Recruiting At Bars and Other Places Prospects Gather

Someone once asked the famous bank robber Willie Sutton why he robbed banks. His answer was startlingly simple: “Because that’s where the money is.”

There’s a lot to be learned by that observation, both in bank robbery and in recruiting. When you want something badly enough, be it gold or people, you have to be willing to go where you can find it and use whatever means necessary to get it. Suffice it to say, the best gold isn’t likely to jump out of the hills and into your hands, just like the best talent isn’t likely to be beating down your front door.

Following Sutton’s example, it would make sense that recruiters should rob the competition, but since we all know that most recruiters are squeamish about the ethics of stealing talent, that leaves a host of other public places to raid. I recommend that squeamish recruiters get out and recruit in public places where suitable talent is likely to be, which includes bars and restaurants where employees flock to after work for that all-important, winding-down cocktail. Recruiters are a strange lot; thousands flock to the Internet each year looking for out-of-the-box recruiting tools, but they often reject what they find because it seems too different. If you’re one of the faint-of-heart recruiters, stop reading, because there’s no way you’re going to have the courage to explain to your boss that you have been out recruiting at a bar and he or she is paying for the bill! I was first exposed to the idea of recruiting at bars back in the mid-’90s while advising a manager at Hewlett-Packard. After a long day, she suggested that we get a drink at the “HP bar.”

I was startled because HP is a conservative company, and it certainly wasn’t known for having a bar on any of its campuses. When I inquired about HP having a bar, the manager clarified that she was referring to the British tavern across the street. “It’s where many HP employees go for a drink with a colleague at one point or another,” she explained. I didn’t think much about it until we actually entered the bar, which of course was located literally across the street from the employee parking lot exit. I was shocked when the front door opened. The bar was filled with a hundred people, and they all had HP identification badges hanging from their necks or belts. Even non-drinkers were there because they had been invited by their colleagues (this team invitation phenomena was especially true at HP because HP works almost exclusively in teams, and invariably, some team member suggests that they “continue the discussion after work over drinks”). It was a revelation. As a recruiter, I could throw a dart in any direction and hit an HP employee.

Recruit Wherever They All Gather in One Room

Of course, everyone knows that salespeople, pickpockets, and great recruiters hang out wherever all of their targets are gathered in one room. I knew that, but I never thought of putting a bar on my list of places where prospects meet in one location (other gathering places include seminars, trade shows, alumni reunions, etc.). Bars and restaurants across the street from companies that hire talent similar to that which is needed are prime recruiting places, as are wine festivals, certification classes, charity events, cheerleading contests (a prime source for enthusiastic pharmaceutical sales representatives), and even rock-climbing clubs (you said you want risk-takers).

Why to Recruit at the Across-the-Street Bar

There are many reasons why you should recruit at the across-the-street bar or restaurant. Some of those reasons include:

  • It produces immediate and measurable results. Recruiting at targeted bars is quick, cheap, and very effective. Most, if not all, of the people you meet are likely to be employed by your target firm.
  • Recruiting there is a lot more fun. Let’s face it, getting managers and even recruiters to go out in the field and recruit is all too often a difficult task. But when you tell them that they can drink and eat while recruiting on the company’s dime, you get a totally different answer.
  • The concentration of employees. Patrons are most likely to congregate in work-related teams, which makes sorting the audience much easier.
  • Easy identification of targets. Employees are easy to spot because at lunch they’re still at work, and after work they likely will keep their badges on. If you have good eyes, you might be able to read their full names, job titles, and building assignments right off of their badges.
  • It’s easy to find. The bar, restaurant, or hangout is easy to find because it’s almost always right across the street from the company. If it’s not, you can just ask any employee where they go to lunch or hang out after work, and find out where it is.
  • The prospects are relaxed. Most employees and all top performers are trained to resist recruiter calls. However, at the bar, their guards are down and after a drink or two, they might even be receptive to chatting with you after they learn who you are. No one expects a recruiter to be there – they’ll feel safe among their own.
  • No gatekeepers. At work, there are numerous gatekeepers tasked with keeping salespeople, telemarketers, and recruiters from bugging employees. Fortunately, at bars, there are no gatekeepers to prevent you from communicating directly with employees. In fact, because they’re off work, there’s really nothing a company can do to keep you from talking to employees.
  • Everyone is helpful. Most “corporate” bars are filled with professionals and tend to be fun and jovial places. I’ve found that by merely asking experienced waitresses, bartenders, or almost anyone who is laughing “which one is the (fill in highest-ranking person, team leader, person who knows everyone, the expert in engineering, etc.),” they’ll point directly to the person. In some cases, they may even walk you over and introduce you.
  • Competitive-intelligence gathering. Even if you don’t actually recruit anyone, it’s almost impossible not to hear something about what’s happening at the company if you go during lunch or right after work. You might uncover who’s unhappy, who got promoted, where budget cuts are occurring, or in what areas good things are happening – all of which have recruiting and retention implications.

