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How to think outside the box to find talent

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Finding the right people for the job has always been a challenge, and it will likely remain that way. Many of us will be familiar with the disappointment of hiring a new staff member, only to find they don’t turn up on their first day or aren’t quite what you expected. And although there used to be a long waiting list for jobs, now that just isn’t the case and companies aren’t helping themselves by narrowing their options to the university educated.

Leaving tradition behind

To me, the fear of not finding talent is only justified when companies go through the traditional hiring route, where a university degree and some solid experience is required to make the cut. This drastically reduces the talent pool companies could tap into, so they need to start thinking outside the box.

Ultimately, a degree and impressive qualifications aren’t the be all and end all – companies should be opening up their recruitment opportunities to a wider audience, looking for a balance of qualifications and experience.

One of the most important things I look for in a CV is a candidate’s interests outside of work. Granted, triathlon experience in practise may only pay off on the annual work sports day, but it’s the transferable skills behind that experience – resolve, persistence, hunger – that will go a long way in any business. Perseverance, in particular, is an attribute I have found to be key to success. I once interviewed a candidate for a sales role who told me she didn’t want a base salary, simply 100% commission. A bold statement, but one that demonstrated an extremely high level of confidence in her ability to fulfil the job role requirements. When you find those kinds of people, you need to snap them up.

Another crucial point to consider is that the best candidates don’t always come from the traditional interview-based hiring route. One of my most unusual hires started in a petrol station. A young woman who had struggled to get a job due to her background – working class with minimal education and a lack of qualifications. But when given a chance and left to her own devices, she was able to build things on our platform quicker than any of my existing employees. Traditional recruitment routes just don’t find these gems.

Everyone has the potential to achieve greatness if only given the chance. In my personal experience, formal apprenticeship schemes that enable people without degrees to experience all aspects of business are a great opportunity to give people that chance. Although they can be a slight drain on resources in the initial stages, the end results will be highly rewarding for both the candidate and the company.

Nurturing existing talent

It never hurts to boast a high staff retention rate and focusing attention on existing staff will ensure businesses strike the right balance between retaining the best and hiring those who can be the best.

Regular complaints in the workplace usually come back to the feedback process. For someone to succeed, sometimes you must be cruel to be kind. A member of management should never use the term “need to improve”.  Be helpful by calling out the specifics, otherwise that staff member will never feel empowered to change.

Ultimately, people are like sponges – they learn quickly if they are bright and given the opportunity. The problem is that they can be missed if the hiring criteria is too narrow, or management fail to nurture them in the right direction. As business management author Tom Peters once said, “hire for attitude and train for skills”.




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