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Three Overlooked Sources of Great Employees
by Mel Kleiman, CSP

Need some great new employees? Don't just run an ad in the newspaper and hope the kinds of applicants you need will walk through your door. Every business has three sources of potentially excellent employees that most businesses overlook: friends of current employees, friends of current applicants and customers.

Research shows that employee-referred candidates remain on the job three times longer than other applicants. Because your current employees' friends already have a friend at work and know what to expect going in, they're much less likely to be fired or quit. They're more likely to be a good match for the job because your associates have already given them detailed information about the job requirements and workplace.

Top companies have an employee-referral hiring rate greater than 50%. If employee referrals aren't providing at least 35% of your hiring pool, you need to make the following changes:

* Let your current employees know that you want to hire more good people and you're willing to pay for the privilege by rewarding employees who refer prospects you hire.

* Offer a cash bonus, paid time off, first choice of work shifts or other prizes for a successful referral, and give it to the referring employee in the presence of your other employees.

* Make your employee-referral program fun-create some excitement around it by running a contest to see which employee can provide the most referrals.

* Don't make the mistake of waiting three months or longer to reward employees who refer a new hire. Reward the behavior you want when you get it by giving employees their prizes immediately after you've hired the people they refer.

Recruit Applicants' Friends And Your Customers, Too

Professional recruiters report that the people they interview refer some of their best applicants. Ask every applicant who has worked before for the names of three of their present or former co-workers. Ask everyone for three personal references.

When you call these people you'll get as much information about their abilities as you do about the applicant's. If you like what you hear, add their names to your recruiting file. Then, when you need someone like them in the future you can call again, remind them of your previous conversation and mention you have job openings that might interest them.

The bonus in this is that because no one told these people not to talk to you, you'll probably get more substantial, useful information about the applicant's qualities than you will from supervisory references who've been instructed to only give you their former employee's "name, rank and serial number."

Don't overlook opportunities to recruit your customers and the people they influence. Take a tip from Southwest Airlines, which targets its passengers through direct mail and posts signs in airports that ask, "Are you sick of where you work?" Signs in Starbucks Coffee read, "If you like the Starbucks experience, maybe you'd like to work here."

Target Hiring Pools With Work Incentives

Target the hiring pools you want by offering work incentives that interest them. For example, parents in Dallas want their kids to work at a barbeque restaurant that targets good students by paying 50¢ an hour more for every "A" the student receives per semester. The message is, "We pay you to succeed in school." A student who works 200 hours during a semester and receives three A's also receives another $350.00. Should an employee's grades fall below a B, that employee goes on probation. D's cost employees their jobs.

If you want to hire Spanish-speaking employees for whom English is a second language offer free ESL classes that help them fit more effectively into the workforce. Help bright applicants who weren't able to finish high school get their GED's. If your job requires a high level of physical fitness, target very fit athletic team members who need to stay in shape. You get the idea.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally recognized consultant, author, and speaker on strategies for hiring and retaining the best hourly employees. He is the President of Humetrics, a leading developer of systems, training, processes, and tools for recruiting, selecting, and retaining the best hourly workforce. Mel is also the author of four books, including the best selling "Hire Tough Manage Easy." You can reach Mel at (800) 218-0930 or (713) 771-4401mel@melkleiman.com.