5 Tricks for Recruiting, From the Pros

Consultants, advisors & business coaches from a variety of blue-collar industries weigh in with their best recruiting tips.

Danielle Riha
February 4, 2022

“To be successful over the long term, hiring and retention must be seen as a single system, not separate processes” said Bart Gragg of Blue Collar University.

“It's been my professional observation that hiring and retention are most often handled separately. That’s like saying, ‘Let's just get them in here, and we'll figure out how to keep them later.’ That's missing a huge opportunity and wasting valuable resources.”

Bart’s right. Not only should hiring and retention be seen as a single system, but that system should also always be running—regardless of open positions or not. How you develop that system and the parts that make up the whole will look different for every organization, since it depends largely on the industry and core company values.

So, we asked other consultants, advisors, and business coaches from a variety of industries what recruiting strategies and tactics they think are underutilized, then compiled their replies under a couple of key takeaways.

1. Cultivate a culture that aligns with core values, then use that culture to attract candidates.

Jeffrey Scott, Landscaping Industry Consultant (Jeffrey Scott Consulting, Inc.)

The key to recruiting requires doing three things, all of which are commonly overlooked. First, find out what would make your employees raving fans of your company, and fix the obstacles. Get your employees to a 9 or 10 on their happiness scale with your organization, and get rid of the “culture killers” in your company who will never be happy and never buy-in to your rules or culture.

Next, once the culture killers are gone, analyze all your current employees and develop a profile of their social habits (like you would a client profile) so you know how to target your recruiting. Supercharge referrals by ensuring you have raving employee fans, and supercharge recruiting by knowing how to target it as keenly as you do your own marketing.

Finally, roll out the red carpet to employees as they leave your business (when they quit or are fired) so that when they are unhappy with their next company, they will place your company in high regard when they learn that the grass is not greener on the other side.

Gloria Strauthers, Cleaning Industry Consultant (Exodus Management and Consulting)

A culture-first strategy to recruitment is often overlooked. Hiring managers should evaluate candidates based on their principles and the degree of alignment with organizational core values. Core values, unlike skills, can't be taught or changed. It's important to realize that people and productivity are variables that can change organically over time. This outcome is solely based on the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. So, it's essential to hire consistently for values or risk shifting the culture and disconnecting from your mission and vision.

(For clarification, culture fit is the likelihood that a person will adapt to the core values and acceptable behaviors that make up an organization. This talent acquisition strategy doesn’t mean you are hiring for an exact personality replica but consistently staying true to what the founders and executive leadership hold as key drivers of company success.)

2. Invest time & money in recruiting activities & materials.

Randy Goruk, Construction Industry Consultant (Leaders Edge 360)

Most companies don’t have a creative way of recruiting top talent to their organization. They tend to do the same thing they did last year, which is the same thing every other company is also doing. If you want top talent, then start with having a recruiting budget. Not for headhunters, but for creative programs.

As an example, create a targeted intern scholarship program, or create a high-profile competition for people outside your company to demonstrate their talent. However, before you do anything, be certain you’ve created a work environment that everyone wants to be part of.

Ruth King, HVAC Industry Consultant (Profitability Movement)

There should be a great careers page on your website with videos of the owners and employees talking about why they choose to work there. These videos do not need to be professionally made; something from your mobile phone is more than sufficient. The videos should also be no longer than a minute or two. Remember that your website career page is a sales pitch to potential employees. What’s in it for them? Why should they consider working at your company?

Tammy Vasquez, HVAC Industry Consultant (Business Development Resources, Inc.)

Organize an in-house career fair or company open house where candidates (or people from the community) can come to the business to learn about the company and open positions, then move them through rounds of discussions and weed out those who are not a good fit. Invite the ones you like to come back for a formal interview.

3. Communicate quickly with applicants on text message.

Kelly Dowell, Landscaping Industry Consultant (Keldo Digital)

Text messaging with applicants is very under-utilized. I recently gave a presentation at Green & Growin’ conference and I asked the group of 100+ people to raise their hands if they use text messaging for recruiting, and I think three, or maybe six did. Because email is so popular, I just don’t think it even occurs to a lot of people as an option.

