When it comes to locating and hiring the best employees, few small businesses have access to the big bag of tricks that larger companies do. While job sites and social networks have helped to level the playing field, the fact is that some of the best talent needs to be proactively hunted down, because they are neither out there actively looking for a job, nor are they interested in being found.
Knowing this, I decided to speak to someone who knows a thing or two about hunting down tough-to-find people—renowned bounty hunter Scott Bernstein. The tactics, tools, and techniques he uses to find fugitives may just help your small business find the right employees.
Establish a Profile
One of the first things Bernstein does when he receives the—often limited—information about a fugitive from the authorities or bail bondsman is to establish a profile. Using his experience and his behavioral expertise, along with some creativity, he tries to put himself into the mindset of the accused. “Let’s say I know you were a drug dealer who lived in a certain area,” Bernstein says. “Right off the bat, that arms me with a wealth of information. For example, I would know you would be out on the street between the hours of 9 at night and 5 in the morning selling drugs.” Ultimately, using this type of role playing exercise allows him to get a better sense of what moves his fugitives might make and the places where he might ultimately find them.
The Lesson: Get in the mindset of the ideal candidate you are looking for. Consider such things as the places they might go during their free time, the hobbies they might be interested in, the websites they might visit, the way they commute to their current job, or where they might have that cocktail after a long day.
Then use that information to your advantage. Post your job listing in those (unorthodox) places and on those websites. Even visit some of those locations and meet the people face-to-face. While this might seem time-consuming at first, once you find the locations that yield the best talent, you will have uncovered a fertile recruiting ground that you can use for future searches and save yourself time.
Extend Your Team
When fugitives are “in the wind” (unable to be found), a bounty hunter needs as many people out there trying to locate them as possible. In some cases, that includes relying on the help of people who intimately know the landscape where the bounty hunter believes the fugitives he seeks might be hiding. “I will approach bouncers and bartenders at local bars or front-desk clerks and cleaning people at local motels and give them a little something to keep their eyes and ears open and call me with any information,” Bernstein says.
The Lesson: By taking a page out of a bounty hunter’s playbook, you can expand your recruiting team even further than your own networks. Zero in on specific regions and identify those places, venues, and businesses where the staff gets to know their patrons, guests, and clientele, such as daycare centers, local watering holes, salons, and health clubs. Then enlist people who work at those places, provide them with a description of the type of person you are looking for, and ask them to act as extra sets of eyes and ears to help you identify potential candidates. You can even offer a small finder’s fee or gift if their information leads to a future hire. And if you’re questioning the caliber of information these people could provide, just think about the amount of information your hairstylist, favorite bartender or personal trainer knows about you.
Find the Judas
When a bounty hunter begins a search, one of the first things he or she will do is try to identify the “Judas”—that one person the accused has confided in who has valuable information about his or her whereabouts. Once they find the Judas, the bounty hunter will get in contact with that person and ask seemingly innocent questions that will provide them with the information they need.
Now, what you need to understand is that this is done in a somewhat deceptive manner. For example, a bounty hunter might contact a parent or significant other under the guise of anyone from a package delivery person to an old friend from high school to put that potential Judas at ease and have them open up.
The Lesson: It’s one thing to find employees, but it’s another thing to evaluate and vet them and make sure they are the right person for the job you have available. Interestingly, the “Judas” approach above could come in handy in those instances, without having to go undercover, of course.
Consider this: when you have identified a potential candidate, their Judas is already sitting right in front of you in the area on their resume that says, “References upon request.” Let’s face it, references are usually the people who will provide you with a glowing report about the candidate. However, you could take a lesson from a bounty hunter and ask seemingly innocent questions that are designed to give you much more information than the reference realizes.
For example, your organization might be very lean and require someone who is a self-starter who doesn’t need a lot of hand-holding. When you’re speaking to the reference, you could ask a question such as, "What kind of environment do you think she is best suited for? One that's very hands-on where she will receive a lot of direction, or one that's more entrepreneurial where she can jump in and figure things out on her own?" If the answer doesn’t match your culture, you know the candidate is not the right fit.
As you can see, when it comes to finding employees you don’t need to have a fully-staffed HR department or retain an expensive executive recruiter. Instead, you can take some cues from a bounty hunter and apply those tactics and techniques to quickly and effectively hunt down great talent. Happy hunting!
John Palumbo is the founder of BigHeads Network, a brain trust made up of diverse creative minds and experts (including bounty hunters), who he brings to companies and organizations so they can harness unfamiliar perspectives that will foster creativity, help solve problems in new ways, and inspire game-changing ideas.
Photos from top: Thinkstock, Courtesy of Scott Bernstein