5 tips for building your team in 2012

We’re now in the last month of 2011, so maybe we should think about next year and what’s on our business agenda. One of the biggest decisions we’ll have to make is whether we’re going to add to our staffs. Since the recession started three years ago, it goes without saying there hasn’t a lot of hiring going on.

Well, let’s say 2012 will be different, and we’re going to “get back on the horse” and declare it’s time to add rather than subtract. In a past life I was a headhunter for fifteen years … so I thought I’d pull out a couple of pieces of advice I gave my clients when I conducted searches for them.

Are you going to get the “rock star”
  • It is not a privilege to work for your firm. I don’t care if we’re in a recession or not in a recession – and don’t think your firm is the only one hiring. In fact, competition for top-tier talent is even tougher these days because the companies hiring are the industry leaders. A top candidate doesn’t have to sift through the fodder. They may only have three interviews – but they’ll probably be good opportunities. If you come off acting like you’re doing them 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 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. Once I did an informal survey of ten 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 $1000. That’s interesting since they paid me about $10,000 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 – and 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 from one. Even though I’m not against it (obviously). 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 an invaluable information source. They can tell who’s doing what, what’s working and what’s not. Over the years, I was probably instrumental in selling over ten million dollars in prepress equipment through my information and recommendations.
  • 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 heard that too many times. In my fifteen 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 resources. 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 2012. Good luck.
I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg
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Where do you see yourself in five years?

A couple of days ago I was talking to my next door neighbor, Carrie, about a job interview she’d just been on. “It went pretty well … except that: ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ question. I didn’t know what to say. I’m just trying to get through the next week … five years – who knows!”

I couldn’t agree with Carrie more. Isn’t it time we move on as employers – and once and for all, and throw this archaic interview question to the scrap-heap.

Being a recruiter for over fifteen years, I have found that most interviewers ask this question only because they were asked it and it seems they would be committing heresy if they didn’t ask it too. Aside from nixing the candidate if they say – “I want your job,” or “I want to learn everything I can so I can start-up my own firm and compete against you” … nothing is gained from it.

"Where do you see yourself in five years?"

Imagine if an interview went like this. Upon the appointment confirmation, the candidate was emailed these questions: Where do you see this company in five years? What role do you see yourself in it at that time? And what steps do you believe you need to take to get there?

First, as an employer, you just might get an interesting outside perspective on your firm. One you wouldn’t get as an insider.

Second, you would find out what the true goals and ambitions of the candidate were – not just what they thought you wanted to hear.

And third, you would find out whether the candidate could think creatively and critically. Most CEOs say the their biggest challenge in hiring these days is to find critical thinkers. Some even say they prefer candidates from oversees because of this factor.

As a candidate or even as a networker, it would force you to face your possible future in that firm. It would also give you an opportunity to gauge the response of the interviewer, your prospective boss. Does their vision align with yours?

The world has changed from the time this question can into our lexicon. Why hasn’t has it?


I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg


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Will Gen-X and Gen-Y kill the printing industry … or save it?

Over the past couple months, I’ve been following several discussions on LinkedIn concerning the fate of the printing industry.  The talk is all about convergence.  The consensus is that printers, specifically digital printers,  have to embrace electronic delivery systems, including social media, in order to survive.

Now all this is fine.  We all know the industry is in a period of change that is unprecedented – and something has to be done.  We know the what.  The big question though … is the how.

Will this survive?

How do digital printers start becoming full-scale communication firms … or as I contend, communication delivery firms?  I firmly believe the industry is missing the point, however.  And this point will become even more evident in the coming years.

This point is age.  There is a generation gap in the printing industry.  And it’s occurring on two fronts:

  • First:  Who’s going to transition the printing firm into this convergent marketplace.  The majority of the people running the firms are Baby Boomers, age 50 plus.  I’m one of them so I can talk about this.  Is your average print company owner or general manager going to spearhead an effort into social media.  I don’t think so.  Most don’t use Facebook or Twitter, let alone use it effectively.  This transition involves talent … and the talent is in their twenties and thirties.  How many printing firms not only have key people in this age group in positions of authority, but also let them make strategic decisions involving the future of their companies?
  • And second:  Let’s look at the demographics of the people doing the print or communications buying.  Most of the old print buyers have long since retired.  They have been replaced by either Gen-Xers (age 30 to 50) or the younger Gen-Yers.  How many of these people even check their mail on a daily basis.  If they’re anything like my daughter, not many.  Their primary mode of communication and media exposure is electronic and with the younger ones – social media;  Facebook and Twitter.  And on top of that, even if you do recognize this demographics shift – who’s selling to them.  If you have traditional “suit and tie” printing reps driving around delivering proofs … neither your reps nor you will be employed much longer.

All is not doom and gloom however.  We’re in a recession, or at least the end of one.  With recessions as with any economic change – come opportunities.

Business in the communications industry, all sectors of it, is not good.  This includes the companies that are doing the content.  Now I’m talking about social media, web design, back-end programming and all of the other neat stuff that most us know absolutely nothing about.  And guess what, the people owning and operating these firms are same Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers that I spoke of above.  I’m willing to bet that a lot of them would be more than willing to join forces and collaborate with an established printing firm – if not outright sell and stay on as a consultant.

In this scenario, you not only have an inroad from a technological standpoint – you would also have a conduit to the generation of buyers that will determine your future.  You could go out and hire a staff.  But why?  Who’s to say you’re qualified enough to put together the right mix technically and socially.

I wrote a post last year in the middle of the recession and reposted again this year called the Alliance.  The message is still appropriate.

The Sioux and Cheyenne realized it and formed an alliance.  How did that work out for Custer?


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