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What Caught My Eye:

Baking a Fresh Approach to Sourcing Talent

Peter Weddle’s weekly column “What Caught My Eye” looks at recent news stories and the lessons they hold for recruiters. They’re a special feature of the TAtech Professional Member program, which is free for HR/TA professionals recruiting for enterprise employers and SMBs.

It started as a diversion, a hobby to help her deal with the troubles she was facing in her life. In 2015, Janie Deegan was homeless and a recovering addict. A friend asked her to bake a cake for an event she was having, and Janie so enjoyed the experience she decided to do it some more. As she put it, “I just found that baking helped me reconnect with people.”

At first, she baked just for friends, but it wasn’t long before they started urging her to turn her hobby into a business. She was intrigued with the idea of starting a bakery, but also intimidated by the prospect. Janie had never done anything like opening a store and wasn’t sure she had the right stuff to do it. “I just had this impression that you had to have money to be a business owner, you had to be a man to be a business owner, you had to have business experience to be a business owner.”

Despite her doubts, however, Janie launched her first store that same year, and it was quickly a success. Called Life-Changing Baked Goods, it offered all the standard bakery fare, but built a loyal following for its pie-crust cookies. Seven years later, those customers and a lot more are still coming in the door, and Janie is now the proud owner and operator of two stores with another soon to open.

What makes the story even more impressive, however, is the way she hires workers. She now has 15 employees and almost all of them have never worked in a bakery before. Janie isn’t bothered by that inexperience, but instead focuses on the person. "We have an open door policy, which means that if you're ready, willing, able and enthusiastic about coming to work, we're not going to look at sort of your past situations or gaps on your resume or if you're homeless or if you've been to prison. The person you show up as in the interview is the person we're looking at."

What Can Janie and Life-Changing Baked Goods Teach Recruiters?

The U.S. Department of Labor JOLTS report confirms that the talent market remains abnormally tight in many sectors of the economy. Yes, recent layoffs have put more people into the job market, but their skills and (occasionally) their salary expectations are not necessarily aligned with the kinds of jobs employers need to fill. As a consequence, many companies are still struggling to find workers for their openings.

And It’s no secret that those openings hurt both a company’s productivity and its financial performance. It’s also no secret that hiring managers sometimes (maybe even often) overstate the required qualifications for a job. And, unfortunately, it’s also no secret that HR or talent acquisition practices and policies sometimes unnecessarily limit the candidate population for openings.

Which is why Janie’s approach to hiring may make sense for other SMBs and even enterprise employers. It won’t work for every opening, of course, but at least some can be filled with candidates who do not fit the traditional profile sought by hiring managers. Others can be filled by accepting candidates who have a blemish on their record, but are willing and even excited about being trained in a new skill. The net result is a larger population of candidates from which to select and a shorter time-to-fill at least some of those problematic openings.

There is, moreover, another benefit to this approach. Job seekers usually know when they lack the skills and knowledge for a job, so when an employer commits to helping them gain those qualifications, they often turn out to be among the most committed and loyal employees. In a culture which often paints businesses as uncaring and indifferent to workers, making the commitment to help a person advance him or herself isn’t a golden handcuff, but it is a platinum bond.

Food for Thought,

If you’ve enjoyed this edition of “What Caught My Eye,” read some of my other posts at the TAtech Blog.

Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. You can download his latest book – The Neonaissance – FOR FREE at And, if you don't have time to read the entire book, just download a short excerpt of his inspirational message.