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The Recruiter's Digest
 Recruiting News, Training & Commentary by Bill Radin

August, 2008

In Defense of Creativity

In nearly every aspect of recruiting, it pays to work within a predictable, repeatable system.

But when you source for candidates, things don’t always go according to plan. And when you get stuck, a little creativity can save the day.

My very first client was a defense contractor in Santa Monica, California, and the job order required that I find radar engineers with highly developed training in mathematics, physics and electrical engineering. I had virtually no files to work from, and the only candidate I was able to find had already interviewed for the job, and wasn’t interested.

After several days of frustration, I called up the employer and asked him a simple question: If I could find college students in the local area who were just graduating with PhDs in math, physics or electrical engineering, would he interview them? In other words, if I could network with professors at USC and Cal Tech and UCLA and get referred to their brightest students, wouldn’t that be just as good as trying to pull someone out of Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman?

To my surprise—and relief—the employer said yes. As long as the candidates had the required skills, he’d be prepared to hire them. So I immediately got on the phone, and started calling graduate advisors and department chairs.

Out of the Loop
Somewhere along the way, my manager asked what I was up to, and I told him my plan. He let out a big belly laugh and said I was wasting my time. “PhD!” he snorted. “Piled high and deep! Nobody’s going to pay a fee for entry-level academics with no work experience!”

Boy, was he wrong.

After my first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth placements with the radar company, the laughing stopped. In my first eight weeks on a desk, I had out-billed all the other recruiters in the office. Were it not for being creative, I’d have probably failed.

Does that mean that I built a career on the placement of entry-level PhDs? Not at all. The “entry-level PhD” method eventually ran its course, and then it was on to more traditional techniques of finding candidates. It’s just that at that precise point in time, thinking outside the box worked. But it could have just as easily failed.

I’ve found that in cases in which you’re doing original research—or you need to modify or widen the parameters of your search—creativity can be a real asset.

No matter how successful your standard sourcing methods are, sooner or later you’ll be stumped. At which point, you'll need to engage your imagination to bridge the gap between the open job and the talent needed to fill it.


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