Other Great Recruiting Bars

In addition to across-the-street bars, there are some other bars where recruiters have successfully recruited. They include:

Article Continues Below
  • Convention-center bars. It’s easy to find out when and where industry-wide conventions are held, so if you’re trying to hire a nurse, it only makes sense to recruit at a bar inside or outside of a location where continuing education is being offered. Here again, you have the advantage of almost everyone having a name tag with his or her company name on it presented to you.
  • Hotel bars where company events are held. I’ve seen this happen too many times for it to be an accident. I first noticed it at a company event for one of the world’s largest advertising agencies at a hotel within the Washington, D.C. area. The agency had awarded Hawaiian trips and Hawaiian shirts (the equivalent of a bull’s-eye) to its top performers. As soon as these Hawaiian-attired individuals hit the lobby bar, they were literally attacked by recruiters from another agency, much to the surprise of the managing director. When you think about it, companies do send their very best people to these meetings, seminars, and events. Occasionally, corporate events are announced on the hotel’s main outside signage for everyone to see, making it easy to schedule your next pub crawl. Those individuals who don’t win awards are often frustrated, and as a result, are easy targets for recruiters.
  • Corporate-training-center bars. Many firms send their best employees to get training, so there are lots of prime targets to be found in bars and restaurants located near corporate training facilities. In addition, since most corporate training is long and full of out-of-towners, these local establishments are likely to be full of prospects. If you have a large corporate training center near you, it’s a prime target.
  • Shareholder-meeting bars. The bar across the street from the location of the annual shareholders’ meeting will almost always include a number of company employees and leaders. If the company is doing poorly, go before the event; if not, go afterwards to make contacts and build relationships. Buy a share of the company’s stock and you can even recruit inside the event, depending on your ethical standards.

What You Do Once You Enter The Bar

Recruiting in public places is easy if you are bold, but if you are unsure, here are some approaches and tips that I’ve seen or that have been passed on to me by other savvy recruiters.

  • First, assume that you’ll have to visit often to build up a rapport, and don’t try to do too much too soon. The first few visits should truly be about establishing a few key contacts that you can use as springboards to network the room. Hold off the in-your-face recruiting for another time or venue.
  • Practice at a bar across the street from a company you don’t really care about until you’re good enough to take on your primary targets.
  • Consider sending outgoing managers and employees first, rather than professional recruiters. The reason for this is that many will be scared off once they learn you’re a recruiter, and almost everyone will talk for a longer period of time with someone who actually works in his or her own field. In addition, employees are just more believable and convincing about what it’s like to work at a firm than any recruiter can be.
  • Whenever possible, try to send a team. This improves your chances. Also, it provides opportunities for sharing leads and information with other team members (yes, they do sometimes meet in the restroom).
  • The best days for going are Thursday and Friday, because more people go to bars those days. Other days when you are likely to find a large number of suddenly-unhappy people are days immediately following performance appraisals, bonus payouts, budget cuts, product cancellations, days when the company stock crashes, and the days immediately following merger or layoff announcements. If you go on these gloomy days, you might find that people who were uninterested yesterday will greet you with open arms now that negative news has reached them. Also, consider going on days when good things have happened at your firm because most people will want to hear the background story of any firm in their industry.
  • If you’re attractive (just like in spy movies, this really can help), start by trying to build a conversation with a member of the opposite sex that glances at you more than once. Consider individuals who are of a similar age, ethnicity, dress, or other noticeable feature. Interns and young people are also often welcoming and helpful, because no one has told them not to be.
  • Ask the waitresses or bartenders for help because they likely already know – or can find out about – anyone in the bar rather quickly. I’ve seen recruiters use the line, “My friend told me that several people from the ‘X’ department could be found here; could you help me find them?”
  • Identify a friendly looking or jovial person with a badge at the bar and strike up a conversation with him or her. After some time, ask him or her to identify some individuals or to make some introductions for you.
  • If you’re not sure who to target, look for diverse individuals who are always difficult to recruit.
  • Consider “buying the bowl.” Go in off-hours and ask the owner if you can pay him or her for the cards that are dropped in the bowl next to the cash register. Those cards will give you whole names, titles, email addresses, and phone numbers, so you don’t have to ask too many questions in the bar (if you didn’t know that this practice is quite common among recruiters, you are either na?ve, or you are not a warrior recruiter).
  • Never lie about who you are. You can, of course, refuse to answer, but never directly lie about who you are or why you are there. Incidentally, don’t assume that saying you’re a recruiter will scare people away, because it generally doesn’t. Just like lambs in a flock, employees presume they are immune from poaching from the wolf because they are among friends. Don’t be surprised if individuals say something like, “Yeah, I’ll talk to you, but there’s no chance in hell that I’m leaving,” and then after a short while, ask you to call them if a great opportunity turns up. In fact, it’s more likely that people will flock around you to find out what’s happening at your firm than it is that people will refuse to talk to you. It just turns out that most people think they’re immune to recruiter’s pitches.

Ethical Considerations I found that more often than not, the so-called ethical considerations put forth by recruiters are really an indication of a lack of courage and the willingness to take a risk to try something out-of-the-box. My advice is short and simple. If you’re in a war for talent, fight like a warrior and ignore the whining of social workers who say that talking to individuals in public places about new job opportunities is somehow unethical. If your company has clear ethical prohibitions, just don’t do it; if you’re unsure, ask for permission. If you have personal ethical concerns and your company does not, quit your job as a recruiter today, and stop holding back your company’s ability to recruit and succeed.


