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3 strategies to hire (and keep) your best employees

Karen Kaplan, Chairman and CEO of Hill Holliday.Karen Kaplan, Chairman and CEO of Hill Holliday.
Karen Kaplan, Chairman and CEO of Hill Holliday.Photograph by Ken Richardson

MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you hire? is written by Karen Kaplan, Chairman and CEO of Hill Holliday.

I have always believed that a company is only as good as its people, and that’s especially true in my business where our product is creative ideas.

We are fortunate to be the only advertising agency to make the 2015 Glassdoor Best Places to Work list, and people often ask me how to foster a culture where people not only do great work, but are also happy doing it. My answer is always the same: hire the right people. And the next question is inevitably, how do you find them?

There’s no secret recipe to recruiting the right talent, and it certainly varies among industries, but in my 30 years in the business, there are a few things I’ve learned about getting the right people in your door.

Look beyond your industry.
Some of our best talent had no advertising experience when they came on board. Effective people share the same traits, no matter what business you’re in. At Hill Holliday we have a standup comedian, a former child actor, a reformed movie publicist, and a cognitive neuropsychologist whom we call the ‘neuro-hustler’. These diverse backgrounds bring a level of fresh thinking we wouldn’t find otherwise. They all continue to contribute to the company in ways that still surprise me. Especially the actor.

Hire ideas, not just histories.
Seek out people who not only have a history of success, but who have an informed perspective on your business, a desire to make an impact, and a strong appetite for risk. I’ve said before that I don’t hire based on pedigree, I hire based on perspective. The best talent aren’t looking to show off their resume or polish their awards trophies in an interview. They want to demonstrate how they think, how they see the world, and prove how their perspective can help grow your business. When you invite that kind of meeting, you often get great ideas before they’re even hired. That’s the kind of person who will help future-proof your company.

Always be recruiting.
I meet a lot of people, and I’m always subconsciously recruiting. I can’t help it; I love meeting new faces and learning new things. At conferences, speaking engagements, board meetings, events, even weddings and vacations, I’m looking to meet interesting people who are curious, open and collaborative. Opportunity favors the prepared, and you never know who might be sitting next to you. Be ready to plant a seed about your company and the opportunity it offers to talented individuals, wherever you might meet them.

Once you find these people, appeal to their ambition – what do they really want to get out of their career? How would they most like to grow? How can you fulfill their needs in a way that benefits your company’s own?

Once you hire them, give them space, resources, and support. And of course, all the great perks you can offer.

Then sit back and watch the magic happen.