More Great Hiring Tips in Tight Labor Market: Join Industry Forums, Pay for Referrals

Experienced home-technology integrator suggests participating in industry forums to find potential employees with the right skillsets, and offering generous bonuses for referrals.

Jay Basen
More Great Hiring Tips in Tight Labor Market: Join Industry Forums, Pay for Referrals

Former integrator advises to build relationships in online forums, where skilled technologists might lurk.

The combination of an expanding economy (more business coming in the door) and a tight job market has created a challenging environment. Businesses just can’t hire the people they need. The money is there to pay people well, but finding them is a huge challenge.

Most businesses take a very passive approach to hiring. They place some ads in the local newspaper and online on job sites, including some that cater to the A/V industry. Then they wait for responses. While this approach may work in an environment where there are lots of people looking for work, in a tight job market, it isn’t effective.

A more effective method is to take an active approach. I will state up front that an active approach is more expensive. However, the cost must be balanced with the loss in revenue from not having the people you need to deliver the project opportunities you have.

Referral Programs

A simple and easy-to-implement approach is to implement a referral program among your own employees. Some companies are paying up to $2,000 for a referral – paid in increments – when the prospect is hired and keeps their job for a full year.

A referral program has the advantage of bringing in pre-qualified people. Typically, your employee doesn’t want to bring on board someone that is going to harm the company so they won’t refer someone that isn’t reasonably qualified.

Unfortunately, referral programs have their limitations. The longer a person has been with your company, the fewer contacts they may develop outside of the company; therefore, the best time to ask someone for referrals is right after they have been hired.

Targeting Skillsets

A second technique is to target specific people. If you are looking for a person with specific technical skills, find out what Internet forums these people utilize. The people you have on staff that already have those skills should be able to point you to the correct places. Then look for the forum leaders and approach them with private messages to see if they are interested in joining your company. If they aren’t, offer them the same referral bonus you would give an employee. 

Spend time online, participating in forums that cater to the type of people that your company hires on a regular basis. 

For example, if you are a Crestron dealer there are very active forums on Facebook and Yahoo for Crestron programmers.  Building your name and reputation on these forums will benefit you when participants start exploring new opportunities.

Now that you know the forums where the people with the skills you want “hang out,” you can also start posting your job openings there (if acceptable to forum administrators) to reach a targeted audience. 

Steal From Competitors

Steal people from your competitors. While you may feel uncomfortable going down this path the reality is that you probably aren’t going to convince someone to leave a job unless there were underlying issues and they were thinking about it already.

If you need a salesperson then you can probably simply place a call and start talking to the person who answers the phone. If you are looking for a technical person, it gets a little harder but you can probably ask for some technical help and a good shop will try to help you out by connecting you with someone that can assist you. 

Hire Interns

If your needs are short term then an intern could be perfect. You can contact local high schools, trade schools, community colleges, or universities about your business needs. Schools typically have special programs to make students aware of job opportunities. There may be special workshops or even a simple Web posting devoted to job listings. 

Ask yourself if you need to hire an experienced person or if you could more easily find, hire, and train an inexperienced person that really wants the job and has a “go getter” attitude. Training an inexperienced person can be an added perk for them that builds loyalty.

Build a Database

Another important technique to mention is that anyone that your company talks to as a potential job candidate should be saved in a database. While that person may not have the skills you are looking for today, eventually they will grow in their current job and could be a perfect fit. Even if they never become the person you want to hire, by maintaining a relationship with them they can alternatively provide you with the names of other people that could be a fit for your company.

Retain or Hire Recruiters

Consider hiring an outside recruiter to assist in finding people. This becomes an expensive proposition. A typical headhunter firm charges between 15% and 25% of the hired person’s total first year income. So, if the person you hire is going to make $100,000, including salary and bonuses, that is going to cost you upwards of $25,000.

But, if you are desperate, it is a path that can’t be ignored as a good headhunter is an expert at finding people and convincing them to take a job with another company.

If your company is large enough to justify the expense and you believe you are going to continue to grow and need people then you can bring a recruiter onboard as an employee. These people are typically paid similarly to a salesperson where they earn a salary plus a commission when they successfully hire someone for your company.

If you are growing fast and want to hire a good number of people this can be an economical approach compared to using an outside firm to find people for you.

Be aware, however, that just because you hire a recruiter doesn’t mean that you are going to be able to wash your hands of the process and watch the people line up for jobs at your front door. A recruiter is going to need help to do their job. First, they are going to need a list of different places to look for the kinds of people you want to hire. Second, they are going to need lists of questions to ask candidates to help qualify if this person has the skills you are looking for. Finally, you are going to need a robust interview process in place to both qualify people on their technical skills and their fit within the company culture.

An approach that I haven’t seen used yet is for buying groups to hire recruiters and to then share them between members. So, if a member company in New York is looking for a Crestron programmer and the recruiter finds one in that geographical region then the candidate is passed along to that dealer for a fee that helps cover the cost of the recruiter. 

Jay Basen has been a home automation hobbyist for over 25 years and has worked professionally in the industry for 12 years. With a master’s degree in engineering, Jay has been writing software professionally for almost 40 years.