For the Best Firms to Work For, recruiting is less about filling a specific job slot, and more about building relationships – some of which don’t pay off for years.

More and more of the top workplaces in the profession are building long-term pipelines of potential recruits that leverage the fact that talented employees are increasingly likely to switch jobs much more frequently than before.

That means that the promising college recruit who turned down a firm’s initial offer may be back on the job market in two or three years. Smart firm recruiters are making a point of staying in touch with top talent over the long term – sending them the occasional firm e-mail, tracking them on LinkedIn and other social media, and otherwise staying on their radar – to be in a position to re-engage with them when they come back on the job market. And recruiters are keeping databases of contact information and relevant details about a broad range of potential candidates.

It’s not just college graduates who are worth tracking, either. More and more firms are making a point of keeping in touch with alumni who’ve left for other jobs.

This approach has paid off for Philadelphia-based Brinker Simpson, the No. 1 Small Firm to Work For in 2017, according to managing partner and founder Bob Simpson.

“Two of our managers have left our firm and returned – one in five years and one in three years, and we’re working on a third,” he explained. “And they all say, ‘We didn’t think it was better here until we got out there.’ So we kept communication open with them as they went through their careers.”

Patience and long-term thinking are critical to this approach to recruiting, as Simpson made clear: “I had lunch with one every two years, and always asked at the end of the lunch, ‘Are you ready to come back?’ When it came time after five years, I didn’t ask the question, because I could tell by his face that he was ready.”

For more ways to create a top workplace, see 20 Days: Building a Better Firm.

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Daniel Hood

Daniel Hood

Daniel Hood is editor-in-chief of Accounting Today and Tax Pro Today, and has covered the tax and accounting field for over 20 years.