While the past year's economic conditions probably have given you more prospective employees, there are even more companies like yours trying to land the good ones, editor Greg Ettling reminds.

Economic conditions of the past year have brought on an increase in unemployment, meaning there are more people out there looking for work. The vast majority of entrepreneurs in the contracting fields welcome this infusion of fresh prospects into the labor pool; the labor situation routinely is cited as the No. 1 major obstacle contracting firms face in their quest for better profits. But while there are a few more prospects out there to choose from, there are even more companies like yours trying to land the good ones.

The key to finding and hiring quality employees is to make your company an attractive option. They can get wages and basic benefits almost anywhere. Remember - while you're looking to screen applicants, the applicants are screening you and competing employers. You need to make your firm the one they want to join. Find out through current employees and applicants what motivates them and then put your company in the position to provide those incentives. Sell your industry and your company as a place where people can satisfy their motivations and reach their goals. For example, as a result of the dot.com collapse, there's no small amount of disenchantment among people who worked in the isolation of cyberspace and produced little of anything that had tangible benefits. And many of the casualties of the more recent layoffs were mid-level, cube-dwelling paper shufflers. These types of folks should be ripe candidates for a career in an industry that provides an invaluable service to its customers and a solid sense of accomplishment to its members. (For some excellent strategies on how overcome image issues and make your industry and your firm appealing to potential employees, go back to your May 2001 issue of National Driller and reread Jim Olsztynski's column, "Blue-collar Bias. On the odd chance that you don't save every single one of your issues, you can find it by visiting www.drilleronline.com and clicking on the archives section.)

A recent study reveals that new hires recruited by current employees usually work out much better than those hired through other means. Candidates brought in by existing employees are pre-screened. People aren't likely to recommend someone they wouldn't be able to work with; the prospect obviously has a decent idea of what is in store because of the relationship with the current employee; and there is considerable peer pressure to perform in that scenario.

Once you get them in, the training must never cease. That can be a frustrating endeavor for sure, but it is imperative. Yes, you'll train some people who will be gone shortly - some to your competition. But it's all part of the process. If you provide the right environment, you'll produce some skilled personnel and some qualified labor. These people then will serve as your recruiters.

The process feeds on itself and eventually you'll have prospective employees actually seeking out your firm. It does take a while to develop, but this current influx of potential employees provides an opportunity to get some early momentum.