How To Hire Smart & Find Hot Talent Locally


Earlier this week Rhea and I were invited to Kingston, NY to speak at the local 140 conference taking place there. The topic for our session is one that we are intimately familiar with – finding hot local talent.

When Rhea and I opened up the Troy, NY Outspoken Media office last summer, we were up against two big challenges.

First, though our brand is pretty well known nationally, we’re not as well known in our own backyard since we don’t cater to small business or take on many local clients. The other problem was that we were opening up an office in Troy, NY. While I’d argue we have a pretty good crop of talent in this area, it’s obviously quite smaller and less experienced than areas like New York City or Los Angeles. And with small numbers and less experience comes more competition for spots and the added time of having to properly train people. After a few early mis-hires, it was clear that we needed to change up our hiring strategy if we wanted to find the pick of Troy’s litter.

Below are a few tips and tricks that did (and did not) work for us when looking for hot local talent.

What Didn’t Work…

In perhaps what was a glaring sign of our inexperience and naiveté, Rhea and I started off trying to recruit local talent using online job boards like Craigslist and Since this was where WE went to find jobs as hungry young professionals, we assumed it would be a good place to find others like us.

We couldn’t have been more wrong.

While posting ads on these traditional online job boards surely helped us RECEIVE a high number of responses, they weren’t necessarily coming from quality candidates and just meant that we wasted a lot of time wading through a sea of bad candidates. After a few rounds of nothing but ill-suited folks, we decided to try something else.

We moved from online job boards to the physical job boards located at several colleges and universities in the area. Again, a noble effort but one that did not do a good job introducing us to quality candidates. With time a wastin’, we knew we had to put our heads together and find a better way.

What We Did That Worked…

Built Connections Through Local Meetups

Our first step toward meeting potential new family members meant getting out of the Outspoken Media cave and becoming an active part of the marketing and developer community here in town. Actually, perhaps the first step was realizing that we even had one. ;)

As a company, we’ve been able to participate in a number of ways:

  • We became involved in the Social Media Breakfast: Tech Valley events that were put together by Amy Mengel.
  • We joined the local Chamber of Commerce and Rhea became a speaker at one of their events.
  • The Outspoken Media team began attending the Albany chapter of Build Guild, a monthly meet up for Web people and developer-types.
  • We were featured in and spoke at the local paper, The Troy Record
  • We attended and spoke at Tuesday’s 140 conference event in Kingston
  • We participated in lots of other local events

All of these things have helped Outspoken Media to become part of the community. This helped us get to know those looking for jobs and it also helps job prospects to learn more about us, as well.

Connected with Local Professors & Universities

One of the other things we did was to look for opportunities to connect with local professors. By getting on their radar we were able to brand Outspoken Media as a prominent marketing firm in the area, while also getting in front of graduating college seniors who were looking for positions in the marketing world. This idea was recommended to use by Wil Reynolds, CEO of Seer Interactive, and is one that, I think, served us very well. Not only was Rhea able to secure lecture opportunities at NYU, Columbia, SUNY and Bryant & Stratton College, but it also meant that professors were circulating our career opportunities through their entire student database. Not a bad gig if you can get it. ;)

Embraced the Poaching Potential of LinkedIn

There are many ways to use social media to help you locate potential job prospects, but LinkedIn is probably my most favorite, even above Twitter and Facebook. I love LinkedIn because it allows you to create a powerful local referrer network simply by forming relationships with the right people.

When you’re building your LinkedIn account, obviously you’ll want to connect with colleagues and others in your industry, but don’t forget to connect with local business owners, professors at nearby universities where you have relationships, community group organizers and others that you’ve met through participating in LinkedIn groups and other social media outlets. You want to build up a strong local network so that when you are hiring, you already have a referral network that you can reach out to for recommendations or to vet certain prospects. You can also search for candidates by their recommendations (with an upgraded account), which is a pretty useful way to judge whether someone is worth bringing in for an interview or not.

Of course, that’s not the only way to dominate LinkedIn. We’re also really big fans of the LinkedIn Advanced Search. What makes the Advanced Search powerful is that you’re able to search by keyword, years of experience, job title, previous employer, etc, and then have that list refined to only show you the people 50 miles from your door aka the candidates who could actually show up to work every day.

Once you have the list LinkedIn was kind enough to compile, you can begin researching each candidate to discover where they currently work, where they have worked, what their experience level is, what groups they belong to, what events they may be attending, etc. And while we’d never (officially) recommend poaching employees from someone else, this is a good way to start open a door with a potential candidate. And, hey, you never know where that may lead. Like, perhaps, to a local event that you know they’ll be attending.

Kidding. Sort of. Fine, stalking people is bad.

[Rhea’s two cents: I’m fine with it. Employees only leave if they’re unhappy or need something more. Keep your people happy. It challenges us to do the same. A bad economy isn’t an excuse for treating your team like dirt.]   [Sure, if that helps you sleep at night… ;) – Lisa]

Dominated Twitter Searches

Though LinkedIn really is my preferred social network for hunting down potential new OSM recruits, sometimes there’s nothing quite like a Twitter Search to help you eavesdrop on a conversation you’d like to be a part of or, at least, would like to know is going on.

