FOT Challenge: What Are the Top Five Ways You Would Recruit for Amarillo?

Ever heard of BFE?  Of course you have.  It’s the letters people internal to a company use to describe the assignment that no one wants, usually based on location.  By location, I mean the location that everyone thinks stinks, and to be assigned there is to be an outcast.

Examples:  Siberia. Antarctica. Amarillo.

Does your company have a location that renders images of Tom Hanks in Cast Away?  Of course, it does.

There’s just this one little problem – you still have to recruit talent to that location.  Some companies are headquartered in BFE, which means all their recruiting has an element of desperation to it.

What should you do in that situation?  Workforce recruiting has a nice rundown of B&W Pantex, a firm who faces some unique recruiting challenges:  Namely that they’re in Amarillo, Texas, and their business is nuclear weapons storage.

You’ll live in Amarillo and be one of the first targets for the Ruskies should thermonuclear war break out.  I’m just sayin… More from Workforce Recruiting:

“Three years ago, B&W Pantex faced up to several glaring recruitment challenges.

The problems weren’t unusual for a defense contracting company that employs a large number of engineers: how to reinvigorate an aging workforce whose average age is 47 and a shortage of qualified candidates for open positions. The company additionally faced an unacceptably high turnover rate among new hires.

 Yet solving those recruitment problems meant tackling some basic, even larger challenges. Since it could take 18 to 24 months to generate the necessary security clearances, getting new employees onboard and working was an arduous process. Perhaps even more daunting, recruiters had to convince candidates that there is a bright future in the rather unglamorous field of nuclear weapons storage and that living in the dusty, remote Texas Panhandle is a destination rather than a career stopover.

To address these challenges, Amarillo, Texas-based B&W Pantex, a 3,300-employee company that operates a nuclear weapons storage site for the U.S. Energy Department, embarked on a new recruiting program in 2007 to build depth and freshen its engineering staff.”

What would you do in that situation to make a career with B&W Pantex more attractive to candidates?  Quick – write down your top five things.  I did the same thing before I read the Workforce article in its entirety.  Here are my top five ways I’d recruit to Amarillo, or for any similar location-challenged company:

1. I’d offer additional benefits that had value for the candidate, and payback agreements would have the teeth of a Great White Shark.  Tuition aid, MBA programs, you name it – I’m providing it, and I need three years in return for any youngster that signs up.  Hopefully you meet a local girl or guy during that time and start procreating like Travis Henry with a multi-year contract.

2. I’d target professionals who are solid but almost to the point where they want to opt out of the rat race of Dallas, Houston, etc.  Let’s face it, I can get the young people by buying them, but to get the late 30’s demographic, I have to sell the whole “raise your family away from the craziness” card.  There’s a contingent that’s open to trade down on lifestyle and location.

3. I’d ramp up military recruiting to the extent I could with the specialties I have.  To whom does Amarillo look cosmopolitan?  To the vet returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, Amarillo looks pretty good.  I’d hire someone to run a military recruiting function and make my employment brand military friendly.

4.  I’d look for metros and areas that feel like my city.  If the selling point is Amarillo, then any candidate in the Southwest outside of Phoenix is fair game.  Look out second tier cites in Arizona and New Mexico.  Look out El Paso.  I’m coming for your sons and daughters – I’ve got no choice.  Amarillo doesn’t look bad next to El Paso, especially with the drug wars spilling over the border.  That’s right, I’m fear mongering.  You call it negative selling, I call it having a conversation.

5.  I’d build a brand around making fun of Amarillo’s remote nature.  That’s right, I’m going to make fun of where your HQ is.  You’ve got a minor league baseball team called the Dillas and play in a concrete bowl called the “Dilla Villa”?  Perfect.  I’m making fun of it to build the brand.  Is there a haunted house nearby?  No?  Legends of ghosts, perhaps?  Whatever I can get that’s funky, I need.  Let’s make fun of ourselves.

Compare my list to your list before you read the article about B&W Pantex.  See what they came up with that you didn’t think about.

And if you get a volleyball mailed to you named “Wilson” in the next couple of years, you’ll know I’m recruiting for B&W Pantex.

FOT Background Check

Kris Dunn
 Kris Dunn is Chief Human Resources Officer at Kinetix and a blogger at The HR Capitalist and the Founder and Executive Editor of Fistful of Talent. That makes him a career VP of HR, a blogger, a dad and a hoops junkie, the order of which changes based on his mood. Tweet him @kris_dunn. Oh, and in case you hadn't heard the good word, he's also jumped into the RPO game as part owner of a rising shop out of ATL, Kinetix. Not your mama's recruiting process outsourcing, that's for sure... check 'em out.


  1. Dwane Lay says:

    I like your suggestions. A couple of additional thoughts…
    – Carnival workers. They are used to being in small towns with little connection to any one place. They wouldn’t mind being in the middle of nowhere, I think. Plus, they might set up a Happy-Go-Pukey ride for you, which would be a nice culture building piece.
    – Off-shore oil workers. Again, isolation is nothing new. Plus no one will ask them if they were involved in destroying the environment for BP.
    – Parents of high school football talent. Its huge in Texas. They could even work with the high school to do tandem recruiting.
    – Survivalists. It’s out of the way, isolated, and you get access to WMDs. How is this not perfect for them?

