Six Ways Evergreen Companies Can Attract Top Talent

Evergreen Journal Staff, Carolyn Betts

September 08, 2015

“Why should I come work for you?”

If you’re a recruiter for a sexy Silicon Valley start-up that just landed millions of dollars in new funding, this is an easy question to answer. Outrageous perks like free dry cleaning, free gourmet lunches and sleep pods might seem, on the surface, more exciting to job seekers than the steady, paced and profitable growth an Evergreen company can boast.

Evergreen jobs offer a compelling, and safer, choice for many job seekers. But drawing in prospective employees can take a little more spin and creativity.

For the past six years, Carolyn Betts has been helping companies hire employees through Betts Recruiting, her San Francisco-based international talent-recruiting firm. When Betts and her team decided to make her company Evergreen, she shifted her own hiring habits. The pivotal question she says she asked herself was: “What makes an Evergreen company attractive to our current employees and to job seekers?”

The answer boils down to the unique culture every Evergreen company creates with its employees. The trick is making sure potential employees are aware of this culture—and that they’re weighting it just as heavily as they are the cafeteria offerings at the venture-funded start-up next door.

To entice people who would be drawn to the myriad benefits of working for an Evergreen company, Betts knew she had to promote and discuss her company in a different way than her public counterparts were talking about theirs. She came up with six ways for Evergreen recruiters to attract the best employees:

  1. Build—and promote—your employment brand: Betts says it’s important to both create a culture and make this culture widely known. “After the Tugboat Institute Summit, I looked up Balsam Brands,” Betts says. “They have an awesome website that is 100 percent focused on their culture.” Beyond creating a substantial website, get your employees talking online. Have them rave about the office culture on employee review sites like Glassdoor. You want potential employees to easily find out that your company is Evergreen and learn about the long-term cultural advantages that come along with that. Another popular way to boost your company’s appearance is to use social media. Instagram and Facebook are great platforms on which to display and share photos of the things that your company does to put its people first.
  2. Tell recruits during the interview process that you are Evergreen: Explain to potential hires what Evergreen is and what it means for your company. “When I tell people, they’re excited, because most people really do want to find a place where they can dedicate themselves to an important purpose for a long time,” says Betts. During an interview, she builds in some time to explain the difference between working for an Evergreen company and working for a venture-backed company. “In an Evergreen company, employees can expect a lot more loyalty from the owner and clear, simple objectives,” Betts says. “If an employee wants to be at a meaningful job with a purpose-driven team, he or she should consider Evergreen over an unpredictable and at times volatile ride at a venture-backed start-up that must grow big fast to satisfy the requirements of past and future exit-oriented funders.”
  3. Don’t just tell—show: Provide recruits with videos that show what life is like at your office. Even better, let them walk around your office and talk to current employees. Let them see your company’s culture in a transparent, up-close manner. “The frustration is trying to keep up with the Joneses,” Betts says. Recruits, especially in places like Silicon Valley, are used to walking into venture capital-funded businesses and being bombarded with free lunches, gym memberships and other such perks. Yet, offering perks is easy—building a culture of truly treating people well through thick and thin is not.
  4. Ask potential employees what they want: While this is a staple in any job interview, asking an employee what he or she wants out of a job over the long term is critical for an Evergreen recruiter. “This is how you find out if someone is focused on a short-term economic exit or aligned with your purpose and with the work and life benefits of a career in an Evergreen company,” Betts says. “This way you vet the people who are the right fit.”
  5. Hire for culture first: “One of the core values that our recruiting firm brings to the hiring process is finding not just the right person for the job but the right person for the company,” Betts says. A person is more than just his or her resume. Being able to integrate into a company and truly add value goes beyond having the right number of years of experience. It’s about having the same values, work ethic and goals as the rest of the company. A strong culture protects the company from people who prove not to be value aligned and rewards those who are.
  6. Strike while the iron is hot: “In today’s environment, move quickly for the right person,” Betts says. “But don’t shorten the interview process.” She says you can power through an interview process in a week, making sure all vital people on your team have a chance to meet or interview a recruit for fit. “You should be super excited about hiring this person, and that person should feel the same.”

Betts has one final tip for Evergreen CEOs who want to scale or build their businesses: When it comes to hiring everyone except your direct reports, “get the hell out of the way.” Allow your team to judge and make the hire. Of course you may want to meet the person. But never nix a recruit your entire team is voting for. “It’s your baby, your company—but you’re not going to love everyone walking in the door,” Betts says.

An Evergreen company has a lot of natural advantages in being purpose driven, profitably growing and putting people first for the long haul. When recruiting talent, it’s up to you to show job seekers that you’re the smart choice for a challenging, meaningful and successful career and life.

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