Human capital Featured

7:00pm EDT January 26, 2010

Human capital is vital to the success of any organization, and hiring the right people can raise the game of everyone in your organization. Finding the right people can be tricky, but it’s worth the effort, says Brendan Casey, senior manager — recruiting, at Burr Pilger Mayer.

“The big difference between good companies and great companies is the people,” says Casey. “If other people are trying to recruit from your company, that shows that your company is pretty darn good. If people look at your company and say, ‘Wow, anyone who comes out of that firm is a star,’ that’s the company you want to be.”

Smart Business spoke with Casey about how to identify ‘A’ players for your team and how a qualified recruiter can help in that quest.

How do you identify the right people for your team?

When you go through the interview process, you need to be very thorough in finding out what makes that person tick and what really excites them. A lot of companies put so much emphasis on the standard questions that they ask everybody, but the key is getting inside someone’s head.

It’s like a marriage. You don’t just marry someone because they have the skill set you’re looking for at the moment. You have to be able to communicate clearly and grow together.

The first thing in an interview is to try to get the interviewee to take the barriers down and get them out of that ‘interviewee mode.’ Put all pretenses aside and have a deep conversation to figure out who you are and what you’re about and who they are and what they’re about. If you’re open and honest with a prospective candidate, it’s more than likely that they’ll return that.

And if you end up not hiring someone because they were honest, or because you were honest, that’s a good thing. Then a year from now, you’re not having a bad divorce, or someone leaving on bad terms, putting you in a position to have to rehire. Just do it right the first time.

How can hiring ‘A’ players improve the performance of others at your company?

‘A’ players understand and share the goals of the company. They motivate their peers, managers and subordinates with their positive attitude. They lead by example and inspire those around them to be more successful. They are the people who make it rewarding and fun to be at work.

How can a down economy impact your hiring decisions?

In a down economy, you need to be careful about hiring. Sometimes the best person for the job is not someone who is unemployed, it’s someone who has a job somewhere else. That makes it more difficult because some good people are cautious about leaving their current position. They don’t want to leave a company that has treated them well to go somewhere to be the low man on the totem pole, because if the economy turns even further, they may be the first to be let go.

There are definitely opportunities in this market to ‘upgrade’ your talent pool. There are some very good people out of work right now. A lot of really good people lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and you can take advantage of that. But hiring in this market doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to get the best talent.

You have to hire someone because it’s an intelligent decision for that person and for you.

How can a recruiter help you find the best employees?

You need to find a recruiter who wants to help you find the right person for the job, regardless of where they come from — someone who is not going to be intimidated because you’re also looking on your own, because, if you’re smart, you should be looking on your own.

There are recruiters who will try to just throw a body at you, but the really good ones want to understand your business and what type of person is successful there. If recruiters are spending most of their time talking, that’s not the type of business you want to build a long-term relationship with. They should truly try to understand your business and what you do. Ask yourself if they are viewing you as someone they want to have a long-term relationship with, or someone they want to fill a quick job with, make some money and move on.

How can companies ensure their best employees stay?

Good employees are concerned about more than just salary. They want to work with good people in an environment where they are challenged, where what they say and do is respected. There is more to keeping people than just paying top salary. Why is it important to work at your company? Share that with employees and remind them of why it’s a good place to be.

Brendan Casey is senior manager – recruiting at Burr Pilger Mayer. Reach him at or (650) 855-6892.