By Heather R. Huhman
Entrepreneurs know that overspending can be the death of a growing organization. This is why they look to hire new employees only when it's absolutely necessary.
Given how much time and money the hiring process takes, the decision to hold off on hiring ahead seems a prudent one. After all, why waste money on an employee for which there is no open job? But some leaders would disagree: Hiring ahead is the best way to find great, loyal talent, they say.
Take, for example, Karen Niovitch Davis, a partner and chief human resources officer of the New York-based public relations firm Prosek Partners. "When we see someone special, we bring them onboard whether we have a job or not," she said via email. "This allows us to gather some of the best talent in the industry. If you look for candidates only when you have a need, you'll have to compromise, since the right person may not be available at that time."
In short, this argument goes, hiring ahead might seem fiscally scary, but it's worthwhile. If you agree, here's how to find great talent even when there isn't a job open:
Go for the true believers.
Outreach is a sales engagement platform based out of Seattle. In its early stages, the company was pursuing a man named Matt as a potential customer. After learning more about the organization, Matt was so excited he asked to join the team.
"It was flattering, but scary. We wondered if we were making a mistake," Outreach CEO Manny Medina said in an email. "But the measurable impact on our business has been undeniable."
After his hire, Matt found a role in the sales department. He then went on to help shape the department's excellent culture, Medina said. The company has never missed a quarter goal since he joined the team.
A person who truly believes in an organization can be invaluable. His or her enthusiasm creates a degree of engagement and motivation that will lead to success. So, do what Outreach did: Find the true believers by paying attention to people who regularly engage with your company on social media. See how sincere they are about their interest and reach out to discover whether they'd make a good addition to the team.
Trade "always be closing" for "always be interviewing."
Niovitch Davis has a strict policy about scheduling meetings with talent. She never says no. "We never want to miss the boat, so we interview every single day to ensure we find superstars," she said in an email. "We never turn away awesome candidates because 'we aren't hiring.' We're always hiring!"
Davis added that she is also quick to onboard talent if she sees potential. For her organization, it's not worth the risk to lose out on a great employee, she explained. She went on to say that some of the best people she's found came from unconventional backgrounds. On paper, they were nothing like those the company would normally consider.
So, do what Davis does: Set aside time in the day to meet with interested candidates. Have a real conversation with them. Think about what they could bring to the organization. Then consider any possible drawbacks to hiring them. If the positives outweigh the negatives, find a way to make them an offer.
Never expect people to run before they crawl.
A startup can never predict when its growth is going to explode. If a company waits until the last minute to find talent, it will have a workforce that isn't up to speed. And this can hinder expansion.
Leela Srinivasan, chief marketing officer of the San Francisco-based recruiting platform Lever, is someone who has seen many companies falter during this critical time. "Given the competition for highly skilled labor pools, companies today need to be more proactive in their hiring approaches," Srinivasan said via email. "If they sit back and rely on applicants to come to them, or wait too late to open up the role, they'll never hit their targets."
She went on to recommend that companies always have postings for evergreen positions like sales and customer service. This allows organizations to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to unexpected growth and attrition.
Tap into youth.
Having a consistent talent pipeline is especially tough in a small city. There is less talent to choose from, so when a position does open up, pickings are slim. This is when hiring ahead can be particularly helpful.
Rich Kahn, CEO and co-founder of the Middletown, Delaware-based online marketing firm eZanga, recommends creating an internship program. "It makes the vetting worthwhile to both the student and the employer, and gives the employer the opportunity to hire ahead for future needs," he said in an email, echoing a post he wrote for Entrepreneur.
An internship program also allows an organization to shape young talent, so these individuals better fit any skills gaps. When developing an internship program, think about what your interns could do. Also think about the skills and roles your company will need in the coming years. This will help you and your company's leaders effectively evaluate interns and decide just who among them deserves to be "hired ahead."