Recruiters Going Rogue

srs-logoI was listening to Fred Wilson speak at the Social Recruiting Summit about a month ago and found myself wondering what a venture capitalist was doing speaking to a bunch of corporate recruiters. Of course his involvement in the funding for web 2.0 companies such as Twitter and Indeed is a natural connection to a conference aimed at using social media to recruit, but the world of a corporate recruiter is so much different than that of VC. As we neared the end of his presentation I decided to let him attempt to draw the connection for me.

My question was very simple, but I didn’t expect to get a valuable answer. You see, I am the type of person who always asks a question when listening to a presentation, but rarely receive insightful answers. I have come to expect a mediocre response which includes some degree of “it depends” and ultimately proves to be relatively useless. This was definitely not the case with Fred.

I asked him how a recruiter bound by an infinite number of legal and policy restrictions can influence corporate leadership to embrace new technology which has yet to be proven as an industry standard. The question also has implications for influencing leadership on any issue which is a bit edgy. Fred’s answer: “Go rogue.”

What he meant was to go out and execute your plan, and then present your results to those who were skeptical. The idea is that it is much harder for someone to argue with results than it is to argue against intentions. When you think about the source of this comment, it all starts to come together. VCs make a living by looking for situations where others do not necessarily buy into the proposed payoff, and then prove those people wrong. I guess there is a good reason to have a VC talking to a bunch of corporate recruiters.

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As a corporate recruiter I understand the draw of this approach, but I believe there are three key ideas needed to make it successful.

  1. Don’t break the law, or any important company policies. Going rogue is a tactic to be used when you can’t get support for a strategy, not for violating intentional strategies by your company.
  2. Do the majority of this work on the side. Who gets mad at an employee for putting in time on the nights and weekends to keep their company on the cutting edge?
  3. Share your results when the time comes. Don’t talk about the time you spent on the weekends or any “I told you so’s.” Focus on the positive impact which has resulted, and what this means for the company.

It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. But, if you achieve strong results you may not need to do either.

Josh Ingalls likes to solve problems and help people. He is a campus recruiter at Principal Financial Group and loves discussing career goals with college students. He is an eternal optimist and is often speaking to groups about how new technologies can help them. In another life, he was probably a theoretical physicist, which explains his obsession with online lectures about relativity. To contact him, go to


13 Comments on “Recruiters Going Rogue

  1. Josh-I like the overall tone of your article. I think that talent acquisition professionals need to challenge the status quo on a regular basis.

    However, the idea of a recruiter ‘going rogue’ can have severe implications beyond the obvious ‘breaking the law’ scenario. When a company has a robust talent strategy tied to employment brand ‘going rogue’ can significantly harm that employment brand through inconsistancy. That’s just one example.

    Talent Acqusition like any other profession requires creativity coupled with process dicipline. The team needs to sing from the same sheet of music or the overall strategy isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

    I beleive recruiters need to use thier abilities to influence and impact decision makers through their expertise and commitment to excellence to further their agenda.

  2. I do not support the comment regarding going rogue. I question this article especially in this market that is dominated by power companies that can easily black list recruiters for minor infractions that are perfectly legal, ethical but may prove to an annoyance to any company or HR professional that seeks revenge. Has any recruiter tried calling the hiring Manager of a company? The companies call the shots….and the last thing I want to do is upset an HR professional that has the power to black list.

  3. Kudos Josh! I love the suggestion. Going rogue to me suggests a passion and willingness to make a change–for the better. America is built by those who take those risks. Can you be blacklisted–yes. So what. There are other jobs/clients. Spare me the me live in fear survival mode. I’d much rather gravitate toward the attitude of I can make a difference–change things–improve the way we do business. I think to refine the thoughts more it’s about how to present a win-win situation for all involved. But I digress, I just love the energy and thoughts behind ‘going rouge’ … nice way to start my day. Thanks Josh … the coffee is ready.

  4. I blogged about this on my ERE blog, see, it also has video with Sedexo, Microsoft and RSM McGladrey. Going rogue can work, I listened to Jessica Lee’s presentation at #SocialRecruiting summit, she went rogue. Her approached seemed “outside the lines” and innovative, she might have crossed some minor lines, but seems like none were major compliance/legally related. With a company policy like, 10% to one-third of time and budget goes to trying something new and innovative and rest of the time and budget to proven strategies and tactics, companies and individuals can avoid many of the sticky messes that develop with going rogue.

  5. This is the right state of mind!
    We see this at Checkster all the time, people debating about the value, the options, the “if”,… But when they engage in a trial, that would account for maybe 1hr of their time. The conversation switch. They don’t debate “if” anymore, they speak results.
    I understand that not all technologies can be piloted as easily to see the results, but the state of mind described in this article is the one of the recruiters of tomorrow.

  6. Robert said: “America is built by those who take those risks.”
    What alternate America is this? America is built (as opposed to founded/invented) by those who “go along to get along,” by sucking up to those who have the money and power and telling them what they want to hear in a not-too-obvious way. I’ve worked in recruiting a very long time, and the number of times that someone in charge has solicited my opinion on improving existing processes and been willing to implement them, I can count on one hand, and in a large corporate setting: NEVER. We’re not paid to have opinions and offer advice, we’re pay to do what we’re told and make our superiors look good.

    Know what you call a recruiter who does what is suggested in a corporate setting and isn’t a master politician/game-player? UNEMPLOYED.
    Know what you call a recruiter who does what is suggested a few times in a corporate setting and isn’t a master politician/game-player? UNEMPLOYABLE.
    Show me where you can easily find a new lucrative corporate or contract situation THESE days.

    I put it to Mr. Wilson and any other high-level executives who heard him or are reading this to let one or more of us go into THEIR company with carte-blanche authority to advise changes and immunity from retribution and tell you how to fix your hiring processes. There are a number of us who clearly have the depth and breadth of experience to do this, and would love the opportunity.

    Thank You,

    Keith “NOT a Master Corporate Politician/Game-player” Halperin

  7. Having “gone rogue” many times in my career I can say it is a satifying place to be. Also, it is very difficult to argue against if the results are positive. Often times many people don’t recognize the positive impact of innovation until someone has stepped out and “gone rogue” to prove the point.

  8. All- Again great article…

    The comment/s we post are indexed/archived on the WWW for anyone to view/see/read before they decide to engage with you… (decide to hire you/your product or services)

    I am wondering if anyone has reference checked “themselves” out at ?

    Is your social footprint positive or negative? Do you care?
    Until we connect again, I trust you will have an amazing day!

    Best, Brian- (Energy flows where attention goes..)

  9. I am glad to see this article sparked some spirited debate. It is definitely a contentious issue, and a good topic to get multiple perspectives on. Those who responded saying this is a risky strategy are probably drawing from experiences we should all take into consideration when thinking about “going rogue.”

    One of the things I didn’t mention is that doing something outside of the current strategy does not necessarily relate to success. The importance of research, timing, judgment and decision making cannot be underestimated. If your attempt to go rogue is not well thought out, and you are not very confident your decision will be defensible with results, there is reason to pause. Most of the things we do should be within the company strategy, but when you see the opportunity to go outside and make an impactful positive contribution then this idea supports the effort you would put in to pursue it.

  10. This is a great suggestion about how to implement a difficult change. In the automotive industry, they would call this a “skunkworks” project. Many game changing vehicles came into existing by a passionate team of believers going rogue.

    Of course, you don’t violate legal standards or corporate strategies. Rather, you figure out how to utilize these new technology-based tools into the existing infrastructure to maximize your competitive advantage when recruiting talent.

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