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Get Creative to Uncover Top Talent When You're Hiring Advice on hiring top talent based on one firm's tried-and-true research methods.

By Kathleen Duffy Edited by Bill Schulz

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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"She looked so good on paper."

Sound familiar? In your haste to fill an open position to keep your company running smoothly, you make a hiring decision that turns out to be a big mistake.

Related: 'Neutralize' these 7 toxic bosses

If this is the case, you are certainly not alone, and the problem isn't a lack of judgment. A US Chamber of Commerce Foundation study released earlier this year confirms what many of us on the front lines of recruiting candidates already know: There is a skills gap in the current labor market. The study found 48% of respondents lamenting that candidates lack the skills to fill the jobs at hand.

In an uncertain economic environment where every employee must perform at the highest level – it's important to understand what you can do to uncover top talent.

Sourcing job candidates is a valuable skill and often the most valuable step in the entire recruitment process.

At my executive recruiting firm, Duffy Group, we use a process called recruitment research that is based on the knowledge that every client has a compelling story and unique hiring needs. The research part of the process can be the difference between making a winning hiring decision – or not.

Your company should be your candidates

It starts by taking an in-depth look at your business history, key differentiators, penchant for community giving, and even how your workforce celebrates success. All of these things are selling points to get potential candidates over the finish line.

Once you take a deep dive into your company, turn your attention to the open position, reaching beyond the job description to glean as many insights as possible. Use this fact-finding process to clarify what makes the position different from similar roles at other businesses, identify competitors with best-in-class talent and list the skills critical for success.

You may be thinking, "But this is my company. I don't need to go through this exercise."

On the contrary, this introspective process will help you update stale job descriptions and put into sharper focus your expectations for th perspective employee who will fill the position.

There are times when hiring leaders don't know what they want in employees, especially if the position is new. This is where due diligence comes into play. For an outside recruiter, that means drawing upon details gathered from an intake form to guide a conversation, with observations such as, "It looks like a sales manager with a database of customers in the renewable energy industry would be advantageous."

Related: 6 Ways to Grow With Limited Resources

Cast a wide net

Armed with your research findings, you can now begin sourcing candidates. In doing so, remember to look beyond the usual job boards and social media sites. Instead, consider talking to passive candidates – those who may not be actively looking for a job but would consider the right new opportunity – with the goal of identifying three to five of the strongest candidates for formal interviews. This likely will involve developing a cold-calling strategy to target the best prospects.

Finally, don't overlook internal candidates who may be looking for a promotion and, in some cases, may already be doing the work at hand.

Bridging the skills gap will require creative solutions. In the meantime, a sound sourcing strategy can help you build a strong workforce and avoid costly hiring mistakes.

Related: Want to Grow Your Business? Grow Your Charisma.

Kathleen Duffy

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

President and CEO

Kathleen Duffy is CEO of Duffy Group, a global recruitment firm that helps people find joy in their work. She was among the first in the nation to lead an entirely remote workforce. Kathleen balances her CEO duties helping other small business owners and women secure corporate leadership roles.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.


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