(This article originally appeared in Entrepreneur)
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
More than half a million new jobs were added last month, so that’s good news. But there are still more than four million less employees working than before Covid, and there are 10 million unfilled jobs. That’s a lot. For many small- and mid-sized firms, finding new employees to help them meet demand has become not only a major headache but a significant obstacle to growth and profitability. It’s a big problem.
Dan doesn’t have that problem.
I met Dan a few months ago at a conference for companies that sell and install windows in commercial and residential structures. It’s a big industry, and the companies in that business are facing the same labor disruption problems that just about every other company is dealing with right now. Dan, however, isn’t too concerned.
“I’ve got plenty of people,” he told me. “I’m always looking for great new talent, but I’ve never had a problem with that.” Why? I asked him. “It’s because I know where to look,” he said.
Does Dan know of some magical place where these new employees hang out? Does he know of some secret hiding spot for willing and able people to hire? Nope. According to Dan, the best talent is hiding in plain sight; they’re in the restaurants and stores we go to every day. Do you notice them? I know I’m not paying attention. But he does.
When Dan goes out with his family to eat dinner or shopping or to an event, he’s paying attention. He’s watching the employees at those places, particularly the ones serving him. He’s looking for someone with energy, attitude and intelligence. And when he stumbles on a candidate, which happens more often than you might think, he pounces. He invites that person in for an interview. He offers them an opportunity to make way more money than they’re making now and have a career that may well exceed that person’s current prospects.
“I talk to them,” he says. “And I offer them opportunities.”
According to Dan, his business is not rocket science. And no offense to you, my reader-friend, but neither is yours or mine. Dan’s not looking for someone who knows about the windows industry. He could care less about that. He’s looking for raw talent that can be turned into a valuable performer for his company.
“I can teach anyone how to sell windows,” he says. “I can’t teach them how to be a good person … or a productive employee.”
As business owners, we spend so much time wading through job sites and career platforms and resumes from people that are clearly not qualified and interviews with people that we think are qualified that turn out not to be. We hire people based on paper or from a sit-down interview. We tend to emphasize experience and job history.
But maybe we’re doing this all wrong. Dan thinks we are. He looks at a person performing a real-life, difficult job like serving food or answering customer questions in a live scenario. He can see right there if that person has energy, enthusiasm, brains and competence. He knows that if someone can do a great job in such a difficult customer-service environment like a restaurant or retail store then he or she can be groomed to do that same job in his business, to the benefit of all parties.
Are you doing this? Are you paying attention to the person serving you food or taking your credit card at the retail counter? Are you noticing how an employee at a retail store handles questions and deals with problems? Do you recognize when someone is a potential star? I know I’m not doing this. But thanks to Dan, I’ll be paying more attention to those workers in the future. Because they’re potentially future workers for my business too.