Face time: Conni Labbe LaDouceur String: Her knack for finding the right employee is a hire calling

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Maine native Conni Labbe LaDouceur String knows how to match talented employees with companies in need. With an annual budget over a $1 million, her firm, ExecuQuest Corp., researches, sources, trains and consults for companies all over the world on how to hire the best people. An HIV-AIDS expert for Catholic Relief Services, people responsible for anti-money laundering in international banking, chocolate buyers for Hershey’s, the head of construction for Euro Disney — String’s helped hire them all.

And she’ll be back in Maine this summer leading a symposium at L.L. Bean telling managers and company recruiters how they can find the best people for any job.

Name: Conni Labbe LaDouceur String

Age: Yes

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Hometown: Lewiston

Current town: Baltimore

Married/single/relationship: Married

Job: Headhunter, recruiting trainer and perpetual learner!

How did you start your company? I started EQC when I was a full-time mom with two children. After graduating with a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Maine (and working as a pin-up at Ward’s on Lisbon Street when I was at LHS!), I became a research associate with the premier executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles in New York City. I left H&S after our son, Jean-Luc, was born in 1982, returned part-time and quit again when Elise was born in 1984. Search consultants I had worked for in N.Y. began calling me to develop research in my “spare” time and that was 26 years ago.

What’s the No. 1 thing businesses should know about finding the right employees? Consider what the person will need to succeed in the first year and where the best possible talent is now working. Don’t be shy about recruiting from your competitors. That’s what leading companies do and that’s what real recruiting is.

What’s the No. 1 thing prospective employees should know? How about two — consider companies that could use your skills and contact them even though they’re not advertising an opening. Companies are deluged with resumes and sometimes will avoid posting a job because so many of the applicants are unqualified. So they might rather network or suffer through a vacancy or even a poor performer whom they would transfer or let go if they knew of a more suitable candidate. Secondly, there’s lots of advice online on interviewing skills – read it and prepare.

What’s the best recruiting tactic you’ve ever seen? I am passionate about the most direct approach, i.e., if you’re seeking a sales person, identify what new customers you want to sign on, call those companies and identify the sales person they are buying from and hire that talent. You’ll get a great salesperson and they may bring along those very customers you’ve been trying to win.

What qualities do you think a business should look for in a prospective employee? Beyond raw talent, I look for enthusiasm and a positive attitude. I really believe that confidence, attitude and hard work make you unstoppable. As they say, all the education in the world is no match for raw talent and nerve, and all the talent in the world is no substitute for due diligence. Intangibles like a hunger for learning, honesty, a love of life and a sense of humor are always appreciated!

What qualities are too often overlooked? Everyone wants to be inspired and sometimes it takes knowing what someone loves in order to connect with them. It takes time but everyone wants to like what they do and do what they like.

Which perk works best when trying to lure new talent to a company? Well, they say most people leave their jobs because they don’t like their managers, so I guess it’s liking the people you work with. Perks? Even though I now live in Baltimore (with a man who is an Orioles’ fan! Hey, you pick your battles!), I could be enticed by smart, fun colleagues, challenging work, a dog at my feet, a green pepper, onion and meatball pizza from Luiggi’s and a view of Old Orchard Beach! I no longer live in Maine, but Maine lives in me!

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