How to Find and Attract Quality Candidates - Modern Distribution Management

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How to Find and Attract Quality Candidates

Distributors need a solid recruitment plan for this competitive space with a low unemployment rate.

Industrial distributors continue to see shifts in recruiting strategies and employee expectations. They are having difficulty finding and attracting candidates for open positions, as indicated by many of our members in our recent NetPlus Alliance Industry Outlook report. Specifically, 66 percent said the quality of candidates for open positions is generally low. 

How do we improve the likelihood of finding the right person and having them work out along the way? It seems like today's culture around work and the pool of available candidates are different from previous generations. The younger workforce has a different set of priorities. Some of them witnessed hardship after their parents devoted big parts of their lives to their employers. This has changed their perspective and expectations. Some are out to enjoy life a little bit more as they pursue a career, rather than waiting until retirement. 

In a competitive space with a low unemployment rate, industrial distributors need to offer more than they did in the past to attract the right person.

Where to Find Quality Candidates

Start your employee search by focusing on your connections within the industry. Think about people you know and the people that they might know. When you already have a connection, you’ll have a better idea of whether a potential employee might be a good fit. Internships or temporary/placement agencies can be another great resource. These allow companies to hire someone on a trial basis, and they can gauge if the position is the right fit for both. 

Many of our survey respondents also mentioned that employee referrals are a great option for finding quality candidates. Employee referrals work because employees are not going to recommend somebody they don't think is a good person. They're not going to risk their reputation and livelihood by recommending somebody who doesn't come to work or won’t do a good job. 

Distributors are also using social media to reach out to potential employees. This doesn’t have to mean posting a job opening, although that wouldn’t hurt. It can simply be sharing new products or trends. Your reach on social media can go beyond just your connections, and you never know who might see something interesting on your page and, as a result, inquire about job possibilities. 

It’s also important to promote company culture on your social media channels. Share photos from your holiday party or company picnic that highlight your company as being a great place to work. Potential candidates looking for a vibrant place to work want to see pictures from outside of the office. 

Hosting a job fair is another way to attract candidates. Even small- and mid-sized companies can host a job fair or open house for potential employees. Industrial distribution can be a mystery to outsiders so opening your doors and letting people look inside and ask questions may just capture someone’s interest. 

Another opportunity for finding the right candidate is to seek the assistance of a recruiter. Recruiters can identify people who are gainfully employed with another company but may be willing to consider a new opportunity. Industrial distributors should avoid trying to steal employees from competitors for obvious reasons, but could seek out people in related industries or positions. Make sure you have some internal written rules about ethics when it comes to recruiting candidates that are already employed. 

How to Attract Quality Candidates

Distributors often overlook a few key considerations when it comes to attracting quality candidates. The first is whether you are currently multi-generation or a single generation. If most of your employees are young and you’re trying to hire young people that’s great, but often we are trying to hire young people and our company is made up of a single, older generation. If this is the case, younger candidates may look elsewhere for employment. The key is to try and establish a mixture of generations within your organization. 

The second consideration that’s often overlooked is how you approach and plan training and career advancement for new employees. Potential employees — especially millennials — want to know that you have a plan in place for education and advancement. New employees need to feel good about their future and your specific plans for their continued training, education and growth need to be well communicated. 

And finally, look carefully at your vacation and sick policies to make sure that things such as taking time off for a new baby are included. The younger workforce expects to find those policies at any company. 

Ultimately, potential employees want to know their efforts will be valued and respected in your company.

Paul Byrnes has been in the industrial distribution industry for more than 20 years. He is the vice president of distributor development for NetPlus Alliance, a buying group for industrial and contractor supplies distributors. Reach Byrnes at or visit

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