Searching for the unique: exceptional talent and morels

By: Steph Schroeder

I’ve been an avid morel mushroom hunter for some time – nearly as long as I’ve been in the staffing and recruiting

Morel mushroomindustry. For those of you who may not be familiar with morels, they are considered a delicacy the world over, and as such, highly prized. Unlike their button and bella cousins, these members of the fungi world stand apart for their elusiveness. With a limited season of only 20-30 days, a life-cycle of approximately 24 hours, and naturally camouflaged to their surroundings, the morel has earned a reputation for being one of the most challenging (and rewarding) mushrooms to harvest.

It takes a certain amount of research, trial and error, practice and dedication to become a morel hunting maven. The best hunters continuously seek out new ground, track weather data feverishly, and prepare themselves for the challenge ahead.

Much like finding morels, finding and recruiting the truly outstanding talent is a craft only learned through experience, ingenuity and a desire to excel in your field. The best recruiters I know share a common thread: they love to search for great (and many times overlooked) talent. They’re not after your average Joe or Jada, they are looking for the next rockstar in-the-making, or proven top performer.

The Hunt

Just like morels, star IT talent is difficult to find and could be camouflaged with a mediocre resume, or worse yet, in a pile of resumes sitting on your desk from HR, or your outside vendors. Did you know that for every good developer, there are approximately twelve available jobs for them to choose from? Just like a morel, the availability of a candidate is short and if you don’t find and hire them quick, you will lose out.

 Talent SearchSo how do you locate these elusive gems and bring them onto your team? The same way you become successful at hunting morels – you’ve got to do your research and be passionate about the pursuit and the payoff. Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes – get to learn as much as you can about your ideal candidate. Where do they grow and flourish online and offline? What environments do they thrive best in? Chances are, if you discover one, another may be easy to pick through a referral.

 The Conditions

When I hunt the morel, I may return to my tried and true hunting grounds, but I’m not afraid to explore elsewhere and seek out landscape that is has the right conditions to be primed for producing.

Think about what makes your company stand apart in the market. What is it that you have to offer that no other company does? What does it feel like to work there? Does the position you filling for allow schedule flexibility? The ability to telecommute? A relaxed/comfortable dress code? Are you offering a competitive salary? Full benefits package? Cutting edge technologies? While you may not be able to provide all of these things, you’ve got to be prepared to sell what you do offer.

When it comes to the crème of the crop, there’s no time to waste on multiple interviews drawn out over weeks. Have your team lined up, your questions and checklist ready, and your offer in mind. Once you get that candidate in the door, be prepared to qualify them in that one visit to determine your next steps. Whether you choose to do a panel interview or one-on-ones with multiple team members, try to get them finished on the same day.

Make this hiring process a priority and line up all your candidates in the same day if possible. That way, you will be prepared to make an offer to the choice candidate before he or she moves on to greener pastures.

Beware the False Morel

As any experienced mushroom hunter knows, one bad mushroom doesn’t just spoil the bunch, it can be toxic, even deadly. One lousy bite could be fatal to the morale of your team, or worse yet, cause you to get behind on a project or lose a client. You can spot a fake Morel by slicing it open. Is it hollow inside? With talent, you’ll want to look for factors that demonstrate that your candidate is being completely transparent.A bounty of morels

You can do this with some careful homework. Check references. Are the people listed all co-workers or have they provided you with names of supervisors and former clients? A list of peers could be a red flag. Does this candidate’s LinkedIn profile match the resume they submitted to you? If not, find out why. What’s missing? Why was it left out? Has your candidate been a job hopper? Sometimes, this is okay. You may be dealing with someone who has mostly worked as a freelance contractor (in which case several jobs may overlap.) But if the candidate was a full time employee, make sure they have the staying power you are expecting. Having a conversation in a relaxed environment can enable you to have a genuine conversation with the person. Does the candidate fit your culture? Are they only book smart or can they apply that knowledge practically? Have them talk to a few people inside the company – what are their thoughts on this candidate?

Finding morels or star staff to add to your team does take time and experience to produce the best results, but is always worth the reward in the end.