy or untrue. Ask your people who are happy to post good reviews to drown out any bad ones. Don’t let someone you fired or passed on hiring get back at you without doing everything you can to tell your side of the story (the good side)!
  8. Budget and spend real money on recruiting. If you are large enough to afford it, hire someone who is really good at recruiting. How large do you need to be? I would ask you a question in return – how badly do you want to be a firm that can staff up with great people as the workload and strategic plan demand it? You show what is important by what you spend money on. Just like marketing, recruitment expenses can either be viewed as an investment in the company or an overhead cost to be minimized. You won’t be the best at it if your idea is it’s just overhead. And by the way, good recruiters aren’t cheap, whether they work for you as employees or as outside consultants.

So there you have it. You want to make recruiting real or not? If so, change your evil ways!

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.