How to Find Talent and Hire Smoothly

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By James Cali and Jason New ( as published in Landscape Management)

Prepared managers don’t rely on luck to find great prospects; they use existing employees and a cohesive hiring process.

Like ideal clients, new qualified employees don’t just walk in your front door. So how do you find them? You have to market yourself as a valued employer and your company as a great place for employees to spend their careers by using existing employees and creating brand awareness.

The best place to find new talent is through a referral program manned by your existing employees. You can open it to entry-level positions all the way up to management. Reward employees for bringing in new valuable employees. Typically, they’ll only refer the best because they don’t want you to hire bad employees or those who reflect poorly on them.

Consider a “1, 2, 3” rewards program. We know once an employee makes it six months, chances are he’ll stay. And if he lasts one year, he’s really there to stay. So, consider rewarding employees $100 at month one, $200 at month six and $300 at month 12. Present all checks in front of employees. Nothing beats rewarding your own staff members for building their team. This type of program beats temp services, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Your website and social media channels are invaluable tools to create brand awareness. Generally, they create the first impression future employees have of your company. Social media, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, provide insights into your organization. Consider employee stories (not just advertisements about your services), pictures showing your crews in training or hard at work, and companywide or employee accolades.

You also may choose to advertise for employee roles through Craigslist or traditional methods, such as magnetic signs on vehicles or church bulletins. Craigslist is effective for many companies when they tell their story and why they’re looking for candidates to join them. Magnetic signs should say more than “we’re hiring.” Elaborate on what roles you’re seeking, and use different magnets for different roles. Lastly, don’t underestimate the value of church bulletins, where you can directly convey your hiring needs.

An initial phone interview is important even for a crew member. Why waste time continuing the conversation past the initial interview if you can’t have a meaningful conversation on the phone? The second interview differs for management needs. It can be held over a meal with key company leaders. Find out if the candidate can carry a conversation with you, future clients and your employees. Can he carry a conversation with more than one person at a time? Is he respectful to the wait staff? The answers to these questions will reveal a
person’s character, values and ability to relate to others.

The second (with crew members) and third (with management) interviews should be conducted at the office. Be the example of what you expect. For example, be on time for the interview, and don’t make candidates wait. If they have to wait, provide refreshments and treat them as professionals. Also, expect the same from your employees when they interview candidates. Remember, vetting candidates needs to be companywide. As part of an office visit, include a field trial that could be in the garden at the office. For a management candidate, a few hours with key employees and crew members at a client site will highlight his or her capabilities and natural tendencies. Regardless of the role, determine if he or she understands what you need and how he or she handles specific situations.

Once interviewing is complete—and considering the candidate is right—make an offer. Consider what the market is paying. Pay at or above that rate without playing “let’s make a deal.” Get him excited about his new role from the start. And don’t dismiss talented candidates who want more than you want to offer initially. For example, if they want $6,000 more a year, do it. That’s only $500 more a month, and the right person will drive more profit than that. Plus, if you have an appropriate review process in place, you’ll know if they’re not providing the right results soon enough.

Make offers before a weekend so a candidate has time to tell his family and close friends about his new opportunity. Treat this time with a sense of urgency, and plan to speak with the chosen candidate soon. If an offer is presented on Friday, reach out Monday morning if you haven’t received a reply.

Once an offer is accepted, keep the lines of communication open. This crucial time is when candidates could change their minds, so be there to continue to support them. Also, don’t stop interviewing new candidates, even if you don’t need anyone at the time. Plant the seed for the future, and build a bench for your crew because great employees are difficult to find.

Finally, when a new hire walks through the door on his first day, make sure he has the right first impression. Be prepared, and put him to work the first day. An employee orientation that includes the history of the business is a must. Then, depending on the role, have the following ready, if they apply: uniform; cell phone; vehicle; computer; password; field equipment; business card; credit card; and gate codes.

Remember the five Ps—proper planning prevents poor performance. Prepared managers don’t need to rely on luck to find great prospects; they bring them through the door.