How is your organization doing these days in the area of recruiting? I'm sure that the great majority of you are finding yourself in a common state where you are incredibly busy and are constantly being asked to do more with less. Your ability to successfully recruit in an efficient manner is probably a major factor in determining whether or not you are going to be successful or end up spontaneously exploding on the job.

Recruiting can be a daunting task these days. Whether you are looking for a highly skilled professional or someone to perform basic manual labor, quality people are hard to find. I think it's even more difficult in the area of maintenance and reliability because it's really a field of old skills with some new tricks sprinkled on top.

Have you noticed how many companies are looking for reliability engineers? Now, count how many people you know with a degree in reliability engineering. Talk about things that make you go "hmmm."

So, how can you get a recruiting advantage among your competitors under such difficult circumstances? I've stressed a couple of things in the past few issues of Reliable Plant, including retention and writing accurate, complete job descriptions, and I want to build on that. Admittedly, my past articles were intended to get you to think outside of the box. Now, I want to try nudging you outside.

Successful companies are doing two things to gain a competitive advantage in the area of recruiting. I believe these things are within the direct control of the hiring manager.

The first competitive advantage is simple, and I'm sure you've heard this before. It has to do with a formal, attractive referral program. If your own employees are not helping you fill a significant percentage of your open positions, you are not utilizing one of your best resources.

Successful referral programs have two main ingredients.

First, the employee must be adequately rewarded for their efforts. I'm not talking about a gift certificate to a restaurant or movie passes. I'm talking about a real reward. It should be enough to make it an attractive use of time, yet nothing that is going to break the bank. In fact, just think about the costs associated with a new hire, whether it's an advertisement in the local newspaper, a sign-on bonus, relocation costs or fees to a third-party recruiter. It doesn't take a calculator to understand that a $1,000 to $2,000 referral fee (or more) is a cost-effective option.

Second, and more importantly, make sure you are giving your employees the required ammunition to want to recruit for you. Make sure that you give your current employees the kind of work experience they can brag about within their network of friends and associates. Change their mind-set from helping friends who need work to recruiting friends who are already employed.

The second competitive advantage is to expand your recruiting pool by eliminating unnecessary requirements. Sometimes this means you may end up completely redefining the role. An example is the position of reliability engineer or maintenance manager. For these positions, most companies needlessly limit their candidate pool to degreed engineers when the job could very well be successfully filled by someone who has not passed courses in thermodynamics or advanced physics.

As a degreed engineer myself, I've always maintained that the value an engineer brings is based on a proven track record (at least within academics) of being able to analyze and solve complex, technical problems. Engineers are good at that, but it doesn't preclude non-engineers from having that ability. Now, sometimes you have to have a degreed engineer in place, maybe even a professional engineer. And sometimes, you just can't overcome the corporate red tape. Pick your battles wisely, but make sure you evaluate each situation carefully. Don't limit the scope to your own department. Maybe what you need should really be staffed in another area.

There is no stiffer competition these days than recruiting talent. Obviously, a winning recruiting strategy is more comprehensive than what I described above. Just make sure you don't make the mistake of placing recruiting too low on your "to-do" list. Recruiting should rarely be anything other than an "A" priority, especially today.

John Ha is the president of Reliability Careers, a provider of workforce solutions for the reliability and maintenance industry. This business not only provides traditional staffing services for companies but is dedicated to help customers better understand and identify their needs, produce talent through on-the-job and apprentice programs, and provide ongoing training requirements to keep the workforce on top of its game. For individual career seekers, the firm finds top-flight career opportunities in the reliability and maintenance field. Contact John at 918-388-2438 or e-mail