The Search for Talent

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There are more places than ever to search for your next one-in-a-million on-air talent, and that makes finding and hiring them both easier and harder at the same time. Here are some places to look for candidates, and some things to look for as indicators of their potential.


Inside your building. Both Mercedes In the Morning at Mix 94.1 in Las Vegas and Blake Carter at Kiss FM Toronto began as receptionists. Notice the people who always disrupt your meetings cracking jokes and who engage in great conversation.

People in your life. Jimmy Kimmel found Adam Corolla working as a boxing instructor and a carpenter. Nelson of KFIS Portland was amusing his coworkers at a paper plant by calling in as weird characters to a local radio station. Blondie of the Blondie and Nugget show at KTFM San Antonio entered a “be a deejay” contest – and came in second.

Get to know the top performers on your competition. You won’t violate any contracts as there is nothing illegal in asking about their plans when their contract is up. Get to know people over coffee, reach out to say hello and go to industry functions when you can. These people may also know good people that you can talk to.

Get someone else’s leftovers. When one of your friends in the business is hiring, ask them to share the demos that they didn’t choose. One of them might be perfect for you.

Blind box ads. Reviewing hundreds of demos take a lot of time, but you never know. We ran a blind box for a client last year and randomly caught Greg Beharrell expressing interest from The Edge in Toronto. Greg is now on Live 105 San Francisco. Bonus: ads are free, so all it costs is your time.

Look at on-stage performers outside of radio. Get to know local improvisational theatre groups, sketch comedy actors, stand up comics and acting classes. Both Daria O’Neill and Ted Douglass of the Daria, Mitch and Ted Show on KRSK Portland came from sketch comedy theatre. Also if there is a story slam event like The Moth happening in your area, attend, listen and connect with the best storytellers.

Get to know podcasters and YouTubers in your area and nationally. A great place to start looking for talented performers is YouTube. Make friends with agents like Sarah Penna of in Los Angeles, who represents YouTube talent.

Build your internship program. Invest the time to partner with area universities to have students come do work for college credit. Develop simple boilerplate tasks for them like answering the phones and updating the website. Then, give them an opportunity to be on a mic and listen for what they’ve got.


These are not hard and fast rules, but here are some general guidelines that can signal that you’ve found usable talent in an individual who aspires to be a compelling broadcaster. They:

  • Listen well.
  • Are observant. Always looking for stories.
  • Display empathy.
  • Say what everyone is thinking but that they cannot or will not say.
  • Naturally tell good stories.
  • Are naturally funny.
  • Have higher than average IQ.
  • Are often good writers. Precise word selection makes a strong communicator.
  • Must be performing. They are probably already performing on social media.
  • Naturally interested in the same things as your target demo.
  • Often (but not always) are the same age, gender, ethnicity as your target demo.
  • Have long-term goals are in line with the job. If they aspire to perform on stage, on camera, on mic – good! If they’d like to be a full-time fly fisherman – bad!
  • Adapt conversation to the person they are talking to. They can converse easily with the janitor and with the CEO.


Give preference to those with more education vs. less. They tend to be more coachable and more open to learning and development.

Age is relevant. Look for people who are in your target demo, or slightly younger, so they can age with your core audience years into the future.

Be cautious about hiring journalists for non-news hosting positions. Journalists are trained to be unbiased, to not reveal personal stories, emotions, inner thoughts or opinions – which are make-or-break traits of a high-definition talent.

Be cautious about hiring excessive talkers. It may seem counterintuitive that a person who constantly fills the room with conversation might not be a good broadcaster, but our experience indicates that the best talent says a lot in a few words, and they tend to be intent listeners who make room for conversation instead of a monologue.

Good luck in your search!


Photo Credit: Jeffrey Beall/Flickr

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