I was staying at a hotel this year where Wells Fargo was holding an event for its top people. A competitor took advantage of this where-they-all-meet-in-one-room strategy and poached away 12 people at the hotel bar. As an outsider, it was like watching a shark gobble up unsuspecting fish, or shooting fish in a barrel. No one was expecting a raid, and convention name tags made the targets stand out at the lobby bar, so they could not be missed. There are two lessons to be learned from this event.

First, when you hold an event, assume that a recruiter will be lurking, and put in a blocking strategy. Second, realize that there really is a war for talent, and unless you act like a true warrior, realize that you’re hurting your company and that your lack of courage to try something different might be a primary reason why so many jobs are going unfilled. If you decide you are or want to be a warrior, start thinking about all of the public places where your recruiting targets hang out, and then look for the bar or gathering place where you can begin to build a relationship with them. By the way, if you see me at a bar in a business area talking loudly to a group of individuals with name tags on, you can bet I’m not there because I’m thirsty!

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



26 Comments on “Recruiting At Bars and Other Places Prospects Gather

  1. could you provide the name of the pub in the Northern Italian city. Recruiting trip!

    You are right in that Dr. John likes to stir the pot (and obviously everyone doesn’t know him personally, where that point would be made abundantly apparent to them…it’s one of the reasons why I like him). Some of his statements are so obviously baiting. So the pot stirring comes with some backlash and I have to think it’s expected. I’m a little surprised at your response, though. Haven’t you become immune to it by now? It’s pretty much par for the course, don’t you think?

    Regarding the CEO comments, good for you for having such a great network, but I’m not sure I get your point. When you phrase it as ‘networking’ it sounds very different than ‘If you’re attractive…start by trying to build a conversation with a member of the opposite sex that glances at you more than once.’ Do I think that many CEOs would encourage this practice? Are you kidding me? I’ve had to go back and re-read that a couple of times just to make sure I saw what I saw.

    I don’t really see how the ethics issue is relevant here as I find some of the recommendations more ‘icky’ and misguided than unethical. So I do agree with you, to some extent, on that. But that’s still no reason to assume that what’s being recommended is something that everyone would find tasteful. Come on now, Dr. John knew that when he wrote the article.

  2. Gee, I could see A.A. having a field day with this one.

    Okay, I could see how this may have been Cool in the ’90’s but in today’s world, this has some problems written all over it

    First off let’s address the War For talent and Fighting Guerillas – pleeeeeeaaaasssse, so many of us are getting tired of this ‘catch’ phrase.. Hasn’t it run it’s tired war yet.

    The war for talent is only as big as some peoples heads. Granted that there are some fields that are more difficult than others, but Really, Picking up the phone, and Recruiting the Good Old Fashioned Way has Amazing Results. It is called numbers and volume.

    Which brings me to the other parts of this article. Ever heard of overtime.. Going recruiting and some bash, well hope your company is going to pay you for the overtime you put in. Not to mention that you are on another competitors dime and time.

    I was at the same meeting with the Wells Fargo was holding their convention.. Well you should have heard the comments from many of the Wells Fargo and other Groups who were holding the conventions about the Said Recruiting Team – it was a good thing that the said competitor was not leaving soon, cause I heard one of the managers talking to Security. They were Quite Miffed.

    Anyways.. going to a Bar to recruit.. well, that would be an interesting conversation to have with my boss.. Hey boss, here are my overtime billing, hey met a Great Candidate Boss, met him at the local tavern, yeah, sorry for the fact that I wasn’t in the office, at least I can say one thing, She/He could really hold their liquor well

  3. ?Someone once asked the famous bank robber Willie Sutton why he robbed banks. His answer was startlingly simple: ‘Because that’s where the money is.’

    There’s a lot to be learned by that observation, both in bank robbery and in recruiting. When you want something badly enough, be it gold or people, you have to be willing to go where you can find it and use whatever means necessary to get it.?

    What a great lesson. I must remember to pass this one on to the kids.

    From where I come from, robbing banks is illegal whereas recruiting isn?t. I was also taught in school that using whatever means necessary to get something was also called bullying. Illegal and bullying tactics. Sounds familiar.

    ?If you’re attractive (just like in spy movies, this really can help), start by trying to build a conversation with a member of the opposite sex that glances at you more than once. Consider individuals who are of a similar age, ethnicity, dress, or other noticeable feature. Interns and young people are also often welcoming and helpful, because no one has told them not to be.?

    Can?t you get arrested for this sort of thing?

    ?I found that more often than not, the so-called ethical considerations put forth by recruiters are really an indication of a lack of courage and the willingness to take a risk to try something out-of-the-box.?

    What really takes courage is the willingness to resist the temptation to recruit unethically (or badly ? same thing) but rather, do so professionally at all times. Yes, if you want to have money you can rob a bank, but I hope most people prefer to earn their money honestly.

    I?m not knocking hanging around bars to recruit people if that?s your thing. Everyone to their own, although I cannot see too many companies encouraging their staff to use this method. Can you imagine?

