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About Clay

Clay's recruiting and strategic consulting efforts over the past 20 years have provided firms in the printing and communications industries the talent and perspective that has enabled them to navigate the constant change they’ve faced.

His current company, the bleedingEDGE, provides digital printing firms with 1:1 marketing solutions that enable their small- and medium-sized clients to compete with larger competitors using a cooperative strategy and production model. In addition to the normal 1:1 marketing techniques of personalization and customization, the bleedingEDGE incorporates timing strategies, generational analysis and sociological factors in producing results well above the norm.


5 Tips for Finding Top Talent in 2011

Last week, an old friend of mine asked me for some advice on hiring a new employee. I get these requests every so often since I was a head hunter for 15 years, mainly in the printing industry.

I’m not active anymore so I just gave him a couple of tips. Hopefully, once the new year rolls around you’ll be looking at 2011 in proactive manner...and who knows, maybe even expand. So maybe these hiring tips will come in handy for you, too.

• It is not a privilege to work for your firm. I don't care if we’re in recession or not in a recession, don’t think your firm is the only one out there hiring. In fact, competition for the top-tier talent is even tougher these days because the companies hiring are the strong ones.

Top candidates don’t have to sift through the fodder. They may only go on three interviews, but those will probably be good opportunities. If you come off acting like you're doing them a favor, they’ll remember it...and you’ll remember it when they’re working for your competition down the street. Treat them just like you would a top client you’re trying to land.

• Fish in the right pools. If you want a trout, you don’t fish in the ocean. If you’re hiring a new media person, don’t put an ad in the paper. They don’t read papers. Find online sources. Better yet, ask another trout. Ask your best people for referrals. They’ll only refer you to someone who they can stake their reputation on. And on that note...

• Make your entire company a recruiting firm. I did an informal survey once of 10 of my top clients. I asked them if they offered their employees finders fees if they referred a new hire to the firm. Two did, that’s all. And the bonuses were only $500 to $1,000. That's interesting since they paid me about $8,000 for finding the same person. I didn’t get an answer why...lucky for me, I guess.

Start a referral bonus program for your employees—a good one. Chances are, they’re only going to refer the best to you. Trust them, otherwise why would you have hired them?

• Work with a recruiter. I’m not saying you have to hire someone found by one, although I’m not against it. If for no other reason, a recruiter dedicated to your industry is going to know what’s going on out there. In fact, a good one is as good as it gets for information. They can tell who’s doing what, what’s working and what’s not. Over the years, I was probably instrumental in selling over $5 million in prepress equipment through my recommendations and insight.

• Check references. If there is only one thing you do when you hire someone—do this. I don’t even care if you meet the person. Just find out if they are who they say they are and can do the things they say they can do. And don’t tell me references are illegal and nobody will give you one. I hear that all the time. In 15 years, out of thousands of reference calls, only once—yes once—was my request turned down.

And please don’t rely on a reference from human resource managers. Their job first and foremost is gatekeeping. Name rank and serial number is about all you’re going get...if you’re lucky. Plus, they didn’t work next to your candidate anyway. How are they going to know what exactly they did and how well they did it.

In the future, I’m going to write a piece entirely on reference checks and the type of questions to ask. Look out for it.

Just a few things to keep in mind when you’re building your team for 2011. Good luck.

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