The 3-5 Year Gap: Finding Talent With Actual Experience

October 30, 2013

9:00 am

There’s no shortage of college graduates searching for jobs–some have internship and project experience, but they’re still new, and entry-level talent has to be trained. Programs like Nashville’s Software SchoolApp Academy, and Hackbright Academy are helping to fill the gap. But that doesn’t help when you have jobs that require experience now and you can’t find the talent. You can take a newbie and try to train them up quickly, but sometimes a role requires more than just skill–things like decision-making ability, patience under pressure, or team management experience that takes a few years to cultivate.

In these situations, it’s tempting to outsource the problem. After all, you’re busy running companies, bringing in new business and customers, running beta tests–you don’t have the time to devote to a recruiting strategy. Thing is–neither do most external recruiters. They’re going to focus on sourcing the position like you did and then charge you a sizable percentage when you choose one of their candidates. Not that you should avoid external recruiters completely, but what if there were a way to save that fee without exceptional effort?

Experienced talent is out there–they’re just often already employed, aren’t aware of your company, or don’t think a small company would hire them. Here are five ways to find that experienced talent using the resources you already have.

1) Recruit nationally

Look outside your city for experienced talent. You love your city, right? Surely you can make a pitch for others to consider moving there, too. Use the jobs or careers page on your website to host a “why live and work in [your city here] page.”  Include details on benefits that would be attractive to candidates: low cost of living, commuting options, networking or entrepreneurs’ groups, community events, etc.  Feature employee transplants talking about where they came from and why they love the city now, too.  And when you post jobs, indicate an option to provide relocation assistance–it’s often much cheaper to do that over paying a recruiter.

2) Consider the alumni connection

We may only think of universities when we’re recruiting new grads, but most career service offices have alumni functions to help experienced alumni looking for a new gig.  Shoot off your job description to the alumni contact at your own alma mater or other target universities. Oftentimes they’ll do the sourcing for you to help eager, unemployed alumni find jobs. Ask your employees to share it with their alma maters, too, and reward them with university-themed gear if the hire is made.

3) Poaching from big companies

There are thousands of employees stuck inside big companies who are dying to get out and work for a startup or high-growth company. They just may not realize it or know your small company even exists.  Advertise in places these employees flock, and use targeted language to suggest you’re a good respite from the big company dramas. Sure, you want to screen big company candidates to make sure they can work in a more ambiguous, fast-paced culture like yours, but an opportunity to work in a different way, have more responsibility, and be a part of something could be just the ticket. Plus, talented employees from big companies often come full of ideas that a scaling company needs–systems, processes, programs.

4) Revisit job descriptions

“What’s the problem with the job?” Float your job description by happily employed former colleagues or peers at other companies. Ask them for their feedback on the job description. What’s appealing? What’s not? What would tip them to consider even having a chat about the job? Job descriptions are often too vague, or ask for too many requirements, skills, or experiences. And experienced candidates take note of that. Prioritize: revisit the list of requirements and include only what’s crucial as the must-haves. But also be specific–what do you really offer candidates? Stay away from breathless language like “amazing opportunity”  and instead describe the path I will really find myself on if I join the team.

5) Rotating internal talent

Odds are, the current employees on your small team know each others’ roles pretty well. So you also have the option to rotate them through different roles. This may not work for highly technical jobs, but consider sales, for example. An existing office manager or project manager may have the maturity and ability to get up to speed quickly and likely knows your product inside and out. Plus, it breeds loyalty and ensures employees don’t get bored too quickly.

I get it, the easy way out is to farm it out. But don’t you want to save that money for product enhancements? Or marketing execution? A few hours on the front end to build out a strategy for experienced talent is well worth it in the long run.

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Susan Strayer LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo. She helps startup and high-growth companies develop cultures, build employer brands, and create talent strategies to help scale and grow businesses. Follow her @SusanLaMotte.

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