How to Research Candidates and More Hire Effectively

I will never forget the words my Dad told me as a new Store Manager for a Wireless company “the best future employees have a job or don’t even know they are looking”. Not only was I a new manager of the highest grossing location in Wisconsin but, I was also 24. I had the entire world at my fingertips. It took many years for me to actually understand what my Dad told me that day.

I don’t want you to think that I am the lion in the room, I poach employees or that I am going to try and teach the world to do the same. As hiring professionals I think we all too often turn off at the end of the day. We have so many unintended interactions each and every day that could actually make our lives easier. What if we turned our unintended interactions into deliberate conversations with a plan in mind?

My daily life is full of uncertainty, rejection, ringback tones and a few glimmers of sunshine. In order to maintain my own sanity I started to take a ½ day a month to scout. I turned my unintended interactions into measurable actionable results. Once I decide what position I need candidates for I start my research.

How to research candidates effectivty

  • Where are the competitors for this position?
  • Do the competitors operate in a public space?
  • How can I reach these employees?
  • What is my goal for the day? How many prospective candidates do I want to find?

With research in hand, I create a map and get in my car. I drive to each location that allows me access to meet with potential employees face to face. I pretend to be a customer, learn all I can from the prospective candidate. Please be cautious, I ended up buying a very nice stainless steel gas range using this method! If the candidate is someone I want to talk to again, I simply take down notes immediately after.

After a full day of scouting, the next day I reach out to any candidates that I want to talk to again. How do you call someone at work? Yeah, it can be awkward.

“Hi Jackie, this is Jen. I know you don’t remember me but, you helped me look at new phone yesterday. I know this is a little bit of an awkward call. I actually take care of the hiring for a local company. I thought you were great! I would love to talk with you again of course when you are not working. What is the best number for me to reach you at?”

Trust me, the first couple calls may not go well. Keep at it, you will get the hang of it.

What does my Dad think of all of this? He said, “I don’t even remember telling you that. I am impressed with myself!”

Finding top talent can be both amazing and terrifying at the same time. Next time you feel the itch to get out of the office create an action plan see who you can discover!

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Jen Ray, PHR

Jen Ray, PHR is professional relationship builder by day, general contractor by night. Her experiences come from the retail, financial services and banking industries. Outside of the office, you will find Jen remolding her home in the Greater Milwaukee Area. Connect with Jen.

Reader Interactions


  1. Cathy Shanes says

    I agree that the best way to assess the candidate’s professional skills is by checking them out in the action, especially when they have no clue they’re being assessed and don’t start pretending to be something they’re not. But this way of headhunting is very money and time-consuming and you’re generally tied to a limited area, whilst the best candidate might be just a few miles away from your set route.

  2. Jen Ray, PHR says

    I agree it can be heavy on time and money. This method is something I keep in my back pocket and bring out on rare occasions when you need to mix things up and get a fresh perspective.


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