For example, I mentioned that sometimes many of the ladies of Outspoken Media like to attend Build Guild, which just had its monthly meeting this past Tuesday. Had I performed an Advanced Twitter Search before the event, it would have allowed me to hunt down other people in this area who were attending so that we could learn more about them before we show up and see who has the skillset we may be after.

Created an Email List for Candidates

Through our local outreach and simply getting more involved in Albany’s SEO and marketing scene, we’ve been truly fortunate to come into contact with a lot of great job prospects. But that doesn’t always mean we meet them when we’re in a position to hire them. To help make sure we’re not missing out on potential talent, we’ve created an internal email list for people we know that we want to hear from when a position does open up. We will then reach out to this pool of potentials before we even announce an opening publicly. Essentially we’ve been able to create our very own OSM referral list.

Those are just a handful of the solutions we’ve adopted to help Outspoken Media secure some of the Capital Region’s top Internet marketing talent. What tools or sites have you adopted to curb the hiring problem?

And, if you’re interested in joining the team, visit the careers page to learn more and contact us.

Your Comments

  • Jon DiPietro

    BOOM! This is great fuel for my pitch to college students and job seekers that they need to have an integrated offline (face to face) and online personal marketing strategy. I’ve been doing presentations to local support groups and career centers on using personal inbound marketing and this blog post is exactly the kind of example I can cite as to why having a large, loud digital footprint is necessary.

    This post will now be part of my slides and resource handout. Thanks!

  • Jerry McCarthy

    We are currently going through a slew of bad hires. At some point I wonder if we’re being too picky but my gut tells me otherwise. Since every hire is an extension of your brand, the criteria you look for is something I call L.E.A.D. Leadership, Enthusiasm, Ability and Drive. I know, it sounds like another corporate cliche. It’s not a phrase I use with my team (don’t want to bore them) but rather a road map to help us sift through. This post couldn’t have come at a better time as we are planning a few meet and greets at local colleges in the area and let’s me know if O.S.M. is doing it, it’s a good approach. Thanks Lisa. :-)

  • Todd Mintz

    This is actually one of the smartest posts on employment I’ve ever seen…anyone in this industry should really follow your advice.

  • Nick Gowdy

    We do a lot of the “offline” recruiting — connections with universities, meetups. Outside of that, however, we do fall into the Monster / Craigslist trap, and then use social media more for screening purposes. For our next round, I imagine we’ll be a bit more proactive and start our hunt within the confines of LinkedIn / Twitter / etc.

    Great stuff, as usual.

  • Lea

    I’m not sure you should beat yourself up over the linkedin search as ‘poaching’ :)
    Poaching is when you try to take employees based on their working somewhere. For example if you had a contract with another company and wanted to hire an employee you thought was good – poaching.
    You are probably getting close to the line if you, say, searched on linkedin on company X (that you knew was beating you, or a strong competitor) and went through their staff.
    But a linkedin search for people within 50 miles of you? Naaaaa, thats not poaching :)

  • Phil Buckley

    I’ve read a lot of great articles here, but this one just shot into the top 3!

    It makes me think of the old worn line that you grumble when you’re just getting started in the real world “it’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know”. The problem is that when you’re starting out, you don’t realize how much work it is to grow your network.

    It’s a lot more work making a connection with 50 awesome people than it is to become a crack web developer, because html never has bad days, html never wants to “run an idea past you” or “pick your brain.

    People are hard work.

  • Michael Said

    Nice post, you would think that with the shortage of work that people would be putting their best foot forward when trying to find work.

  • Henry Louis

    It is very important to hire local talent. It basically helps in the employees staying with the organization for a very long time.

  • Laurie

    Looking at it from the other side, this is valuable info for job seekers. Yes, you ARE wasting your time if you’re spending most of it looking at job boards, because many employers have figured out that’s not the best place to find qualified talent (since many job seekers just spew their resumes out into the void and hope to hit the jackpot). I’m retweeting to my followers – thanks, Lisa!

  • Kat Caverly

    I really enjoyed your presentation at #140conf Hudson Valley, as you and Rhea explored the problem of finding social media talent. It seems obvious that you find it ON social media but that is complicated by the fact that most companies want these hires to be local, which I just don’t find necessary.

    I ran an animation production company with an international staff all interviewed, managed and hired via the Internet. It was a time when this was just not possible with local talent. I suggest that social media marketing companies would benefit from such “global” thinking.

  • John Michel

    Lisa, you’re not alone in your struggle to find strong local talent. To combat this challenge, I’m a big fan of behaviorally-based pre-employment screening assessments. Contrary to what I used to think, behavioral traits are equally strong predictors of a job candidate’s future performance as that candidate’s professional history. Linkedin and similar tools are extremely useful for making you aware of which candidates are interested in your open positions, but assessment testing solutions do an outstanding job of filling in the rest of the equation.