hiring the right person before you need them

Should You Hire the Right Candidate Even If You Don’t Need Them Yet?


I recently read an interesting article in Inc. Magazine that explored tactics for employers in smaller, less appealing towns to attract top-grade talent. One of the suggestions I found particularly interesting was to “hire, especially when you don’t need to.” Distinct from ongoing recruitment —which is also an increasing trend— in their example, Orion Energy Systems of Manitowoc, Wisconsin hired a six-figure-salary manager despite not having an open job available. The company was so excited to find the right person for their company that they decided to hire him when they could and worry about figuring out the best way to use him later. The argument in Orion’s case is that they live in a town of 35,000; they don’t have other people locally who could fill their jobs effectively, so when the right candidate from out of state expresses interest, they need to be ready to jump on it. Fair enough.

But why shouldn’t other employers consider this tactic, even if they don’t live in what the author of the Inc.com article refers to as a “B minus town”? What if employers stop waiting to hire until they are under the gun, in less than ideal circumstances? What if employers were to approach ongoing recruitment and ongoing hiring as strategic, operational initiatives?


What are the potential benefits of continuous recruitment and hiring?


1) Gain access to a larger pool of applicants.

According to LinkedIn’s Talent Trends 2014, only 12% of the workforce is actively looking for work at any given time. But just 15% are totally satisfied at their current job and would not be open to moving. When you open your search up for a greater period of time, you increase your exposure to the 85% of the workforce that is potentially available to you. It increases the odds that you will be able to connect with more of your “right fit” candidates.


2) Elevate employee performance.

Continuous recruitment and hiring achieves this in three ways:

One, by hiring on an ongoing basis (assuming you hire with right fit methods), you constantly infuse your team with the best available talent. If you hire strategically, it should have a positive impact on your employees, fueling their performance as they are energized by an influx of new ideas and productive team members.

Two, it should also reduce employees’ stress from shouldering more than their fair share of work, which occurs when positions remain unfilled. Such stress is known to inhibit employee motivation (2013 study in the International Journal of Business and Management Invention) and work performance suffers. A 2013 CareerBuilder survey also found that extended position vacancies negatively impact employee performance and that 83% of employers had vacancies that remained unfilled for over two months.

Three, the awareness that at any time a “wild card” hire may be made before their role is even defined could discourage complacency. A bit of healthy competition keeps people on their toes. Though we do not recommend this approach, some employers (such as General Electric) have gone so far as to replace their lowest-performing 10% of employees each year.


3)  Raise the bar for your entire workforce.

When you decide to hire only your best-fit employees (rather than hiring to fill a currently-open position within a certain time frame) you elevate the overall quality of your hires and reduce your likelihood of making a hiring mistake.


4)  Reduce downtime (and costs) when filling open positions.

If you are constantly open to your right-fit candidates, you are much less likely to have open positions. When you do, you will likely have a head start in filling them. Every day you have an open position, it costs you. Not just in terms of recruitment costs, but through lost productivity and revenue. The more you can reduce the time your positions stay open, the less you risk losing. A 2013 survey conducted for CareerBuilder found that only 38% of the HR professionals they surveyed were continuously recruiting. For those who did, 54% said it reduced their cost per hire, and 65% said it shortened their time to hire.

continuous recruitment

Want to implement a continuous recruiting and hiring process? Here are some tips to get started:

  • Look ahead to project future hiring needs. Have a strong grasp on who your ideal candidates are, what skills and values they should possess, and how to match them to their right role and seat in your company — even if you are custom-building that seat from scratch.
  • Create a company-wide initiative to be constantly on the lookout for the next great team member and to encourage referrals of strong candidates, regardless of current job openings.
  • Pre-plan your process for dealing with ideal candidates when there is no position available, and how to create a position for them when you find them.


Would you hire the right candidate even if you don’t need them (yet)? Share your thoughts about the pros and cons in the comments.

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Image credits: © julenochek / 123RF Stock Photo; © vgstudio / 123RF Stock Photo; both modified by text overlay.