I was reading Sean Kilcarr's blog at FleetOwner.com last month and a statistic caught my eye: 54% of American workers aspire to leave their current jobs when the recession ends. Young, rising stars are the most likely to look elsewhere.

When it comes to the economy, my crystal ball is no clearer than yours. But I will tell you that opportunities can come quickly. With plenty of rolling stock available, and no shortage of brick-and-mortar capacity, personnel will be the pinch-point for fleets.

To bring the best of the best into the fold of your sales team, consider these ideas:

  • Focus on the opportunity

    If you're going to use job postings, show why your company's opportunity is better than the rest. Nearly every help-wanted ad I see has a bullet-point list of what the employer requires from its job candidates. But they say little if anything about why great salespeople should work there. Think beyond compensation and benefits.

  • Don't hire, recruit

    There's a difference. When you hire, you fill a vacancy. When you recruit, you actively seek people who can help your organization succeed regardless of whether you have a hole to fill. Start by asking customers who they like to deal with. You'll be surprised at how often the same names come up. Check out your competitors — the ones who give you the most grief. Most list key employees on their web site. Contact them directly. You're not giving anything away. At worst, you'll get some great info on the competition.

  • Focus on job history

    The most critical element is work experience. You may have a place for that sales rep who spent the last 18 years nursing three big accounts, but if you really need a bird-dog, he's not that guy.

    Also, I'd be far less concerned about a candidate who's been laid off than one who keeps switching industries, has never been promoted, or obviously job-hops.

  • Can you relate?

    You think you've found the right guy for the job, but are you the right guy for the interview? Your candidate might get a better feel for your company by talking to someone who's closer in age or experience. Match him up with an organizational star who knows the drill and will represent you well.

  • Check your references, not theirs

    Don't bother calling references your prospective hire gives you. Instead, ask for the names of ex-bosses or mutual friends in the industry. Be careful, though, not to jeopardize the candidate's current employment by calling someone who won't respect that confidence. Check out your candidate's blog or Facebook page. People tend to share things about themselves online that they wouldn't mention in an interview.

  • Start from within

    If half of America's workforce wants a new job, then the flip side of this recruiting opportunity is a potential retention problem. Dispatchers, drivers, customer-service reps — the ambitious ones want new skills and challenges. Recruiting and promoting from within the ranks is great for morale and sends a message to your entire staff that those who do a good job will be rewarded.

The tenuous nature of employment these days makes recruiting tougher than ever. Before, you'd see a job candidate and wonder, Is this guy worth the risk? Today, he's asking the same thing about your company. Be ready to convince him that you are.

Mike McCarron is managing partner at the MSM Group of Companies, which specializes in transportation and logistics service between Canada and the United States.