Home April 2018 Determining Strong Candidates For Cannabis Careers

Determining Strong Candidates For Cannabis Careers


Lately I’ve gotten quite a few inquiries asking how to find candidates for careers in the Cannabis industry. At first I thought this was a rather silly question, because in many ways a candidate – a good one at least – is someone with the education, training, experience and hopefully a passion for the industry or position sought, but at its root the answer becomes a bit more complicated.

A colleague of mine brought up an interesting point a few weeks ago. I was upset when a client of mine – who eagerly agreed to pay my fee for finding him a Rock Star Chief Operating Officer for his multi-million dollar operation – tried to cut me out of the deal and go behind my back. I was clearly upset about that when my colleague said to me “Rick, why are you surprised? You’re targeting people who up until quite recently have been operating outside the law. You need to expect that sort of thing to happen on occasion.” Certainly there is truth to what he said, but I really do believe that those who work through executive recruiters truly want to transcend those old stereotypes. There will always be exceptions like the one I just mentioned, but majority of people seeking out my services are honorable people who appreciate the level of expertise my colleagues and I bring to the table and they are more than happy to spend a bit more for the added value.

So what does a strong candidate look like in the Cannabis industry? I would argue that they largely look like any other strong candidate for a non-Cannabis industry. Certainly when it comes to elite Master Growers and those intimately involved with the plant itself there are many who’ve been doing this for 10, 20, 30 years or more – mostly outside of the law – but as the industry continues to evolve the new breed will have horticultural and scientific degrees that will allow them to produce comparable if not superior quality product.

As for other candidate- those in operations, finance, business development, packaging… they are already just like any other candidate. The only difference is that they have a passion for and some experience with the laws, regulations, terminology and Cannabis-specific intricacies. I’ve placed accountants with Big 4 experience. I’ve placed COO’s who’ve come out of Fortune 500 companies. I’ve placed Business Development executives who’ve come out of large consumer goods, pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Increasingly, THIS is the face of the Cannabis industry, and there’s no end in sight.

The challenge – at least what I hear from many of my clients – is where to find these people. Many of the best candidates tend to hide in plain sight. They don’t publicize their desire for or experience in Cannabis on social media, but it’s there. I’ve made a career out of finding the unfindable, and there are clues to locating the best talent quickly and effectively. One only need know where to look. As I’ve said before, finding candidates is the easy part. Sorting out the right ones takes some doing because most people tend to focus only on the obvious – the resume.

A resume is a static object. It is merely a snapshot in time of a persons education and work experience. In most cases a resume is nothing more than an inflated listing of job descriptions. It’s a relatively poor determinant of candidate quality, and every day wonderful candidates are eliminated from consideration purely on the basis of their resume. The best candidates – especially those wanting a career in Cannabis at this point – are much more about what’s NOT on the resume. I’m talking about passion. I’m talking about their side gigs. I’m talking about their hobbies. I’m talking about their personal lives – health, family, life goals… In my daily conversations we cover all of this, and because of the information I am able to gather I can determine – with tremendous accuracy – the likelihood of a candidate with seemingly zero experience actually being a perfect fit for the Cannabis (or any other industry, for that matter) client in question.

The next time you feel frustrated and can’t seem to find anyone for that open position I would encourage you to look beyond the resume. Dig deeper and you’ll realize there might just be someone perfect standing right in front of you.


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