Troll for Top Talent

Specialty toy store owners are beyond busy, and that isn’t likely to change. One moment you’re selling infant toys to new grandmothers and the next you’re running to the bank to make a deposit. Then, suddenly, your best employee gives notice. As busy as you are, how will you find time to get a wonderful replacement in today’s tapped-out talent pool?

“Small business owners are competing with one another for quality employees,” says Scott Wintrip, hiring expert, business consultant and author of High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant. “The internet leveled the playing field, and now your company – and all others big and small – is able to reach out to top talent.”

Asking for referrals and networking with other business people has long been a highly effective way to locate talent, says Wintrip. In fact, business owners who carve out time each week for networking and referral generation discover a secret: the labor pool isn’t as tapped out as they originally thought. They simply weren’t taking a disciplined approach to recruiting.

It’s absolutely crucial that small business owners find great talent quickly in order to perform at full capacity. “When you operate with a small crew, you have to find smart, resourceful talent capable of keeping up with the fast-paced dynamics that come along with a small company,” Wintrip adds. “Fitting hiring into your already busy day isn’t that complicated. It just requires a few easy adjustments.”

One of them is to network, even when you don’t have a position to fill. Here, Wintrip explains how to use networking effectively.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

It’s a magic bullet for effective networking and getting quality referrals.

“Just telling someone that you need help, even saying the word itself creates an important dynamic,” says Wintrip. “You’re reminding the person you’re asking of your shared humanity. This simple approach often paves the way for people to be generous in pointing you in the right direction.”

Realize a little goes a long way

Investing a few minutes each day in referral recon pays off in dividends. It’s so easy, says Wintrip, it doesn’t even feel like work. Small, quick inquiries can turn into big wins if you find a great person to hire. Here’s what he means.

• When a vendor or rep stops by, ask for his help with referrals.
• At the local office supply store or that restaurant where you have lunch, network with the employees you meet.
• A phone call to a friend could turn into two or three candidate referrals.

Get specific about qualities you’re looking for

Ask for referrals for the exact type of person you need, rather than for people looking for a job. For example, if you need a store manager, you might say, “Do you know anyone who’s managed a retail operation? I want someone who listens more than they speak.” This precision helps the person you’re asking to thoroughly “search” their mental Rolodex for the right candidate.

Don’t forget to tap into your obvious networks

How often do you ask current employees for their help with candidate referrals? What about their family members or the previous employees who left your business on good terms? Have you asked your own family and friends to put you in touch with referrals they know?

“It’s easy to overlook the obvious resources for strong referrals,” says Wintrip, “but when we do this, we’re likely missing out on the insight of the very people who are most likely to want to help us.”

Create a great place to work

The most important rule for attracting great talent isn’t to offer high salaries and fancy titles. If your business has a positive and engaging environment, the word will get out and referrals will come to you unsolicited.

“Reaching out to the people you meet, and those you already know, can connect you with impressive talent,” states Wintrip. “Make referral generation a regular part of your managerial tasks, and before you know it, you’ll realize that good help is easy to find.

“Hiring cycles don’t always happen at the best time, but when they do, you must dive right in and locate talent that will keep your company thriving,” he concludes. “If you’ve maintained viable contacts through networking and referral generation, you’ll be able to locate and hire exceptional talent faster than you might expect, even in an over-tapped labor pool. Then you can get back to your regular tasks and help your company stay strong.”

Scott Wintrip helped design and implement a process that helps employers hire top talent in less than an hour. He is pioneering improved methods for recruiting and interviewing job candidates. To find out more about his company, Wintrip Consulting Group in St. Petersburg, Florida, visit

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