1/3 evening gown
Those are the categories contestants are judged on to decide one winner from each state to compete in the MISS USA® pageant, a joint partnership with Donald Trump and NBCUniversal. Millions of viewers watch the annual pageant, and young women across the country dream about the chance to represent their state on national television.
Some call it “the Super Bowl of beauty pageants,” and the competition is beyond fierce. And pageant fans aren’t the only ones attracted to beauty queens.
Facilities management company IST is one of the many employers taking unconventional approaches to recruiting, such as focusing on hiring women who’ve competed in pageants.
Here’s a look at why it might be worth your while to look outside the normal talent pool, and how your company can succeed with recruits of all kinds:
The Five C’s
IST believes that when a young lady competes in a pageant, she learns valuable life lessons, such as character, since only one lucky lady can walk away the winner. Two things can happen to someone when she doesn’t get the crown: either she gets mad at someone (or the world), or she learns from the experience and looks for her next success in life.
This skill transfers well to the sales positions IST is looking to fill. In both roles, you have to know how to take rejections, assess and move on.
IST Founder and CEO Hal Blackman first shined the spotlight on hiring beauty queens when he was introduced to Miss Maryland USA 2006 Melissa DiGiulian at a party. She had just graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and was in the market for a sales position in New York. According to Blackman, “She contained the skills IST is looking for in a sales representative: charismatic, confident, committed and competitive.”
Soon after, IST hired DiGiulian, who hit the ground running and has since been promoted from an entry-level sales position to the Regional Vice President in New York.
If It’s Not Broken, Don’t Fix It
DiGiulian was the company’s first beauty pageant hire five years ago. IST continues to replicate her success as she’s introduced the company to other women in the pageant system. Today, IST has 10 former pageant participants in various sales positions selling coast to coast and is actively recruiting to fill 10 additional sales positions.
The company had tried other methods to find exceptional employees, but they most often resulted in disappointment. With beauty pageant women, they’ve found an overall pool of talent they can consistently recruit from that’s equipped with stellar communication skills and abilities.
Everyone Gets a Crown (Sort Of)
As Blackman recognizes, finding talent takes time and money. Each new IST sales representative goes through a grueling seven-week training process where they learn about the company, its services and processes and how to become a successful sales professional.
Once they graduate from orientation, the company retains its employees through gifts and bonuses. “In order for us to provide our customers with outstanding customer service,” Blackman says, “we must first take care of our #1 asset, our employees. All new hires receive a series of gifts and introductions to our executive team so that they can better understand IST’s culture and expectation.”
Gifts include new hire watches, movie and dinner gift certificates and the chance to turn outstanding service performance into “Blackman bucks” that can be redeemed for other great prizes like Target gift cards, iPads and more.
IST also promotes 85% of its management internally. When the company promotes from within, employees become loyal to the company’s vision because, as Blackman says, “Our employees can see a clear career path and are dedicated to IST and serving our clients.”
Stand Out With Exceptional Customer Service (with Clients and Employees)
Another unconventional approach of IST’s? All of its executives make their cell phones and emails available to their clients and employees. According to Blackman, red tape and bureaucracy have no place at the company—and when a company adopts that attitude, everyone walks away a winner.
Does your company have an unconventional approach to recruiting? What outside-the-box candidates have you found have the skills and experience you need?
Maureen Francisco is the author of It Takes Moxie: Off the Boat, Or Out of School, To Making It Your Way In America, which won the Multicultural Nonfiction category of the 2013 National Indie Excellence Awards. Francisco is also the co-owner of NW Productions, a media and productions company that produces live shows and red carpet events.