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A Recruiter of Oscar-Winning Talent Talks 5 Ways You, Too, Can Build a ‘Dream Team’ Essay

In 1999, I left my job as creative director at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, determined to start my own themed entertainment company. Fast-forward 16 years, and what began as a small start-up design firm has transformed into , an internationally recognized creative agency with a portfolio of completed projects for theme-park giants such as SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Universal Studios, Walt Disney Imagineering and more.

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In 16 years, I have learned a lot about what it takes to run a successful company, but the most important lesson has been that success is impossible without a solid team backing you. This lesson has transformed the type of employees I recruit and led to my company's solid success.

Along the way, we've been fortunate to welcome to our in-house media agency, a team of top industry talent. The team includes the Oscar-winning digital effects and VFX supervisor and producer for Titanic, Interview with A Vampire and Avatar;  the co-visual effects supervisor for Jurassic World; and the 3D artist for X-Men: The Last Stand. 

Here are five ways you can build your dream team, too.

1. Be genuine about your passion.

Hands-down, the most effective way to recruit people who are at the top of their game (whatever that game may be) is to show them how genuinely passionate you are about your company. What ultimately convinced our vice president of digital media and Lucasfilm alumnus, Tony Plett, to join us was a simple conversation about our shared passion for producing content that inspires viewers and transcends traditional filmmaking.

Plett says that that's a conversation that has stuck with him. And that proves that sincerity goes a long way with prospective employees — especially those who are already accomplished visionaries in their respective field.

2. Connect with candidates on a personal level.

During the recruiting process for our animation director, Kirk Cadrette, whose past work has included iconic films like Braveheart and Independence Day, the two of us bonded over our shared love of surfing. Surfing!

Obviously, other factors influenced Kirk’s decision to join our team, but there is no doubt in my mind that establishing a common bond from the start helped convince him that Falcon’s Creative Group was an organization that cares deeply about our team members and their lives beyond the office.

3. Offer something they can’t get where they are (even if that's a billion-dollar company).

While monetary compensation is important to the recruiting process, it isn’t everything. If you truly want to recruit top-tier employees, find out what other elements of a job matter to them. Will they have free range on projects that would normally have restrictions at other companies?

Will they be able to spearhead a unique project that is a first for their career? Whatever it is that you can give them that is truly unique to your organization, make that point abundantly clear during the recruiting process.

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4. Establish early that they will be change-makers in your organization.

Next, just let them be. When you are staffing your company with the crème de la crème of industry talent, make a conscious effort to tell prospects exactly how valuable they will be to your organization. More importantly, when they do make the choice to join your team, let them be the change-makers you promised they could be.

This means actively listening to their suggestions and feedback, allowing them the time to innovate and not fighting back against constructive criticism.

An example that stands out as a testament to this strategy is my early conversations with our compositing supervisor, Claudio Gonzalez. Claudio’s film work includes monster blockbusters like Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon and Thor; so one of my goals during the recruiting process was to let him know he would have the opportunity to apply his experience with these films to his position at our company in a way that would truly impact the way we operate and produce media.

My receptiveness to his ideas, both then and now, not only convinced him to join my firm, but has significantly improved the creativity and quality of our work.

5. Understand that their background may make them more knowledgeable than you and that that's okay.

This is an important point, because it can be difficult for entrepreneurs to relinquish some aspect of control when it comes to the organization they built from the ground up.

What is necessary to remember, however, is that your new recruits are bringing a knowledge-set with them that likely predates your organization. Therefore, you should embrace the fact that they may have a background in something you do not have. When you start thinking of new employees as true assets to the growth of your company, you will be amazed at the amount of talent you can attract.

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Recruiting the best and brightest in your industry, then, is not a tactic reserved for the heavy-hitters. As an entrepreneur, you have plenty of opportunities to attract the movers and shakers, and I guarantee that you will better your business as a result.

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