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Cherry Pick Top Talent Away from Rivals

The scenario: With nearly every industry announcing
layoffs and closings, high-caliber talent is up for grabs.

The tactic: Employ savvy recruiting tactics to poach
A players from competitors.

Most Fortune 1000 companies keep a running list of top senior-level
talent in their industry — people they would most like to hire if
opportunity came knocking. Surprise: In many industries laboring through
recession and cutbacks, now’s the time. With jobs in shorter
supply and salaries flatlined, companies in a position to add headcount can
lock in great talent. What are the keys to recessionary poaching? Here are four
tactics that experts consider crucial.

your tactics.
Getting the timing right and going aggressive at the
first sign of trouble can be critical factors in making timely hires. When
aircraft makers Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft announced in November
that hundreds of employees would be laid off at their Wichita, Kansas, plants,
Florida-based rival Piper
saw a prime opportunity to scoop up talent. Piper
quickly organized a job fair, but not in Florida. The company brought
recruiters to the Wichita Airport Hilton in hopes of attracting both employed
and laid-off workers from Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft to its Vero Beach, Fla. operation.

Forget headhunters — use the Web. Companies
looking to pick up talent also need to think strategically about using the Web
to recruit. Build an online relationship with coveted employees before calling
or interviewing, says John
Sullivan, a management professor at San Francisco State University
and CEO of HR firm Dr.
John Sullivan & Associates
. Many A-list
employees aren’t actively looking to switch jobs. Hiring them
requires a sustained effort to market the company online as the place, like
Google and Facebook, where the best and brightest work. “A top
performer will always want to learn,” says Sullivan.

Turn employees into recruiters. An easy way to boost
a company’s Web reputation is to turn key employees into Web-savvy
evangelists who blog, post in forums, and generally make the company look
smart. At
shoe and apparel retailer Zappos, more than 400 employees, including
recruiters, now use Twitter to broadcast up-to-the minute updates on their days
— ultimately hoping to convince talent at stuffier companies that
life at Zappos is better. Recruiters at Sodexo, a growing $7.3
billion food services and facilities
management company, use Facebook, YouTube videos
(“A day in the life of a Sodexo employee”), LinkedIn,
and blogging to help potential recruits get to know the company.

Don’t cave to the impulse to bargain-shop. That’s
not to suggest any of this is easy or quick. It’s tempting to
try to pay less for talent, especially when out-of-work employees have the
disadvantage in negotiations. But hiring the candidate who agrees to the
smallest salary could backfire when the economy bounces back and that employee
starts to look for a better opportunity elsewhere. If financing is a problem,
forgo upfront signing bonuses. Instead, offer restricted stock grants and
promise more for the future, based on performance.

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