    ?Oh sorry Mr CEO, my recruiting team are not at their desks recruiting, they are using their expense account to visit some bars hoping to meet some good candidate. Er yes sir we will be providing AA help later in the year.?

    Here is the best bit of advice the article gives.

    ?If you have personal ethical concerns and your company does not, quit your job as a recruiter today.?

    I would add

    ?In fact quit whatever your position and join a company with values. After all, who in their right minds would want to help a company that has no ethical concerns to succeed.?

  4. Tony,
    excellent response.. you know there is something I do take offense to as well in regards to Sullivan’s article
    ‘I found that more often than not, the so-called ethical considerations put forth by recruiters are really an indication of a lack of courage and the willingness to take a risk to try something out-of-the-box.?

    When I read that statement it sends shivers down my spine.. look, no talk about ethics here, but simply – The only lack of courage that comes from this job is one simple thing –

    A FEAR to Pick up the PHONE –

    Recruiting is Simple – we don’t need to Reinvent new and better tactics, really we don’t – the reason that the phone model of recruiting is PUSHED over and over again over the last Century is because IT WORKS – Tried and True!

    Instead of investing in New products that don’t really produce results, or read articles that are trying to promote something that will leave bad taste in other’s mouths, or even have managers consider contacting security guards to chase you out of the area…

    Invest instead time reading articles on How to do Great Phone. Invest on a trainer who will teach you how to network in a manner that will gain trust and help solidify your Reputation.

    Invest time in Reading who the Great Recruiters ARE currently, what they do well, why they do it well, and how you can learn from them.

    Find Mentors willing to spend time with you to help you Hone Your PHONE skills.

    Recruiting is about networking, knowing our candidates, knowing the people who we are working with and for..

    And please one last thing.. Enough with this Tired, old, worn out, broken down, record Skipping, over and over, it has played it’s course War For Talent.

    If we focused and opened up your recruiting more on Skills rather than the ‘right’ persona – recruited based upon the knowledge, attitude, experience.. Rather than a look, Culture, Age, One would be shocked at the Number of Experienced candidates who can do the job and do it well will actually cross your door..

  5. Great suggestions, John. Along similar lines, I’ve noticed a lot of military recruiters at high school sporting events. Here in Minnesota, the biggest tournaments occur in March and the biggest of the biggest is the boys state high school hockey tournament. Sure you’ve got parents and alums at the games, but the 18,000+ seat arena is packed for every game and the majority of the attendees are high school juniors and seniors. Those are great candidates for the military recruiters.

    Steven Rothberg career site

  6. though Dr. John is my favorite pot-stirrer (I mean that)

    I also don’t buy into the ‘whatever means necessary’ philosophy (have we gotten anough mileage out of the ‘war’ metaphor?). I think it’s irresponsible. Something exists between the ‘whatever means’ folks and the squeamish. Not that I consider recruiting at restaurants and bars particularly ‘out-of-the-box’…the fishbowl story made the rounds, what…ten years ago? It’s great to get a reminder to always be on the lookout but it’s not something that was invented for this ‘war for talent’

    One challenge with this kind of recruiting is the time investment relative to your ability to proactively target. Yeah, you are likely to get people from a particular company but most of us are recruiting against specs that are a little more specific than that.

    Another challenge is that if you are truly working the room, you have a high likelihood of coming off as cheesy. It’s just not that discreet and may not be received as particularly professional. If you can do it in a discreet way, that’s great, but asking the wait staff to set you up with your next prospect wouldn’t fall into the category of discrete in my opinion.

    Now the comment about ‘if you are attractive’ is really rich. of course everyone’s inner voice is saying ‘that’s me! I’m attractive!’. I don’t think that using looks to recruit in a bar is something that I would consider a particularly safe activity and if someone reporting to me was doing that, I’d ask them to stop.

    When I go out with co-workers, leaving your badge on would make you the object of ridicule (or at least a chorus of ‘nerd!’ as you approach the table).

    I think that as recruiters, most of us are always recruiting and I do meet people socially that I encourage to send me their resume. But there is a line to be drawn between aggressive and cheesy and it’s all in the eye of the prospect. If I were to see someone working the room with some of the suggested tactics, I’d be avoiding eye contact with them, regardless of how attractive they are.

  7. John, while I am all for recruiting at ‘gathering places’ such as trade shows, training facilities, etc., I do have to draw the line at the Corner Pub. Please note — I am certainly NOT a ‘squeamish recruiter’ — far from it! — but I do believe that there is a time and place for things, and the place that I choose to work in is not a bar. I’m not certain that I need an employee who might badmouth MY company after a couple of martinis….there are probably enough people on any of our payrolls that do so now, why add to it?! In regards to a couple of your key points….

    <<'If you're attractive (just like in spy movies, this really can help), start by trying to build a conversation with a member of the opposite sex that glances at you more than once. Consider individuals who are of a similar age, ethnicity, dress, or other noticeable feature. Interns and young people are also often welcoming and helpful, because no one has told them not to be'>>….I’m not finding this to be very professional, even barring the ethical aspects. And if one is not that attractive? What’s the game plan then?

