How do I recruit top talent to work in an ‘unsexy’ industry?

Question (Orig. on Quora)

We are a medium sized building supply distribution company with an aging work force.
Any advice other than paying well and offering competitive benefits?(that is our current strategy)
Are using outside recruiters a good option?

Answer from Dan Walter

There is great top talent in every industry and location. Finding it is is never easy (even for the sexy companies and industries). Identifying what you mean by “top talent” is the first step.

I have a client, located in the SF Bay Area, who stated unequivocally that they wanted “World Class Talent”, game-changers and leaders. But, they were only willing to pay a bit more than the median for these people.  Turns out that “world class people” want world class pay…and autonomy, advancement potential etc.

Start here:

What do you mean by “Top Talent?” Do you mean people who are looking to transform and industry? Visionaries? Amazing Tactical minds? Consistent high level executors? Something else?

 

Who are they “top” in relation to?  The top swimmers in the countries best high schools are unlikely to be competitive with the top swimmers in the world (although it can sometimes happen.)

 

Once you have clearly identified WHO YOU WANT (and why you need them), you need to define WHO YOU ARE.

 

What makes your company great? 

 

Is there something your company can offer that a sexy industry or company can’t.  Not everyone is looking to live in a metropolitan hub.  Lot’s of people are looking for space, or good schools, or less stress, or paid sabbaticals, or two extra weeks off each year or…you get the point.

 

What is the opportunity for growth?  Most “top Talent” are at the top because that has been a goal. Do you offer the ability to continue to grow?  If not, can you find a way to add this to the job

 

AND…Don’t sell yourself short! I have met people from all over who believe what they do is sexy, important and fascinating.  They are passionate about something that many others would find mundane or boring. They are strivers who want to be the best and don;t care about the industries they have nothing to do with.

 

Sell to your strengths. A former sales manager used to tell me when I sold cars (for a very short time) “Sell the car that’s on the lot.”  In other words it doesn’t matter what else is potentially out there if you do a good enough job building interest in what is immediately tangible.

Lastly, if there are good recruiters, who know your industry, then by all means use them!