According to veteran construction industry recruiter Scott Love of Fairview, N.C.-based Scott Love Associates, there are specific steps independent and small electrical contractors can take to find and keep better candidates for top management positions. “Really, the best candidates are the ones that aren't even looking,” says Love.

Smaller firms can't afford to be shy about asking for help finding prospective employees or even luring them away from other successful firms. “Most employers are horrible at hiring,” he says. “They interview people, and they make judgments based on who it is that reminds them most of themselves or who's the best-looking candidate. So stay away from that.”

Following are Love's tips for recruiting top management.

Profile. You have to know what you want before you can ask for it. Write down the three results you want the person in this position to achieve. Then advertise and interview based on your answers. “I encourage employers to look at quantifiable results,” says Love. “I even recommend that you put a document together — a performance profile. For example, No. 1 might be, “We want our chief estimator to evaluate our bid cycles to determine which projects to pursue.”

Network. Make a list of everyone you know in the industry, whether it's a client, vendor, general contractor, or subcontractor, and start networking. “Some people are only accessible through a third-party source like a recruiter or someone within your circle of influence,” says Love. “The people that everybody wants are the people that are busy succeeding and are next in line to be promoted.”

Advertise. If you can't find candidates through networking, run an ad in the classifieds section of the paper, on the Internet, and through industry publications. Pack the ad with testimonials from tenured employees that speak to what personal needs are fulfilled by the company. “Ads have got to make an emotional connection with the prospective employees because people only make moves for emotional reasons,” says Love.

Communicate. Once you've found a candidate, treat that person like a customer. Good communication and proper handling will foster trust between you and the prospective employee. “I've seen clients that have a critical need to fill, yet they say they're going to call the candidate at 2 o'clock on Tuesday, and they don't,” says Love. “They wouldn't do that with a prospective customer.”

Also, test the offer on the second meeting and use a calendar to bring each step to the next level. “I always recommend to clients to find out would a client accept a candidate within a certain range,” says Love. “Anytime you refer to specific dates, the candidate will start seeing themselves going through the process. That way it's not as overwhelming for them when it really happens.”

Celebrate. Once the candidate accepts the offer, then it's time to celebrate. Make the first day at the company something to remember. “I knew a senior electrical estimator who joined a big contractor once and was only there for two weeks,” says Love. “I asked him, ‘Why did you leave? It's a great company.’ And he said, ‘I showed up for work, and nobody knew I was there.’ That's a leadership issue. It's all about taking care of other people and making people feel good about what they do and feel good about being part of what they're doing. Again, it all goes back to the emotional context of people going to work everyday. How do they feel on Sunday night about going to work on Monday morning? That's what it's all about.”