5 steps to find (and keep) young stars

  @FortuneMagazine June 13, 2013: 7:03 AM ET
VER01 managing young staff
(Fortune)

As hiring picks up, discovering and nurturing talent is ever more crucial. Here's how to do it:

1. Seed the résumé pile

Vying for top talent against the likes of Facebook (FB) and Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500), 150-employee tech firm Inflection uses a sticky guerrilla-marketing technique to attract the best candidates at college career fairs. It had staffers from elite schools hand out "Lucky 13" temporary tattoos -- built around the theme that it would hire 13 people in 2013. Result: The Redwood Shores, Calif., company got 1,500 applicants from schools like Stanford and MIT.

2. Sort for cultural fit

Architectural consulting firm Little in Charlotte often gets hundreds of aspirants for entry-level positions. To find people who will thrive in the "fun, open, collaborative culture," Jeff Roman, national director of engineering, scours résumés for signs of community involvement and leadership roles in fraternities or on sports teams. Since presenting is part of life at the firm, he says, "you need to be able to talk to people."

3. Look creatively at past results

It's hard to evaluate young people who may not have any full-time work histories, so look for other signs they can get things done. Vernon Menard, COO of Choice Translating, a 10-person firm, has found that young hires who have done some freelancing -- and are used to getting paid only when they complete a project -- have been great fits for his virtual company. "Everyone on the team must be self-managing," he says.

4. Up the ante

One Midwestern company I know surprised a new hire with a $10,000 raise shortly before he relocated for a two- to three-year gig in a city that is not usually a big draw for young people. Since he was already getting a decent salary, that small gesture made a big impression -- and he started out eager to prove he was worth every penny the firm was paying him. My guess is he'll stay longer than three years.

5. Provide a mentor

This generation is hungry to advance. Your company will be more attractive to the best and the brightest if you offer them an adviser who can help them do that. Inflection provides every new hire with 12 months of mentorship from an appropriate staffer who had been hired at the firm the previous year. "People straight out of college want to learn as much as they can," says CEO Matthew Monahan. He should know: He is 29.

Verne Harnish is the CEO of Gazelles Inc., an executive education firm.

This story is from the July 1, 2013 issue of Fortune. To top of page



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