Where are the Good People?

Jul 19, 1999

We’ve talked about it for decades, but the labor shortage in the A/E/P and environmental industries is finally here. Our clients are telling us that it’s hard to hire just about anyone. Every job takes longer than it should to fill. Turnover is down, but growth in backlogs is way up. Maybe it won’t last— who knows? Even if the shortage doesn’t last, it’s never easy to find good people. There are always other firms’ cast-offs. But is that the way you want to build your company, by hiring those who aren’t wanted by firms you probably consider to be mediocre competitors? Here are a few ideas I have used over the years to hire hundreds—perhaps thousands— of people: Have one place where every resume and application goes. Never throw a resume away and always consult this file before advertising. It can be as simple as a file cabinet or as complex as a relational database on a wide-area network. Include a list of immediate hiring needs and longer term needs as a part of your planning process. Post this list company-wide and update it weekly. Send it out via e-mail to every person in the firm and send it out to clients and friends of the firm. Get every job opening out there on the Internet. Lots of Generation-Xers use this source when looking for work. There are many sites to consider— some that cost money and some that are free. Some will even notify you via e-mail the moment that someone meeting your criteria puts his information into the database. Get into every college and university alumni placement office that has graduates you might want to hire. Again, there are sources that will do this for you electronically and even link it to your web site at a low cost. Constantly talk up your firm and the job opportunities you have to your friends and social contacts. You never know when you will get a referral. There are lots of good people out there, and your social circle is probably a lot larger than you realize. Ask for referrals from your employees, especially those who have just come on board from elsewhere and are still in their “honeymoon” period with your firm. Anyone who comes out of a firm in this business probably knows somebody you would want to hire. Appoint one person to manage the hiring process. This person will make sure that all steps are followed every time. For example, you don’t want one of your department managers hiring a candidate through a contingency fee employment agency without checking your resume and application database first. Develop recruitment sales materials. This could be a five-minute video on your firm. It could also be as simple as a few GBC-bound pages that include your mission, vision, strategies, history, growth, benefits, and a few quotes from your employees on what a great place your firm is to work. Form relationships with realtors in each office location who can help you sell candidates coming in from outside the area. These people are worth their weight in gold. They can give you feedback on what the candidate and his or her spouse are saying to each other as they ride around looking at houses. If you have enough needs to warrant it, consider forming a relationship with a recruiting firm by paying them a certain amount of money every month to handle your recruiting. This will allow them to serve you more effectively and economically. Take a look at this list and see how you stack up. Don’t just wring your hands and hope great people will come in off the street. Originally published 7/19/1999

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.