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How to Make Hiring Less Frantic

Recruiting is like selling: You need to develop a pipeline and build relationships. Here's how.
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At some companies, new employees are emergency purchases. With limited time and funds, entrepreneurs seek employees only when it's absolutely necessary for their company's continued growth. Then they frantically attempt to fill the positions.

Recently, that became an issue for Nick Bock. In the early years of his company, Five Nines Technology Group, an IT consulting firm in Lincoln, Nebraska, Bock didn't have to worry about hiring. He added only a handful of positions a year. And because Five Nines had quickly earned a strong local reputation, the office received a steady stream of resumés from computer engineers, even when there were no jobs to fill.

But lately Bock has struggled. Eighteen months ago, after taking on several new clients, Five Nines had to more than double its head count, from 23 to 47 employees. Bock hadn't anticipated how difficult it would be to staff up. After quickly tapping out his leads, Bock scrambled to find suitable candidates. Meanwhile, his team of engineers was putting in extra-long days to handle all the new work. One person quit. Bock tried to smooth things over by giving out bonuses.

Recruiting is a lot like sales. It involves developing a pipeline and building relationships. Bock realizes that now and has made recruiting a priority.

He schedules meetings with promising engineers even when Five Nines doesn't have any openings. And when there is a vacancy, Bock publicizes it on job boards and the company's Facebook and Twitter pages. He also asks employees to spread the word. Bock personally reviews each job listing, occasionally recommending changes to better attract the attention of skilled candidates. He also tries to scoop up talent at the earliest opportunity. If a candidate seems like a good fit, he will extend a job offer before finishing the round of interviews.

Bock's new approach has already had a big effect on Five Nines. The company now hires at least one employee every six weeks. Still, Bock thinks he could do more to streamline the hiring process. "I would love to always have one or two people queued up and ready to go," says Bock. "I don't know if we'll ever get to that, but if you don't have something you're striving for, it's easy to slack off."

Treatment:

Make recruiting an ongoing process. Maintain a list of prospective hires, even if there are no immediate openings.

Create an employee referral program. Also tap social networks, professional organizations, industry trade shows, and local universities.

Stay in contact with talented prospects through occasional lunch dates or meetings.

IMAGE: Marcos Chin
From the November 2011 issue of Inc. magazine




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