5 Talent Acquisition and Retention Tactics from a Fireside Chat 

Julie Curtis was recently invited to Minnesota State Mankato, her alma mater, to speak in their food entrepreneurship lecture series. The schedule of events culminated in a fireside chat on talent leadership for students hoping to become entrepreneurs. Afterwards, as we discussed the event, we realized much of her advice to these students was equally relevant for HR professionals.  

Here are the top five takeaways from the conversation and how they apply to their HR counterparts. 

1. Be Proactive

Advice to students: Students were encouraged to apply early and often and take all interviews. A proactive attitude ensures application materials and interview skills are always sharpened and ready. It’s also great experience that helps job seekers feel prepared when “the” job comes along. 

How it applies to HR pros: Likewise, good talent acquisition strategies start with proactive planning and preparation. Keep up on industry trends and internal business goals that could affect workforce needs and identify gaps early. Also, don’t wait until a role is open to start scouting—keep an eye out for potential talent so you can reach out to qualified candidates early. A recruitment partner can be a big help in this area because we’re always growing our network of qualified individuals. 

2. Differentiate Yourself

Advice to students: Be prepared to answer the question “Tell me about yourself” in a meaningful way. Think about what makes you different than the next candidate, how it pertains to the role you want, and put together a narrative that demonstrates that. You can include personal details, but always tie it back to how your personal qualities can support the role.  

How it applies to HR pros: Companies need to know who they are and what makes them different just like candidates do. Selling yourself as a business goes much further than candidate interviews, of course. Your brand story needs to be broadcasted out so top-level candidates are familiar with you. Branding and PR efforts are as important for attracting top-level leaders as they are for marketing to clients or customers. 

3. Network

Advice to students: The most important thing you can do is participate, so reach out and get involved. Be proactive in going to jobs fairs, volunteering, joining student organizations, and reaching out to alumni, as just a few examples. These activities help to build out a network of people you can rely on in the future.  

How it applies to HR pros: A network you can rely on to attract and source top talent can’t be overstated, especially when the current labor shortage may continue till 2030. As a retained search firm, Curtis Food is committed to long-term partnerships, and we have access to an extensive network of proven executives—even if they’re not currently on the job market. 

4. Clearly Communicate your Needs

Advice to students: Think about what you want and what you’re comfortable with in a job. This goes beyond compensation and benefits to things like work-life balance and management style. Also think about what you don’t want—what are deal breakers for you? Ask questions to make sure the potential role and company are both a good fit. 

How it applies to HR pros: HR professionals have a lot to juggle. From writing job descriptions to budgeting, interviews, onboarding and more, you are tasked with balancing the needs and wants of both the business and candidates. Is a request for a hybrid work environment acceptable, or do you need daily office interaction in the role? Is there a cultural fit? 

5. Never Stop Growing

Advice to students: Great leaders and entrepreneurs are always working on improving themselves. They are humble enough to understand there’s always something to learn. They find ways to improve and add to their hard and soft skills. After you have a degree or land your dream job, don’t assume your learning is done. 

How it applies to HR pros: Provide development opportunities and programs. In studies of the Great Resignation, many employees stated job enrichment such as training opportunities or tuition reimbursement were highly valued. Making sure they feel acknowledged and appreciated was also a big factor in retention. 

Whether you’re an HR professional looking for your next leader or an entrepreneur scaling up operations, an executive recruiter can help. We’re dedicated to meeting both client and candidate long-term expectations, and by focusing solely on food and retail we have unmatched market reach. To learn more about how a retained partnership with Curtis Food Recruiters can help you, call us at 763-428-1888 or send us a message.  

Julie Curtis founded Curtis Food in 2006 to focus exclusively on executive recruitment for food and retail companies. She has over 25 years of talent acquisition experience, including HR strategy, workforce planning, sourcing, and employee relations.