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You can trace almost any problem in an organization to a talent problem. In today’s fast-moving environment, it’s too difficult to train people to spot critical challenges and opportunities. You need people who have a nose for what’s important.

An entrepreneur brought this point home in describing how her firm missed a great chance for what would have been a hugely valuable collaboration. She berated herself for delegating to another person instead of being there herself to grasp the opportunity. She misplaced the blame, however. The real problem was that she hadn’t found the talent that could sniff out possibilities like she can.

Leaders can’t be everywhere. Finding great talent is the first priority for any business. Often businesses struggle to find desirable candidates. They place ads in newspapers or use online services and wait for something to happen. However, most talented people are not looking for work. They already have jobs.

Executive recruiters take additional steps. You can learn from their proven tactics to enhance your prospects for success.

1. Agree on the job specifications.

What are the key skills and knowledge required for the job? Is there agreement among the interviewers and decision-makers about the role and requirements?

A manager in a Fortune 500 company had an open checkbook to hire his elite team. Unfortunately, he and his manager didn’t agree on any of the candidates. They hadn’t taken the time at the start to clarify and confirm a shared set of job specifications. Consequently, when they interviewed people, each interviewer had a different conception of the position.

When you outline the job requirements, be sure to include explicit consideration of what style and work habits you seek. Some firms ignore these “soft skills” and yet, it often conflicts in style that accounts for problems after hire. I encourage clients to apply easy-to-use computerized profile reports to help them identify key requirements for the work environment and to check how candidates fit with those.

2. Develop a network to identify good sources for candidates.

Good people know good people. Your task is to find people who are good in the position you seek to fill. Ask them whom they know who might know qualified people for what you have to offer.

Don’t ask them if they know someone who’s looking for a job. Most people won’t know of anyone and that will be the end of the conversation. At this stage, you want to find out who knows people who have the talent that you seek and with whom you might talk about the job. If they are interested themselves, they will let you know.

3. Make fishing for talent a top priority.

If you’re serious about hiring the best talent and you’re going to do it yourself, then you need to make it a top priority. That means allocating quality time each day and each week to casting the net in the pools of prospects that you identified. Top prospects are likely to be referrals from other referrals.

As you can see, identifying top talent takes focus and dedication. Evaluating the candidates and choosing the best are further steps.

If all of this seems like too much to do yourself, you might consider a recruiting firm to help you with the process. Recruiting fees vary by type of job and often amount to around thirty percent of first-year compensation for the position.

Recruiters may be cost-effective when you are hiring for a new position outside your expertise or if you won’t be hiring again in that area so that developing a network for a single recruitment isn’t efficient. Some businesses use recruiters to have a third-party help sell the position in difficult turnaround situations.

Whether you do it yourself or enlist outside recruiting expertise, a systematic approach to finding top talent is a key investment in your business’ success.

About Don Maruska

As a founder and CEO of three Silicon Valley companies, venture investor, and recipient of the National Innovators Award, Don writes, speaks, and coaches from a broad base of experience » Learn More

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