    <<'Recruiting there is a lot more fun. Let's face it, getting managers and even recruiters to go out in the field and recruit is all too often a difficult task. But when you tell them that they can drink and eat while recruiting on the company's dime, you get a totally different answer'>>…Not sure that these are the employees that I want on my team. I prefer hardworking individuals whom I do not have to bribe with free alcohol, don’t you? I can bet, however, that you will be flooded with applications for Recruiting Positions once the word gets out!

    Really, I am offended by the idea that recruiters are such sharks that they have to hang out in bars to pick up candidates. I think we recruiters need to continue our level of professionalism and avoid coming across as incompetent sales-sharks.

  8. If you haven’t already figured it out, Dr. Sullivan loves to stir the pot, as it drives people to think. More often than not, the approaches profiled are based on real life practices of recruiters working predominately in Fortune 100 organizations. As for the ethical considerations, there are ethical and unethical ways to approach any practice. I find it interesting that the same critics always presume a practice is meant to be carried out in an unethical fashion as opposed to an ethical one.

    I am a Silicon Valley recruiter born and bread. I count among my friends a number of high ranking executives in corporations whose names everyone would recognize. If you think your CEO would consider the idea of occasionally spending time in enemy territory networking with the employees of a competitor at a local pub or restaurant near their offices an insidious waste of time, then I would hazard to guess you really don’t know your executives, as most would call it brilliant.

    Who cares if you convert anyone you meet in the bar or restaurant, the real benefit is that you send a message and expand your network.

    As for singling someone out in a bar to talk to based on their age or general appearance being an arrest worthy offense to the law, get real. If that were the case nearly everyone would be arrest worthy at some point in their lives. Recruiters discriminate daily by attending college recruiting fairs at all black colleges or all female colleges. I don’t often see them being led away in handcuffs.

    The other asinine comment that was made had to do with overtime. Again, I challenge you to get real. Cost containment is an HR centric focus, real executives care more about return. If you spend $1,500 in overtime to fill a role that costs $5,000 each day it remains vacant, you did your company a service, one yielding a fairly high ROI.

    It’s time to stop hiding behind ethics as an excuse. It’s time to start thinking of recruiting like a business. It’s time to ADMIT that nearly any practice can be carried out in a manner consistent with ones own ethics and values.

    Of the posts made so far, the only business oriented post that I somewhat find value in is Heather’s, who questions the cycle time of this recruiting approach. In response to that, I argue that every recruiter?s tool box should be filled with short, medium, and long term candidate generation tools, and that network build is an age old practice. I would also argue that for organizations expanding globally, sometimes the local pub in a Northern Italian city is the best channel to meet the most people in the shortest period of time.

    All recruiting tools have a scope of reasonable applicability, including this one. If I were recruiting high volume, low skill labor, I probably would use this tool. If I were however recruiting low volume, high value positions with very narrow talent pools I might.

    And with that, I wish you all the best in your recruiting endeavors, wherever they may take you.

  9. I think Dr.Sullivan’s article ‘Recruiting At Bars and Other Places Prospects Gather’ is definitely a very effective way of pinpointing talent pockets. I have tried this approach while headhunting for a Staffing Firm that I worked with almost 5 years back, and believe me it really works. These congregations are a headhunter’s ‘goldmine’. If you dig right and dig deep,results are there for you to see but requires a visionary leader and organization to support such maverick methods.

    Forget about ethics, that is just a lame excuse. Headhunters are to a company what martyrs are to a country. Martyrs take ages, and loads of personal sacrifices to rewrite a nation’s history or improve the living conditions of masses. Example: Mr.Mandela had to spend 26 years in jail before aparthied was actually abolished.

    However, a headhunter does much more. He or she not only builds a company but indirectly contributes to the economic wealth of a nation in a very short span of time. So lets not debate on recruiting ethics, and morality. Headhunters are in the business of building companies, and need to do whatever it takes to build it.

  10. This article starts by comparing robbing a bank with recruiting and ends by saying that if you have personal ethical concerns and your company does not, quit your job as a recruiter today, and stop holding back your company’s ability to recruit and succeed.

    Don’t blame the people responding for presuming that yet again Dr Sullivan preaches unethical behaviour, whatever the method.

    Whilst I admire your loyalty, you sum it up by saying ‘it’s time to ADMIT that nearly any practice can be carried out in a manner consistent with ones own ethics and values.’

    And there you have it at last. Ethics is a personal thing and clearly some people have less than others. It’s not so much the action, and this idea of recruiting is anything but new, it’s the intent and the intent is clear again and again.

    ‘stealing talent’
    ‘public places to raid’
    ‘everyone knows that salespeople, pickpockets’
    ‘war for talent’
    ‘fight like a warrior’
    ‘No one was expecting a raid’
    ‘recruiter will be lurking’
    ‘act like a true warrior’

    I don’t think the article only said ‘singling someone out in a bar to talk to based on their age or general appearance.’

    What it also said was:

    ?If you’re attractive, start by trying to build a conversation with a member of the opposite sex that glances at you more than once.’

    It also went on to say:

    ‘Interns and young people are also often welcoming and helpful, because no one has told them not to be.?

