The Great Talent Search

It’s important to master the hiring game.

The printing industry is in transition. Shrinking margins and industry consolidation are causing many talented people to look around for new opportunities. For potential employers, these circumstances seem to line up in their favor with strong talent available for the picking. “Companies think they can get the perfect person for a discount price,” says Doreen Hyde of Atlanta-based Red Bucket Recruiting, which specializes in the printing industry.

The reality is somewhat different, however. For example, non-compete agreements hinder many potential candidates from testing the waters, thereby shrinking the available talent pool. Hyde recalls how the employees of a recently acquired printing company had to sign two-year non-compete agreements that keep those employees from working for any company in the industry within a 100-mile radius. “This was not just for executives and salespeople but all employees,” she says. Although not enforceable in all states, these agreements can put a damper on the availability of experienced talent. At the same time, a continually improving economy is creating new opportunities outside the industry.

For companies looking for new talent, these circumstances require a clear-eyed assessment of the available talent pool, average compensation, and the skills these potential employees could bring to the organization. “Companies need to let go of the idea that they should be able to find exactly what they are looking for,” says Hyde. “That means someone with a perfect skill set and experience, not just in the industry but in doing a particular job.” By being more open to candidates with transferable skills or the drive and intelligence to grow into a job, companies are more likely to have success with their recruiting efforts.

The talent stakes

The need to find the right people is self-evident. No business owner who has hired the wrong employee has to be told to avoid doing so again. “Hiring the wrong person is an expensive mistake,” says Rebecca Mazin, an HR consultant and author of The HR Answer Book: An Indispensable Guide for Managers and Human Resources Professionals. In addition to the money spent to hire and train that employee, companies can also spend time and money “cleaning up” and managing the after effects of a bad hire, she says. While they are employed with the company, bad hires can cost companies money by damaging productivity, morale, quality, and even customer relationships.

If a company finds itself with the wrong employee for a given job, chances are good that the employee will leave on her own or end up being fired, which has its own costs. A study conducted by the Center for American Progress puts the cost of replacing employees at 16 percent to 21 percent of salary, with higher paid employees more costly to replace. Other studies put the cost much higher, at six to nine months of salary.

Viewed from a more positive angle, the benefits of a strong hire are equally considerable. Successful salespeople, for example, cannot only sell current products and expand existing customer relationships, they can also be the eyes and ears that identify new opportunities, markets, and products and services worth pursuing. “When you have the right people in the right job, chances are better for productivity to climb, sales to grow, and everything to be working smoothly,” says Jennifer Loftus, an HR consultant with Astron Solutions in New York. “That makes it extremely important to make sure you have the right people in the right seats on the proverbial bus.”

Making the right choice

Finding the right talent for a company is both an art and a science. Above all, it takes time and careful consideration. “You can find a person in two or three weeks, but they will not necessarily be the right person,” says Mazin.

Being shorthanded is not an ideal situation, but the pressure to fill open spots should not prevail over prudent selection. “Do not hire for a warm body,” warns Loftus. “Even if people are working overtime and pushing to get someone into the role right now, hiring decisions made in this way often end up with someone less qualified filling a job. It is important to take the time to consider all candidates.”

The first step toward finding new talent is identifying exactly what the company expects the new employee to do. That means developing a comprehensive job description. “Look at the best people in that job and identify some of the things that these people do that make them successful,” suggests Mazin.

Because hiring a new person for a specific job also represents a fresh start, companies can use the opportunity to rethink the job entirely. This is particularly true if the job had a long-time incumbent who has retired or moved into a different role. “If the company wants to change or redesign the job, this is the time to do it,” says Loftus.

Even when a company wants to use the current job description, it is still a good idea to review it before starting the hiring process. Companies have been known to take a set-it-and-forget-it approach to job descriptions. “I have seen job descriptions that literally have not been updated for 20 years,” says Loftus. “Undoubtedly, the job has changed since then in technology if nothing else.”

Up-to-date job descriptions also provide an important guide in the hiring process for both the company and responding candidates. “Someone with all the right experience who is already doing this type of job needs a reason to change jobs,” says Hyde. A strong job description can outline the opportunity in a compelling way, which can then be communicated in the job posting itself.

This is also the time to consider compensation for the job. Using current internal pay levels, survey data from other companies in the industry or geographic region, and salary expectations stated by applicants, companies can get a sense of whether the pay for the job is competitive without being unnecessarily high. Make no mistake: A salary that is too low will make it very difficult to recruit a strong candidate.

Fish in the right ponds

Once a company knows what it needs from a new employee, the next step is to put the word out. Managers, executives, and business owners can start this process by asking current employees to refer people for the job. They can also leverage their own networks of contacts to let people know what type of candidate the company is looking for. And don’t overlook existing talent. There may be someone in the company who might be interested in a change.

Beyond that, companies should research potential job posting sites. A job posting will be most effective when it is on a site with multiple postings for similar jobs. “You do not want to be the only item of that kind on the shelf,” says Mazin. Those other ads can be a benchmark to compare what jobs competitors for talent are trying to fill.

National job sites such as Monster and CareerBuilder can be useful, but more localized job sites are more likely to yield more talent in the immediate geographic area. Industry sites, such as Epicomm (formerly the National Association for Printing Leadership), often have job boards and a targeted audience.

Given the rapid pace of change in social media and other online job sites, companies need to stay current on new sites as they become popular. For example, Glassdoor, an interactive job search site, has only been in business since 2007 but draws 18 million users each month. “There is nothing wrong with going to the wells that have been successful for you in the past,” says Mazin. “Just keep in mind that the world outside is changing and is always in flux, so do not be afraid to broaden your horizons.”

Job postings on social media sites, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, can also yield strong candidates. “LinkedIn and other social media outlets can be good sources of talent when used wisely,” says Loftus. For example, posting summer or part-time jobs on the company’s Facebook page might draw the attention of parents with teenagers or college-age children looking for short-term work, in addition to the targeted group. LinkedIn offers job posting capability and also provides additional background on individual candidates who maintain profiles.

Social media is also an important way to burnish the company’s reputation as an employer. Yet, social media can be a double-edged sword in this regard. Just as social media is an efficient way to spread positive information about an employer, it is equally efficient at spreading negative information. “You need to make sure your reputation is where you want it to be,” says Loftus. Google searches about the company, Facebook postings that include the company name, and searching Twitter using specific “hashtags”—for example, #yourcompanyname—can indicate the state of the company’s reputation on social media. Glassdoor and similar sites allow current and past employees to rate their employers on several criteria, which every company should also be monitoring. “If you have negative reviews out there, it could hamper recruiting efforts,” says Loftus.

Hiring never ends

The hiring process never really ends. “Companies need to have a plan for new hires for the first 30 days, including setting expectations,” says Hyde. “Those first 90 days are still part of the recruiting process.” Leaving new employees to figure things out for themselves can be a recipe for early turnover or poor performance. Something as simple as appointing mentors for new hires or at least someone they can confidently go to with any questions is a good way to avoid these problems.

Finally, once the new hire is on board, companies can leverage the completed search in other ways. For example, it is a good idea to make a list of strong candidates who were not right for that particular position but could be a good fit for another job. This type of “hot hold” file or résumé bank becomes the starting point for any future search.