Guerrilla Recruiting: Getting Creative and a Little Assertive When Attracting Top Candidates

The recruiting market for top talent is exceptionally tight. The low unemployment rate and fewer candidates actively searching for jobs makes it essential to reach as many passive candidates as you can. Guerilla recruiting is a creative approach to reach and engage qualified candidates who are not actively looking for a new job.

What is guerilla recruiting? In essence, it is persuading employees to leave their current positions to join your team. This can be as innocuous as handing your card to an especially helpful customer service person at a store or restaurant, explaining why your organization is a workplace of choice, and inviting that person to call you to explore available opportunities. It can be as aggressive as researching your competitors in the marketplace, contacting their top talent, and exploiting any deficiency in compensation or benefits their current company offers that your company can fill. Guerilla recruiting is so much more than a resume search or contact on LinkedIn, Indeed, or any other job site.

How do you get started? First, know your market, your competitors, and the talent you are looking for. Are you looking for entry-level customer service employees? Start looking in other customer service organizations. For example, if you go out to eat and your server provides exemplary service, hand them your card. Let them know your company is hiring skilled customer service people and invite them to call you. This is the easiest one. The decision to make the call is theirs; you have merely provided them the opportunity.

Are you looking for highly skilled employees in a tight market like IT, programmers, or medical professionals? You will have to put in more work and get aggressive. For example, if you are in tech, and know where the other tech companies tend to be, you might stand outside or near the tech hub and hand out donuts, coffee, or snacks, while explaining how to find your employment website. Another option is to start researching your successful competitors’ pay, benefits, hours, and top talent personnel. You can do this through social media, in-person networking, news articles, purchasing employee contact lists from third-party vendors, etc. Make a list of your top ideal candidates, and pursue them in a personal manner. When you contact them, you can let them know what you like about their work so far, why you feel their experience and skills would fit well with your organization, and what you have to offer that their current employers don’t. This requires direct and candid conversations, not just the typical “I’m wondering if you might know anyone who would be interested.” You have to let the employee know you are looking specifically for them.

Guerilla recruiting is a skill beyond what many recruiters have now. Successful recruiters have a willingness to be direct; an aptitude for dealing with corporate politics; and a deep understanding of your company’s mission, vision, values, and workforce plan. This type of recruiting also requires a highly ethical person, as unethical or illegal methods will do your company’s reputation harm, and are just the wrong way of conducting business. While candor and assertiveness are required, deceit and trickery are not okay.

As recruiters, we need to be recruiting all the time, for current and future positions. Jack Daly said: “We don’t go looking for a new customer just when we lose one. So why do we only recruit when we need to hire someone?” Top talent is most likely not actively looking for jobs, and you will not find them through job postings. You have to find a way to go get them, let them know who you are, and that you want them to join your organization.