    You’re right about one thing. These articles certainly make you think but maybe not in the way you hope. It is time as you say to start thinking of recruiting like a business but perhaps the lack of personal ethics should not be part of the equation. It just isn’t necessary.

  11. It is so easy to write great articles and tell us recruiters How it is – especially give these really ‘great’ recruiting tools and lay out these ‘wonderful’ ideas, especially when one doesn’t have to deal with the outcome and backlash of what happens from these ‘outlandish ideas’

    Seriously, it really bugs me when there are individuals giving such great advice, but haven’t been in the recruiting trenches in ages.

    ROI – Another Word I grow weary of – Straight up, is it really worth the ROI when your company is sued by someone whose boss had a great idea – John, we want you to recruit in the local bar’ and John’s religion or Personal Beliefs prohibit him from going to the local bar?

    Is it worth your ROI when John turn in overtime slips but the company won’t acknowledge his time spent recruiting in the local bar, and he sues for said overtime plus more….

    Look, this job isn’t just as easy as walking in a bar or doing as one pleases just because you can –

    Come on people it is time to wake up and know your industry, not to mention let’s get our credibility.

    Employment lawsuits make up the largest number lawsuits filed in Courts..(as of 2003) –
    According to USA today 450 employment Related Lawsuits are filed Every DAY. 2000% increase since 1974 – and lawsuits filed doubled since 1992, average case load for eeoc investigators tripled since 1992

    when you consider there are 25 federal and state laws and hundreds of regulations that apply to workplace relationships
    And according to SHRM 3 out of 5 Employers are sued by former employees every year

    Well one could only say it may be a priority for companies to create a more Employee friendly environment. Yes, that is what is Worth YOUR ROI

    Oh and please – as YOU once said to me – there is a difference in being Inclusive versus exclusive – in response to the poor analogy regarding recruiting on college campuses

    Rhetoric, Rhetoric, Rhetoric – so amazing and so convenient when it suits some.

    Networking is one thing, but as Heather said it so well, cheezy, unprofessional recruiting will get you just that, cheezy unprofessional outcomes. (not to mention candidates)

    Burnett, I also Noticed something you said, ‘I would probably use this tool’ – well considering that You WORK for Sullivan, and he is such a master, how come you haven’t yet.. and why only the probably?

    Let’s just get back to the basics – tried and True – PICK UP THE PHONE – IT WORKS!!!!! REALLY IT DOES

  12. Dr. Sullivan, I applaud you for presenting tactics which invoke thought, inspire controversy, and force even the most tenured Recruiting professional to examine what we are doing to continually expand our ‘bag of tricks’. I haven’t the most knowledge by far but I do know potential ‘Best Practices’ when I read, hear, or learn them.

    This is a tactic which I have employed with a great degree of success for many years in my pursuit of sales talent for the pharmaceutical industry, and again I applaud you for forcing recruiters to think.

    This is not a tactic in my opinion for overtime, this is not a tactic to be used instead of ‘picking up the phone’ this is another tool to be utilized when and where appropriate, and yes it can be done in an ethical manner.

    What many folks on this board tend to lose sight of is if this tactic is used in conjunction to the tried and true methods as well as some outside the box tactics, and again approached in a professional and ethical way, I applaud those of you out there who are confident enough in your clients and employers to be comfortable enough to recruit for them in any environment.

    An old mentor often preached ‘Good recruiters are always working’, why not expand our networking circle and potentially find a few candidates along the way. Cheers!

  13. First off, I would like to Clarify something prior to this I NEVER had mentioned anything about Ethics.. Laws and Ethics they sometimes go in hand, but I never mentioned Ethics..

    But let’s get me started. I find it unethical as heck to write articles that one ‘might’ consider trying .. Master.. isn’t that what you said MIGHT try it?
    does that mean that there hasn’t been any research involved with this? Was it just the observation of watching one Predatory Recruiting tactics, the same that almost got an individual kicked out of the Bar by security? They left before it happened. (overheard the discussion the manager was having with Security when I was eating Dinner in the Bar with my husband)

    I find it unethical that the Author doesn’t mention or discuss the Pro’s and Con’s when he is ‘stirring up the pot’ – Doesn’t mention how Some of these tactics they write of have been instrumental in individuals being Fired from their Jobs..

    I also find it interesting that this post came on the Heels of another interesting Recruiting Comic Strip based upon recruiters in a Bar. That Post was done on Friday on a good Friend’s Blog.
    That was done Tongue in Cheek.. Was this as well? or is that where we got our research?

    Nah, I never once had mentioned Ethics, but now that it is Out – EVERY business, EVERY industry brings a value to the economy, and many that are involved with the Welfare of the Public must have ethics revolving around it.

    The Recruiting industry Even More So. Why? Because we deal with Peoples Lives, and that of their families; we are privy to information that can rock Stock Markets or harm companies. We are privy to Private and VERY confidential information. Yet this industry has no Barrier to entry in Many states. YET!!!!! Anyone and I mean Anyone Can call themselves a recruiter. Many will leave when times get tough, and the REAL Recruiters will be left to Clean up the mess that many had created.

