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The Story of How One Small Business Created a Powerful Talent Pipeline

For Chartwell Agency, a Rockford, Illinois communications firm, having a talent pipeline in place keeps candidates at the ready.

The Story of How One Small Business Created a Powerful Talent Pipeline
By: Dona DeZube
For most small companies, finding talent when the need arises is a huge challenge. Not so for Chartwell Agency, an integrated communications firm in Rockford, Illinois. The nine-person team has developed a recruiting method that manages to keep candidates interested—even when there are no available job openings.   
Chartwell’s team approach to hiring helps keep their talent pipeline stocked and at the ready. In fact, Chartwell now has a database of up to dozens of possible candidates. As a result, they’ve been able to fill roles fast with employees who have the skills to get the job done with people whose personality fits their company culture.
“In our business, things change rapidly and we often need to fill a position quickly. Having folks in the pipeline allows us to almost immediately fill the role,” says Chartwell President Rebecca Epperson.
The company’s three-step approach to vet candidates keeps the entire company focused on recruiting. Their methodology could be a great fit at your company as well. 
Start with a friendly meet and greet 
Here’s how the process begins. When the company receives a resume, it’s deemed a fit or no-fit based on years of experience and qualifications. If it gets a thumb’s up, a member of the management team schedules a get-to-know-you meeting or conversation with the candidate. This initial chat helps Chartwell learn more about the candidate’s capabilities and assess if they’re a good cultural fit. 
That fit is a two-way street between candidate and company. To help the candidate determine for themselves if they’re a match, the Chartwell team member paints a clear picture of what it’s like to work at the company: a fast-paced environment where team camaraderie is big. They also point out the qualities that make Chartwell a unique place to work.   
Why discuss this so early on in the process? It’s a great way to see how individuals respond. Was the candidate engaged during the conversation? Were they enthused and interested? “A lot can be determined over a cup of coffee or an informal conversation,” Epperson says.
If this initial meeting raises any “yellow” or “red” flags, the process ends then and there. If the candidate scored high—but there are no immediate openings at the company--the applicant is put into the company’s pipeline (more about that later.) 
Another way that Chartwell decides who makes the cut is to ask candidates to take a test. They complete three strategic writing exercises that demonstrate their writing style, quality of work, strategic ideas and approach. Those who don’t complete the work—or don’t complete it on time—don’t get into the pipeline.
Then introduce top candidates to the team
Applicants who pass the writing test are then invited to interview with the Chartwell management team as part of a group interview. This conversation builds on the initial interview and goes into greater detail on expectations and the company culture. Targeted questions are asked to further assess the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. 
But the interview process doesn’t end there. The rest of the team conducts an offsite interview in a group setting in a more casual environment—usually over breakfast or lunch outside the office. 
While that may sound like overkill, the process allows the entire team to weigh in and assess if the candidate will be a good fit. If everyone feels comfortable with the person, and a position is open, Chartwell makes an offer.
“Because the hiring is conducted by everyone in our company, we all have a vested interest in hiring the right person—and enabling their success once we bring them on,” says Epperson. 
Keep the best candidates warm
Chartwell understands the importance of maintaining a talent pipeline, even when there’s no immediate position open. In fact the company has successfully kept individuals in their pipeline for over a year. The key is to stay in touch, build a relationship, and follow up when a position becomes available. 
The task of communicating with pipeline candidates is assigned to the team member that the position will report to. The company regularly reaches out with a quarterly update on future potential opportunities at the company to stoke interest. 
The results are worth the effort
While this approach to hiring requires diligence from everyone on the team, Epperson wholly believes in her method. She says it works particularly well in a small business like theirs where every employee interacts with the entire staff in a single day. “Skills we can develop—personalities we cannot,” Epperson says.
Another bonus to this method, adds Epperson: “It also makes the onboarding much easier and less intimidating to new employees as they have met the entire team already.”
Three key takeaways:
1. Assume every candidate for every job is pipeline potential. If they’re great but they’re not a fit for a current opening, start vetting them for fit so you can hire them quickly when an opening comes up.
2. Find a vetting process that works for you. If there’s a specific skill you know you always need, consider giving candidates some type of test to assess for it.
3. Get employees involved. It helps them stay invested in the growth and success of the team. Be sure that your team members are trained in hiring best practices, especially the do’s and don’ts of what to ask in the interview—as well as how to conduct a legal interview.
What a talent pipeline can do for your company
The story behind Chartwell Agency’s hiring success shows how effective a talent pipeline can be. And there’s an added benefit—by involving everyone in the process, it can strengthen your company culture and employer brand
How can your company get started? Give your team access to online tools that simplify the process and give your candidate pipeline greater transparency. A Monster Job Ad provides access to free candidate management tools to track job views and applications—all from your Monster home page.