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Columbia Business Monthly

Time-tested strategies for attracting outstanding employees

Jan 08, 2019 10:50AM ● By Kathleen Maris
By Mike and Blake DuBose

Great businesses share a common foundation: skilled, hardworking employees who are passionate about what they do and the companies for which they work. Without excellent staff, even organizations that produce desirable products and are backed by well-researched strategic plans will experience limited success…or worse, failure. As Jim Collins, author of business bestseller Good to Great, noted, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” 

It’s difficult to find intelligent, ethical, organized, and self-directed professionals who fit in with company culture and work seamlessly with one another. That’s why many businesses hire the wrong people—and leaders regret the decision later. 

However, the time organizations spend carefully attracting, interviewing, screening, and hiring great employees will pay off exponentially. Based on advice from business bestsellers, extensive research, and personal experience, we recommend these strategies for recruiting outstanding staff.

Define who you are seeking: First and foremost, consider the qualities you are looking for in the person you would like to add to your team. What skills or knowledge are needed to excel in the open position? With input from other staff, think about the most successful employees you have had in similar roles. By listing their strengths—as well as considering current weak points on your team that could benefit from a new staff member’s expertise—an image of the ideal person will take shape in your mind.

New employees should not only have the skills, education, and experience to perform their positions’ tasks, but also the ability to work well with your current team. To help ensure a good fit, use your mission, vision, culture, and purpose as guides for hiring decisions. 

Write attractive, informative ads: Craft job advertisements to grab ideal candidates’ attention. Include all “hard” information (i.e. a specific degree or knowledge of a certain computer program), as well as “softer” traits, like the ability to communicate with customers, that will enhance success in that position. Write job ads that convey your company’s culture, using language appropriate for its atmosphere. For example, cheerful, energetic words will attract tech whizzes to software startups, whereas more formal, polished terms will project the professionalism expected at law firms.

Consider key words that qualified candidates will likely use when searching for jobs and incorporate them into your ad’s title. Resist the urge to create quirky, cute job names—they won’t garner attention from online search engines and can prevent good applicants from seeing your posts. 

In a blog for inbound marketing and sales company Hubspot, Eddie Shleyner explained, “In your quest to be unique and desired, don’t make up a new, creative name for an established role. In other words, don’t call your open content marketing position an ‘Attention Ninja’ or ‘Audience Crafter.’”

Shleyner recommends beginning with a short paragraph describing your company and what it does in positive, enticing language. Keep it succinct but strive to show the greater impact and purpose of the role and company. 

Then, outline the job benefits. Cover the basics like salary, insurance, paid leave, and 401(k) retirement plan, but mention other factors that will entice candidates to apply as well—for example, a great location with plentiful parking, free snacks or drinks, flexible hours, wellness initiatives, or other perks. Then, include clear, concise job requirements. Finish on an exciting note by explaining the position’s responsibilities using active, interesting verbs. 

At the end of your job advertisement, include directions on how to apply. Most job search websites include a button that automatically appears at the bottom of the page with “Apply Now” or “Submit Your Résumé.” If not, list a generic email address for applicants to contact you. Once your ad is finished, proofread thoroughly.

Advertise in the right places: According to the Pew Research Center, “Roughly one-third of Americans have looked for a new job in the last two years, and 79 percent of these job seekers utilized online resources in their most recent search for employment. That is higher than the proportion who utilized close personal connections (66 percent) or professional contacts (63 percent) and more than twice the proportion who utilized employment agencies, print advertisements, or jobs fairs and other events.” 

Newspaper readership is dropping, so classified ads have lost effectiveness. To cast a thorough net, you need to post employment ads online. If you decide to advertise in a publication—a trade journal, for example—we recommend including basic (but interest-grabbing) details with a link to your website, where you can post in-depth information. 

Depending on your hiring timeframe, budget, and likely candidate pool size, we recommend advertising positions on popular job search websites like Indeed, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Careerbuilder, and Monster. Online job ads are easier to edit, typically offer more flexibility in terms of length, and are less expensive than newspaper ads. They also reach more people—the most widely used sites boast huge numbers of job-seekers. Indeed.com, the most popular, claims to have 180 million unique pageviews each month; Glassdoor, 57 million users; and Monster, 15.6 million participants.

Niche websites like MediaBistro (media industry jobs) and Dice (information technology positions) cater to employers (and attract potential employees) in specific fields. Advertising on one of these sites can effectively allow employers to start with a narrowed playing field, saving time. On all sites, employers can define a specific geographic area that successful candidates must live in or being willing to travel to reach.

Online advertising prices vary by provider. Some, like Indeed and Glassdoor, offer free posting options, but these are often time-limited and/or eclipsed by sponsored posts (i.e. those that companies pay to have the websites promote). Others offer pay-per-click pricing based on the number of people who select your ad. Some allow flat rates to publish postings for limited time periods (i.e. Careerbuilder, which charged $375 for one ad to run 30 days at press time). Prices change and sometimes specials are offered, so visit your desired sites close to the time you plan to advertise for the best discounts. 

Utilize business and personal networks: Formal ads aren’t the only way to spread the news about your job openings online—social and business networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are great resources. Post job openings on your company’s blog, website, and social media pages. Ask employees to share opportunities within their networks, all of which can bring in great, qualified leads.

Also, spread the news about job positions within your business and personal networks by word-of-mouth and ask your staff to do the same. Networking groups such as chambers of commerce and professional associations can be fertile resources.

The bottom line: Attracting the right employees is difficult but necessary for your business’s success. By developing exciting employment ads and sharing them wisely, you’ll inspire well-qualified applicants to submit their résumés. Then, use a thorough hiring process to find the best candidates and enjoy the positive impact of building a great team.

Visit our nonprofit website www.mikedubose.com for more articles on effective hiring techniques.

Mike DuBose has owned the DuBose Family of Companies since 1981. His website, www.mikedubose.com, features a free copy of his book The Art of Building a Great Business; previously published business, travel, and personal columns; and health articles written with Dr. Surb Guram, MD. 

Blake DuBose is president of DuBose Web Group (www.duboseweb.com).
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