    Gee, I am kinda sick and tired of Cleaning up messes. I am sick of hearing the Negative stories from Candidates, clients and other Recruiters about the unethical behavior they suffered from unethical Recruiters.

    It is important to Note that if Ethics are Not self Created within an industry, it will be created for them, by individuals who don?t even know our industry. Just take a Good look at SOX for all the Misbelievers! Many thought that would NEVER happen either!

    Nah, I don?t think this article had major issues based upon ethics, not too much; Nah, the legal issues were More a focus for me.. This thing had legal impropriety written all over it.
    Let?s base all employment on ROI.. Gee, I can see certain Religions, Associations having a field day with this one. Not a couple thousand in ROI and lawsuits, let?s try a couple million.
    ROI, we will tell the stockbrokers when we are in a massive lawsuit, we were thinking about our ROI ? is that what Abercrombie and Finch told their stockbrokers after their 175 Million Dollar Lawsuit?

  14. that perhaps John intended this article for the recruiters not their managers. Specifically, I mean that he’s not telling staffing leaders to tell their people they have to go do this, but rather telling recruiters that it’s an opportunity they can decide to leverage. I personally would find it uncomfortable (‘hey, I think I’ll flirt with that guy…he looks like he has an MBA’…yeah right!), but most of the recruiters I know don’t have a manager looking over their shoulder telling them exactly how to recruit on every position. And there’s nothing to say that someone can’t do this and order a diet coke. I still find the tactic a little unpalatable.

    What I find even more interesting is what happens here each time John Sullivan writes an article. He intentionally throws out some controversial (though dated, in this case) ideas, knowing full-well that people will pounce with indignation. The respondents write off everything he says as ‘bad for the industry’, he gets to dismiss them for being squeamish/not aggressive enough. Everyone gets to feel right. All get a platform and a nemesis to rail against. Am I the only one that is a little bit fascinated by the dynamic?

    Unfortunately, I think some people may get scared off the conversation by some of the comments they see here because they don’t want to be attacked by either side (‘squeamish!’…’unethical!’…’I know you are but what am I?’) and that is really too bad for the rest of us.

  15. Heather,
    Many are missing a Valuable Point here – Employers are liable for the Behavior of their Employees off the work Site

    They are also liable for the behavior if the employee get’s harmed or harms another especially if they are representing that said company ‘off the clock’ and off site

    So let’s take this bar scene – Recruiter drinks a few cocktails to be social – recruits a few people, leaves and has an accident?

    What about if the Said Recruiter get’s hit by a drunk driver..

    This was all happened because the Recruiter was Just doing his job?

    Come on now – where does responsibility start and end when writing articles.

    Did the author Really think this one Through? This isn’t just about Ethics, this has legal issues all around it.

    Great Sullivan wants to stir up the pot, but if he doesn’t give pros and cons, well other responsible individuals will have to present them to others who may not think of the outcome.

    My 2 Cents!

  16. I’m going to second Heather that these articles and the discussion that follows seem to turn into a completely predictable kabuki of provocation and outrage.

    For Dr. John’s part, he seems to enjoy waving a red cape around. Personally, I think the point about ‘attractive members of the opposite sex’ was gratuitous. I think anyone old enough to order a drink in a bar doesn’t really need to be told about that sort of thing.

    The problem with the cape-waving is that it distracts us from the substance, which is often worthwhile.

    Sullivan’s not suggesting to lie or cheat or steal at all here. He is suggesting that people be aggressive and to go to a place where most recruiters likely haven’t thought to go.

    As for the fact that alcohol’s involved- I’ve never been to a trade show that didn’t have at least one cocktail hour, and the montly meetings of many local professional/trade associations are basically happy hours. Last I checked, companies weren’t forbidding staff from attending these events, to which all of the same concerns would apply. So I think that’s a red herring.

    Karen: You clearly have some strongly-held beliefs that your approach to recruiting is not only ‘cleaner’ but more successful in the long haul and that’s great. Why don’t you start writing some articles here, or start your own blog to develop your concepts in more detail? Right, wrong, or indifferent, Dr. John hasn’t just said ‘corporate recruiters need to get with it,’ he’s written tens of thousands of words saying ‘here’s how to do it.’ You catch a lot more flies with honey than vinegar.

  17. A good article, which I have printed out and will use some of the techniques that are new to me.

    Another venue for recruiting, definitely. But like many of the new and innovative recruiting concepts, I don’t think it’s either.

    At the risk of sounding like Al Gore (I did not invent the Internet, BTW), I’ll give a couple of examples. One is that I was networking to find candidates back in 1982. It just wasn’t called networking back then. I don’t think I invented networking, nor was networking new when it became a buzzword. I also have been recruiting at social events since ’82; bars, hiking clubs, parties, etc. It’s what I do for a living, and it’s a rare conversation that doesn’t include that basic interogative.

    The reality is that a good recruiter is always recruiting, no matter where they are. How many of us dread the old cliche of being seated next to an insurance salesman on a flight? That fear is nearly as old as commercial airlines, yet the principle is exactly the same.

    I’ve also had the reverse experience; salespeople targeting me while I was out having a drink. And recruiting is nothing if not sales: you are selling yourself, your company (or your client’s) and the benefits of the position.

