5 Ways to Be a Corporate Talent Scout

Any football fans out there? You know there are only 11 players on the field at any time, right? But have you noticed that teams have 53 players on the roster, and 46 of them dress for the game? That’s like having three back-ups for every position on the team. Do YOU have that many team members or employees on the bench or in your organization? The concept for building a professional sports team is brilliant. You’re never missing a player, you’re never out of the fight, because you have depth! And the crazy thing is, each team has several scouts looking for people to add to their bench for years. Scouts will start following athletes in middle school to watch their development, analyze their skills, and see how their character develops. Middle school! Most business owners or hiring managers throw out a job ad and hope to be able to secure top talent from the 10 resumes they receive. There has got to be a better way.

Here’s my suggestion: Let’s be corporate talent scouts. Let’s build a bench so deep that we never get our job back and we are never held hostage by our employees. You think if Tom Brady left there wouldn’t be someone else to take his place? Let’s think about our business like a professional sports team.

Here are 5 ways you can be a corporate talent scout:

  1. Build a Brand and Attract Talent —> You have to build a brand (which is nothing more than what the public thinks of when they hear your name). How strong is your brand presence? Do people know who you are and what your company stands for? When you hear Google, Starbucks, Apple, Amazon, GMC, GE, IBM, etc. certain images and words immediately come to mind. Do you think any of those companies have trouble attracting talent? I don’t think so. Those companies know who they are and who they want in their organization. You must work to develop a strong company identity and communicate it often. The stronger the brand, the less you will have to recruit and search for talent, and the more they will just want to come to you to be a part of your world.
  2. Leverage Your Existing Network —> Your friends, family, employees, vendors, and business partners know you better than anyone else. Who better to know who would fit into your organization than them? You must be communicating with them constantly about the opportunities in your company so that you leverage them to be scouting talent for you. The trick here is to make sure you are working with the best business associates, your top talent, and your most well-connected and influential friends. Talent associates with other talent. You don’t want to ask your mediocre attorney who they know who might be talent. You want to ask the best attorney in the state who they know. This is not a one way street. Do what you can to help them in return – send talent their way, connect them with a potential client, cross-promote their business on your marketing platform. The more you engage in this give and take, the more people they will send your way.
  3. Teach and Train —> Talent invests in themselves and their education. When you spend a day training on leadership or time management or sales, who shows up? The people who want to take their business to the next level, the people who are looking to improve their career, and the people who are looking for another opportunity (even if they don’t know it yet). Whether it’s in person or via a webinar – train often. If you have a room of 100 people, and you do this often enough, you’ll be able to quickly identify who is talent. Who’s asking great question and is engaged in the conversation? Who is waiting for the next coffee break and who is staying late to set up a time to talk? Who is connecting with your team in order to find out more about your business? Whenever you can, bring your team to these events. They are another set of eyes and ears to see who stands out. Another great place to teach is at your local colleges – a breeding ground for talent. Give out your email address and see who actually reaches out. You’d be surprised how few do, but those are the people you want to connect with, roll into an internship program, or bring on board. And finally, hold a career night. Those that show up are eager to learn about improving their careers, learn about your organization, and connect with a strong company. From that, you will likely find one or two people who you will want to move through your hiring process.
  4. Create an Internship Program —> See potential talent in action and see if they have what it takes. Some of the most prevalent feedback we get from people in our company or those that have come and gone, is that they have never seen a company that moves as quickly as ours. Someone can tell you all day long that they thrive in a fast-paced environment. But their fast and my fast may be light-years apart. Get them in and get them moving in your world to see what they are made of. Great interns will be eager to learn and aren’t there just to fulfill credit requirements. This is also a great way to see if they could move into an entry-level position in your organization. Scout them young and move them through the ranks.
  5. Build a Bench of Talent —> Between your brand, teaching, and training, internship programs, and your network, you’ve now got a lot of talent on your hands. Too much talent for the number of open positions. So, what do you do? Build a bench. These are people you know you want in your world, you just may not have the right opportunity right now. Tell them that and then put them into a very comprehensive follow-up system where they are getting monthly newsletters about your organization, invitations to career nights and training events, updates on new opportunities, and regular email and phone call check-ins. The word talent feels like a commodity, but true talent is rare. You do not want to miss the chance to bring a talented individual into your world because you met them, and then forgot about them for a year, until you actually needed to pull them on-board. Set up a drip-campaign and stay connected. Remember, professional sports scouts may be in contact with someone for years before the athlete ever get a chance to play. You’ve got to do the same.

Recruiting and finding talent is a long game. You may have your eye on someone for years before the right opportunity becomes available. It’s your job as a leader to identify talent and then make sure you stay connected.

But there is one caveat to all of the above. If you find a true empire builder – someone who will change the trajectory of your organization – then don’t wait. Get them into your world right now. If they are truly an empire builder you won’t have to wait for the right opportunity for them, they will end up creating an opportunity for themselves and for you. They are probably going to scare the shit of you and be more talented than you in a particular area. Identify that, get over yourself, and get them into your world. That’s what a corporate talent scout does.


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