Another thing that goes along with texting is just being available. When someone fills out your application, you need to get back to them right away, just like you would if a potential client contacted you to say, “I have this huge job I need done; do you want it?” If they send that to you on Friday at 9 PM, do you wait until Monday morning when you get into the office to reply to a million dollar project? Hell no! You respond! You want that, so jump on it!

4. Diversify applicant sourcing, with an emphasis on employee referrals.

Scott Molchan, Landscaping Industry Consultant (Million Dollar Landscaper)

Too many business owners aren’t putting their job postings in enough places. They might put up a post on Facebook or Indeed but that’s where they stop. They aren’t putting signs on their trucks or at jobs sites. They aren’t reaching out to family, friends, and their business network. Always be recruiting and make sure that everyone knows it!

Mike Raymer, Staffing, Recruiting and Retention Consultant (Gray Wolf Strategies)

One of the best strategies that I believe is not just overlooked, but also not understood very well, are referrals. Often, we make assumptions that referrals will come in naturally, and sometimes they will, but the best strategy for getting referrals is what I call “Referral Hunting”. Referral Hunting is when a person looking to hire takes a hands-on approach to specifically seek new referrals. The key difference in this strategy is reaching out to everyone you know that works within the vertical you’re recruiting for and specifically asking them to assist you in your candidate search.

Similarly, I avoid asking my employees if they have any “friends that are looking for a new job.” Why? Because in my opinion, this could create unnecessary pressure for the employee. All I need is for the employee to recommend someone capable, not necessarily someone who is their friend. I also make sure to explain to the employee that making a referral to me does not metaphorically “put them on the hook” for the performance of this individual if I were to hire them. It is important to take this pressure off the employee ahead of time.

David Krysh, Landscaping Industry Consultant (Bruce Wilson & Company)

Referrals by current employees is a tactic more people should be leaning on. Your A players know other A players. But your C players? You might not want them referring people to your organization. Also, keep track of where your A players came from (e.g. they all go to the same church, or used to work together elsewhere) and make a concentrated effort to recruit more people from that same source.

James Albert, HVAC Industry Consultant (Einstein Business Resources)

Take informational interviews when the opportunity arises, then keep them on file for future job openings. I used to see people who wanted to meet me to discuss a credit career at Gensco, even when we didn’t have an opening. The best part of these informational interviews was that the candidates didn’t seem as stressed out talking about themselves or asking questions about our company. I would keep a file on the candidates I liked, and call them if/when we had an opening.

5. Write better job descriptions & job ads.

Neal Glatt, Landscaping Industry Consultant (Grow the Bench)

Focusing on the company's corporate social responsibility and purpose is proven to return nearly 30% more applicants but is often ignored in job postings.

Jack Jostes (host of The Landscaper’s Guide Podcast and CEO of Ramblin Jackson)

Is the job posting about you, or is it about them? It should always answer “What’s in it for me?” (the job applicant) first, and what’s in it for the company second. Unfortunately, most companies have this backwards. I have three specific tips for improving job descriptions and job ads:

A. Include actual pay ranges in the job description.

It’s 2022. Time to include pay in your job ads. In some cases, it’s a state law to do so, but more importantly: people want to know what their earning potential is. Not only will you attract more applicants, you’ll have fewer awkward conversations where the applicant is way off on their salary needs from what you’re able to offer.

If you’re posting your salary range and not getting a response, it could be that you’re not implementing the next two tips:

B. Offer truly competitive pay.

Wages have increased significantly in the last few years, even prior to the inflation we’re experiencing at this time. Research jobs in your local market on sites like Indeed to see what other jobs people can get. $15/hour for someone with three years of landscaping experience (in most markets) is not realistic.

C. Write to address the emotional needs of the potential employee.

Think about the fears, pains, challenges, frustrations that someone is experiencing at their current job. What does your company do to alleviate these problems? Write about that. What is the career path like? What’s the culture? What is the onboarding and training like? How will you support this person to be successful? Write about what’s in it for THEM first, and then get into your company and the tasks they’ll do, and you’ll have a much better response rate.

Jack brought it back to where we started by ending with a “bonus tip” to cultivate an environment where people want to work. He said, “Things like company culture, core values, vision, mission, and the overall experience of working there—those things are essential to attracting and retaining great employees.”

To sum it all up: Cultivate a truly fulfilling culture, then inject heavy doses of that culture into every aspect of your recruiting activities, and the rest should start to fall into place.

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