Can’t Find People? They Are Hiding In Plain Sight – 3 Examples

Finding people is a consistent problem we encounter just about every time we ask CEOs or key executives what their biggest issue is when it comes to hiring. If it isn't in the top three it is always in the top five.

Yet when you ask them what their process is to find top talent most reply in the same way, “We run ads” or “We post it internally.” That is the way 80% of all companies go about finding people.

Below are three real life examples of alternative ways of finding people.

1) In 2007, I was having lunch with a partner from a local CPA firm. During lunch he commented that they had been struggling for six months to find an audit manager. In fact, he commented that they would pay a $10,000 bounty for an employee referral. I didn't add a zero. So I asked, “How many people have you hired?”  The reply, “None.” They were doing the usual, running ads and asking current employees. That was their process for finding people.

So as the lunch continued, he mentioned to me that they had just brought on a new client and that he had just had lunch with the new CFO at this same restaurant. I immediately asked the partner, “Did you ask the CFO who was the best audit manager at his current company?” or “Who were some of the best audit managers he had worked with in the past?” He had never even thought of this. I suggested that he could contact all of his CFO clients and ask them. After all, it is in the client's best interest to have good audit managers.

This was such an obvious thing to me and yet he was willing to pay ten grand. For those of you thinking it takes too much time to find good people, I don't think asking these few questions would have extended the lunch that much.

2) Last year I was conducting one of our in-house workshops for a mid-sized technology company in New York. During the workshop, one of the key executives mentioned how difficult it is to hire technical people. I probed a little further and asked about the type of people they hire. She commented that they want people comfortable with technology. People who understand how networks work, people who diagnose a computer problem when a client calls with a problem, install software, and perform basic repairs that clients need right away if something goes wrong. They were willing to train on their specific systems and software. They just wanted someone that was moderately technical and comfortable with technology.

These people were “extremely” hard to find.

I asked if they ever go to Best Buy and engage the Geek Squad. Have they ever taken in a computer and found someone that provides great customer service and demonstrates that they understand technical issues?

She and her team had never thought about these people. I received an email two months after the workshop letting me know they had hired two people from Best Buy.

3) My best friend manages a store for one of the major retail chains. Every time we play golf, I have to listen to him complain about how hard it is to find people willing to work. He even mentioned it to me once, how every month he gets his business card order printed from Houston Printing Services and gives them out t anyone he finds potential in, hoping they would call to schedule an interview. He complains that his company works people hard and is demanding. The result is a lot of turnover.

So I asked him how often when he or his team is out shopping and they come across a great person in another retail chain do they engage the person, give them a business card and ask the person to call him, or let the person know that if they ever think about leaving to call him.

I mentioned that I go to a coffee shop most mornings when I'm in town for an hour of work. At this coffee shop, every person is probably in their late teens and early twenties. These people run the coffee shop. They open every morning at 6 AM so they have to get there by 5:30, they are friendly, they know customers by name, the coffee shop is clean and they are great employees. So I asked if he ever asked any of them about potentially coming to work a his store.

In both cases he replied no, and that he doesn't even encourage his team leaders to be aware of potential employees when they are out shopping.

Qualified people are all around us. As a recruiter, I always have my antenna up. Most CEOs and hiring managers just walk right by these people. Work with  your team and start noticing people hiding in plain sight.

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I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Brad Remillard


About the Author

Brad Remillard is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Brad is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.


  1. Joshua Norman says:

    I find it amusing these pieces of anectdotal evidence about the scarcity of candidates. Every job I apply it seems like there are hundreds of candidates applying and usually the person who ends up getting the job is either internal to the company, or someone whose background contains more education and experience for what the position required.

  2. Joe Langdon says:

    Hi Brad,
    Joshua has a good point that I’ve not only heard from others too often, but have also encountered myself. Any suggestions? Thanks.

    • Joe

      Joshua is somewhat correct. His first point about hundreds of resumes is right. However, what he is missing is that most (95% and in some cases 100%) are not qualified for a variety of reasons. We see the same thing.
      His second point is exactly correct. Those with more experience or qualifications will get the job. That just makes sense.
      I have not seen that many internal promotions. Most companies have cut back so much there isn’t anybody to promote. So this might be his personal experience but we see more openings than most candidates and it is not our experience.

  3. Jim Jackson says:

    You’re poaching. Instead of developing your own talent, or converting idle talent, you suggest letting somebody else pay the development costs for you. It can work but it doesn’t foster loyalty. Talent that you can poach will entertain outside offers while on your time clock too. What’s also interesting is that you will consider transferable skills when poaching but not when reading resumes.

    • Jim your comment doesn’t make sense to me. Seeing someone in action demonstrate the skills and behaviors is a lot different than writing them on a resume. Have you ever worked with somebody who doesn’t play well on your team? Bet they had team player on their resume.
      Writing something on a resume and seeing how it is demonstrated on the job are completely different.

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