    Bill Barnes

  18. While I feel it is very important to reach into the community to find candidates, we have found that joining the organizations that the people you wish to attract attend to be an effective form of networking. Also a tad more professional. As companies see you at professional events, talking to the people involved in the industry, it builds a reputation as someone who is involved and commmitted to their business. You receive return phone calls, you build name recognition, etc… This is not an 8 to 5 job, successful executive search people are deeply involved in several areas, their industry, their community, and if they choose, their church. A form of servant leadership can be helpful.

  19. Well said, Colin and Bill. If the point that somehow made its way to the surface of this article was that recruiters must utilize all relevant and salient opportunities to network, great. But it was a bit more heavily focused in on the bar venue then I expected in order to make the point. Such specific instructions to be successful within the bar venue came off a little bit like ‘insert tab a into tab b’…a bit patronizing to say the least. Or even a bit provocative…

  20. okay, I wave my white flag.. Humbly – Colin You did make some great points.. but Deborah, you did as well.

    There was a heavy focus on bars in this article, yes, I have a problem with that. Obviously. And of course For obvious reasons..

    But as you stated Colin, if you go beyond that and look at the whole picture, then you are right.. I guess there are some valid points to this article.

    Okay, I acknowledge there is a bigger picture to this, and I guess I had my blinders on. Could not see beyond the ‘bars’

    There, I said it, out in the open. Sometimes this stubborn gal needs to get off her own soap box from time to time.


  21. Colin, as always, the voice of reason. And I’m not just saying that because he agrees with me…much.

    Bill, you bring to mind the times I’ve been out and felt like telling someone ‘I understand what you do, but I’m just trying to enjoy the company of my friends. Can you please go away?’. I find the mimes take this feedback rather well ; )

  22. As I said in my earlier post I wave my white flag.. Great points were made, and I got blinded by that darn bar factor, could not see beyond any of the good points that were made and how this could be utilized in a social network.

    So I guess I have to get on my knees and acknowledge that publicly.

    That being said.. Colin, in response to your post.. How I recruit and do it well is that I have learnt how to give good phone. How to make very few calls a day but get results With each and every call. (I am a lazy person, and I like to make my job as easy as possible)

    I still stand by the phone is the best and Quickest, more effective method of recruiting.

    Let’s use this bar analogy okay – You are in a bar with hundreds of people, well would it not be like pulling a needle out of a haystack to find that candidate you need. Sure if you are just looking for names and numbers to compile.. well that may be a good tool, but then one can consider the time spent here could have been vested more effectively on the say – Phone?

    Social networking once in a while, yeah, this could possibly reap some rewards..

  23. John,

    Good article. One of those that makes you think, ‘Hey, yeah, this is what we do, and it’s fun, and it’s outside the box, and it’s not 9 to 5, and someone is going to appreciate that I found them here, and later they got a great job because of my effort.’

    By the way, the ones that aren’t at the bar, are getting their hair highlighted or their monthly pedicure next door. And guess who’s sitting in the beauty shop chair next to them? Me. The hardest part is pulling my business card out of my wallet with wet nails; I consider it a blessing.

  24. I just had to read this article with a title like this and so many comments maybe its just another excuse to have a few beers, hic!!

    Mind you joking apart not such a stupid idea, I have found candidates many a time in a bar, as soon as they find out you are in recruitment I get their life story then I feel obliged to help them on Monday.

  25. hi John, Keith Robinson, as you know I used this exact example at the Global Recruiting Conference last year in Brussels and I have no issue in saying ‘been there,done it and got the medal’.

    Now my example related to the IT sector pre Y2K and using bars/pubs in the city of London where we knew IT consultants, contractors, etc hung out. We did our research, indentified the target group, the channel to to the audience and went to communicate with them. We also used other methods, we put billboards in rest room, we sponsored beer mats, we set up dart and pool nights and yes we went in with money and business cards to recruit.

    Where we successful, you bet, with most mediums you wait for them to come to you. Why wait go to them.

    AA sorry way to PC for me and most Europeans, no we don’t have anything like to long lunches we used to but yes afterwork we meet and socilaise. It’s interesting that as a Brit who travels regually in the US it is something that Americans who have worked in Europe, particually the UK miss when they go back home.

    Agree with everything in Johns piece.

    In the Uk we set up walk-in’s in towns and cities, join us for breakfast or a lunch or afterwork for a wine and career chat. These are used for either hard to fill positions where a large number of the target audience are in a specfic area. Rule use a bar or pub they know, ‘home turf comfort zone’, or with volume recruitment ie a store opening.

    BUT going into a ‘zone’ and being with you audience and talking and handing out business cards just do it.

    Keith Robinson

  26. I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while now and just found the time. I expected there would be some who see this type of recruiting as wrong, but I didn’t this there would be this many.

    I think John his 100% on target with this one. Any recruiter that thinks building relationships within the groups of people they target to recruit is important should agree too.

    All we’re talking about here is meeting up with other adults in a casual setting and looking for opportunities to do business. It’s no different than being on a golf course or at a convention.

    Unless you?re getting people drunk and having them sign offer letters at the bar, I don’t see any ethical problem with this strategy.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *