Keep it brief. Remember, these people are working. Keep it discreet. You don't want word getting back to their boss. Keep it professional. You don't want the person to mistakenly feel she's being asked on a date.
These conversations are especially meaningful if you've had several opportunities to see the employee in action and you are familiar to her.
Don't drop the ball. Most people will feel special because you've made the effort to talk to them. Don't squander that good will. If they call, take the call or return it promptly. Answer any basic questions they may have and, if they're interested, schedule an interview. In short, don't let their enthusiasm wither while you deal with other issues.
Complete the process. Remember, although these candidates seem promising you don't know everything you need to know. If they're interested in the job, they need to complete the same interviews, assessments and so forth that you ask of other candidates.
Stay Out of Jail
Don't make promises. These conversations are just introductions. Be careful not to promise anything to people you talk to.
Approach a variety of people, not just those who are similar to you.
Find out whether people you approach have an employment contract, or have signed a "do not compete" clause that prohibits then from working for a competitor in the same industry. If they have, it could result in legal problems you don't need.
Food-service jobs are tough to fill — so tough, in fact, that Bonnie Pollock owns two recruiting firms with offices in four cities that serve only that market.
With clients depending on her, Pollock doesn't wait for prospects to come to her. One of her successes was enticing a McDonald's employee to take a kitchen position in a day care center. Pollock started out simply being friendly to a prospect each morning as she picked up her breakfast. But after several conversations (and several bacon-and-egg biscuits), Pollock handed the employee a card reading "You impress me." The card included Pollock's phone number and the enticement of other employment opportunities.
She doesn't limit herself to restaurant encounters; Pollock also looks for potential workers on a commuter train in St. Louis — and approaches people wearing food-service uniforms.
Bob Rosner is the co-author of The Boss's Survival Guide (McGraw-Hill, 2001), along with Allan Halcrow, former editor of Workforce Magazine and Alan Levins, senior partner of San Francisco-based employer law firm Littler Mendelson. Rosner is also founder of the award-winning workingwounded.com. He can be reached via fax at (206) 780-4353, and via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.