Super Sneaky Recruiting Tips You’ve Never Considered

The best example of recruiting I’ve ever witnessed took place in a Subway.

On a Monday morning, the garage manager at a local car-rental company was given the green-light to hire another full-time pair of hands. He didn’t need them to have experience, but they did need to be able to learn quickly, play nice with customers and drive expensive cars long distances without constant supervision.

He didn’t contact a temp agency. He didn’t post an ad on Craigslist. Instead, he got up from his desk and went to lunch at Subway—and while others in line that day might have seen a place to grab a sandwich, he saw a place full of intelligent, hard-working college students making less money than they deserved. He ordered a sub, watched the employees behind the line spring into action, and when he reached the register he looked one in the eye and asked her:

“Hey, how much do you make here? Do you want a better job?”

What he knew, and what more employers are learning every day, is it’s not enough anymore to hang out a shingle and wait for qualified applicants to come to you. Today, recruiting the right people for the right job requires creative thinking and more than a little proactivity.

Want to get a jump on your recruiting? Try these cunning ways to track down the people you want and dazzle them into working with you.

Related Article: Finding the Perfect (Already Employed) Employee

Target People Who Aren’t Job-Hunting

A recent study by the San Francisco Fed found that 67.9 percent of employees who change jobs do so without ever job-hunting, and of those, 60 percent transition within the same industry—findings which the SFF concludes most likely indicate they were courted away by competitors. A similar whitepaper by Jobvite, surveying its users, found that aside from internal hires, the two most successful hiring methods reported by recruiters were personal referrals and direct contact.

Oh, and the number one reason employees leave their employers? Higher compensation.

The writing is on the wall: Employee poaching is on the rise, and the best way to find a qualified employee is to let someone else find her, then make her a better offer.

Some hiring managers balk at the prospect of employee poaching; it conjures images of Gordon Gekko and sleazy corporate raids. However, the times are changing, and the job market has changed with them. In the wake of the recession, with half of the graduating workforce unemployed, job-hunting now takes longer and unsolicited job applications see a lower response rate.

Many workers, including almost half of the unemployed, have simply given up on job-seeking altogether. The fact is, if you want qualified candidates, you may not have a choice anymore except to track them down yourself because the numbers strongly suggest they’re not going to come to you.

There’s also another factor to consider: When recruiting, you’re seeking the most qualified candidate. People who respond to a job posting are those actively looking for work—which means their implicit goal is to filter, fudge and bend the truth toward the task of persuading you in their favor. This places applicants and hiring managers in direct competition, with mutually exclusive goals.

Side-step the quagmire and remove yourself from the equation. Seek prospective employees out directly.

“OK,” I hear you say, “so how do I find them?”

Work With Specialty Recruiting Firms

Set aside everything you thought you knew about temp agencies or staffing companies. The game has changed, and the new rule is specialization. A survey of more than 50 employers by consulting firm CareerXroads found that third-party hires doubled between 2012 and 2014.

An analysis of the survey by agency recruiter BountyJobs offers a simple explanation: The recession bulldozed crappy staffing companies, and those who survived did so by narrowing their focus and getting really good at what they do.

In today’s recruiting landscape, staffing companies are no longer the warm-body-spewing assembly lines they once were. Whether you’re looking to hire a doctor, an artist or a mechanic, today’s staffing companies are hyper-focused, industry-specific and tailored to niche markets. Find a few in your industry, and start forging relationships.

Alternatively, if you’re feeling budget-conscious:

Related Article: How to Recruit Top Talent (Even if Your Company Isn’t Cool)

Track Down Candidates Yourself

Did you know that every job board, from Indeed to Craigslist, has a super-secret backdoor for elite hackers only, where the resumes of prospective candidates can be perused at your leisure? OK, maybe it’s not a secret—but you could be forgiven for thinking so, considering how few employers actually utilize them.

In your search for qualified talent, those resume boards should be considered an all-you-can-eat buffet. If you have a more selective palate and would prefer a specialty dish, LinkedIn’s advanced search options offer up hot, fresh, made-to-order employees, tailored to your exact specifications and delivered straight to your eyeballs.

So what do you do once you find them?

Related Article: Does LinkedIn’s Acquisition of Lynda Signal the New Age of HR?

Make a Direct Offer

Remember, the reason you’re hunting is not to get people to read a job listing on your website. It’s not to get them to send you their resume. It’s not even to get them into the conference room for an interview. Your goal is simply this: to make a job offer to the right candidate, and have that offer be accepted. Everything else is just a means to an end and a tool for screening out unqualified applicants.

However, if you’re already doing the screening by personally searching out qualified applicants, then you don’t need to post a job listing. You don’t need to see their resume. All you need to do is one thing:

Make them an offer they can’t refuse.


Contact Them Directly

Don your thinking cap, enter a hypothetical fantasy world where hiring is done well and imagine the power of an email like the following:

Hi Judy,

My name is John Smith, HR manager at XYZ Inc. We’re a small widget manufacturing company located just around the corner from you, on Hufflepuff Drive, and we’re currently looking for someone to fill a Widget Account Manager position starting at $40,000 a year.

I found your resume on LinkedIn, and I was very impressed by your work with Widget World. If you’d be interested, and are willing to bring along a few references, I’d love to get coffee with you sometime in the next week to discuss the position.

You can reach me at jsmith@xyz.com, or at 555-555-5555 between the hours of 8 and 4.

Best regards,


Now snap out of your trance and wake up to the reality: Emails like the above are a dime a dozen, and an infuriating nuisance—at least if you’re a high-powered CEO who gets courted by headhunters every day. If you’re literally anyone else, an email like the one above is a bolt of lightning. It’s incredibly flattering, and it’s almost guaranteed to garner a prompt response at the absolute least.

Keep in mind the golden rule of business: Networking is just as important for employers as job-seekers. Even if a candidate turns your offer down now, so long as you’re careful to leave the door open, you’ve successfully inserted your name into their contact list. Who knows? When the planets align differently a few weeks or months from now, that polite no might turn into an enthusiastic yes.

Seek and Ye Shall Find

The right candidate is out there right now, doing the job you want to hire her for, at some other company. Your task is not to post job listings, read resumes or hold interviews: it’s to find that person and figure out how to get her to work for you.

  • Seek out candidates currently working in your industry
  • Filter results to meet your needs
  • Make an offer
  • Contact directly
  • Leave the door open for the future

Treat every prospective hire like the next big deal, and you’ll have a lot more luck hiring the one who really is.

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