  2. Maren Hogan says:

    Hahaha, good one Dwayne. Kris, you know that this appeals to me, given that my recruiting start was here in Omaha (not quite BFE to those that live here but the “costs” have other ideas). You give some really good ideas. One of the things I did was work with our local workforce associations and civic authorities to find out what the “flight patterns” of the area were. It was fascinating on the front end and helped quite a lot when doing and cost of living work. Plus, little factoids about the community helped a lot when talking directly to candidates.

  3. Sandra McCartt, Professional search, Inc, Int,l. says:

    Having recruited 100’s of professional people to Amarillo, let me help you.
    Whoever told you we are dusty and remote has never been here. This is ranching country, rolling plains with grass as far as the eye can see with wildflowers in the spring.
    Th second larger canyon in the United States is 20 miles south of Amarillo. Only the grand canyon is larger. Wildlife abounds in the canyon and on the plains, deer, quail, dove, the fishing is great and folks will let you hunt an fish if you don,t bother their cows or their kids.
    Amarillo has:
    200,000 people
    Low cost of living my 3 bedroom,3 full bath, two fireplaces 2200sq ft town home in an upscale area cost 125k, taxes 2500. Utilies all average 250. A month.
    Low crime, sometimes we forget to lock our doors.
    Nationally accredited jr college with two campuses.
    Four year univ. WT A&M
    Medical center includes a medical school, school of pharmacy,cancer research and treatment hospital,two large hospitals and numerous specially clinics.
    We serve a trade area of over 450,000 people.
    We ski Santa fe and Taos and Angel fire all an easy drive.
    We can be in Dallas in 45 minutes for dinner and shopping on Friday night,catch a cowboy game and be home in time for the symphony or the ballet both of which are excellent.
    Boat owners and lake lovers have their choice of several lakes with lovely Sumer homes and marinas some people live ther year around and work in Amarillo.
    People who live in Amarillo welcome our newcomers,watch out for neighbors and their kids and dogs.
    All of the national banks are here,all of the chain restaurants but the little trendy ones that are local are better.
    We have cowboys and cowgirls but a lot of us are dressage and hunter jumper riders. Good affordable boarding stables enable anyone to keep horses at a facility with an indoor arena.
    Many large companies have offices and plants in the area. Oil and gas, manufacturing,wholesale distribution, retail chains corporate offices.
    The quality of life in Amarillo “by god” Texas is the best of all worlds. If we don,t have it we can get there quickly and get home when we get get tired of traffic, parking problems, crime and congestion.
    We have a saying in Amarillo. If you wear out one pair of shoes here, you will never leave and if you have to you will always want to come back.
    If you have a problem recruiting engineers for amarilo it’s not the city, it’ the time it takes with Pantex to clear candidates. It takes as long as six months in many cases. Been there done that. Candidates got better offers at the many other places I. Our area who hire lots of them, pay the same or more and get them hired in 2 to 3 weeks.
    Call me for more about Amarillo. We have a few rattlesnakes but they all have two legs and we are just small enough to know who they are

  4. Kbaumann says:

    Great article and excellent points on recruiting from no-man’s land. I like Amarillo (actually have family that live there), but you’re absolutely right – you’ve got to make it attractive enough to the right audience (raise your family away from the craziness).
    This is a great example of recruiting strategy that everyone should pay attention to. Next time I’m in Amarillo, we’ll go to the Big Texan and afterwards, visit the local prairie dog town.
    Y’all come back now, y’hear? 🙂
    Kirk Baumann

  5. John says:

    Do you have to use gutter slang to describe a job location? This debases your article to those with more than a “disney channel” education. very sarcastic. And unnecessary.

  6. Sandra McCartt - Professional Search Inc. Int'l - Amarillo , Texas says:

    Appears that John may be one of those local fellows with a 400 dollar stetson who owns 65,000 acres of land, 20,000 cattle and has a producing well on a bunch of those “dusty , remote” pieces of ground who might just pound your tulips for calling our city BFE.
    Anybody who goes to the Big Texan is a dumb tourist who doesn’t know it’s a tourist trap. 🙂

  7. Sandra McCartt - Professional Search Inc. Int'l - Amarillo , Texas says:

    On a somewhat serious note Kris. I am never one to critize another recruiter’s strategy but i would gently suggest that if you start out making fun of a location or a company culture you run the risk of offending a bunch of people. There are in fact over 3000 people who work at the plant. At least half or more are from this area originally. If candidates come in laughing or expecting the worst due to the recruiter making fun of the area they fail to make the best impression on the natives, coworkers etc.
    Part of the reason for the location of the plant and some of the high security missle testing areas in New Mexico is that by the time any foreign intruder headed this direction NORAD would have them on radar and probably would have knocked them out of the air about over, oh say Atlanta.
    the last time somebody called Amarillo BFE he was told that we had a fabulous university here that he would like. The name of it is…Farouk U.

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