Subscribe to Inc. magazine
OWNER'S MANUAL

Where to Find Great Talent: 5 Contrarian Ideas

You can hire the best, even if you're on a budget. You just need to know where to look.
Advertisement

"To succeed, surround yourself with great talent." Sounds great.

Also sounds expensive.

Hiring the best is really hard to pull off in practice, especially if your goal is to hire Lamborghinis and all you have is a Kia budget.

So what can you do? Try taking a contrarian investment approach to hiring.

People, just like stocks, are often underappreciated and undervalued, like people who have great skills but no experience in your industry. Or people who are well educated, but their education is in the "wrong" field. Or people whose current job lacks sufficient "status."

Or people who suffer due to negative social stereotypes.

The key to finding great talent at a price you can afford is to be a hiring contrarian. Go against the grain. Go against conventional wisdom. Then you can find your next superstar while giving someone deserving a chance to show what they can really do.

Here are some examples of great talent that are often hiding in plain view:

Career switchers

Teachers are a great example. Many love to teach but grow to dislike the relatively low pay. Teachers are excellent trainers, understand how to manage different personalities, and are great at motivating, encouraging, and nurturing other people.

While you can train skills, do you have the time and resources to "train" your employees to possess qualities like those?

Where career switchers are concerned, the key is to ignore their industry and look at the qualities the person possesses: Good salespeople are self-starters. Good police officers work well under pressure. Good mechanics are excellent troubleshooters.

With a little training, outstanding people excel in almost any job.

Athletes

I might be biased, but I think sports create an excellent training ground for business. A recent graduate who played a sport is self-disciplined, motivated, great at multitasking, able to overcome adversity, appreciates the value of teamwork... aren't those qualities you want your employees to have?

Every year approximately 400,000 student-athletes graduate from college and enter the job market. Snap one up.

Military

This time I'm definitely biased. I hired hundreds of people and definitely made mistakes, but I never regretted a single ex-military hire.

Not one.

If you need a leader (and who doesn't?)  the military is probably the only organization that puts as much or more emphasis on leadership training as it does on skills training.

If you need someone to see a task through, or to be able to follow as well as lead, or to be able to make smart decisions on the fly-and stand behind those decisions, go with a veteran.

You'll be glad you did.

Not so impressive current job

You glance at a resume: The current job listed is telemarketing, or fast food, or stocking shelves. What's your first thought?

Admit it. You think, "Well, if that's all they're doing now..." It's easy to assume a person who currently has a less than wonderful job is only "worth" a job like that.

Wrong: The fast food kid probably has more customer service experience than you do, and the warehouse worker may possess the attention to detail of an accountant on performance-enhancing drugs.

Look past the job title and think about the duties and responsibilities; that's what really matters.

Youth

Of course younger workers don't have any experience. How could they?

You and I were young once too. Someone gave us a chance-and we worked hard to show that person they made the right decision. Make sure at least a small percentage of your new hires are young people just entering the workforce. Then you get energy, ideas, enthusiasm-and the chance to truly grow your own talent pool.

Last updated: Apr 10, 2012

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



Register on Inc.com today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments
EMAIL
PASSWORD
EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
EMAIL
PASSWORD

Or sign up using: