Recruiting, Culture and Ethics

article by Dr. John Sullivan & Master Burnett Rants can be useful when they bring to light archaic, idiotic practices that do more harm than good ó so be prepared, a rant is about to ensue. For world-class recruiters who understand business principles, let this article be your war cry. For all the administrative types who are in HR because they like people, be forewarned, you are not going to like what you are about to read! Your Issues Are No Different As corporate advisors, one of the most common things we hear when an organization is explaining their emerging issues is “we’re different.” It doesn’t matter what country the company is headquartered in, or who you’re talking to, undoubtedly at some point in the conversation the statement will emerge. You could be talking about almost any issue, and someone will volunteer why all of the best practices in the world are irrelevant for their organization, simply because “we’re different.” After working with more than 250 organizations in 23 countries, we can attest that while the companies themselves may be different, the issues they face are not. “We’re different” has become nothing more than an empty excuse for recruiters and other HR professionals to hide behind when they recognize the business logic behind some practice or approach but personally don’t want to do it. Greatness Comes Through Differentiation As huge evangelists for employment branding, we recognize that great companies often rise to their level of greatness by building a differentiated environment through management practices, workplace programs, and entrepreneurial vision. Some might call the unique interaction of all these elements organizational culture, but we prefer to recognize them individually, because doing so eliminates the opportunity to use culture as an excuse for shying away from something that makes sense for the business. Nothing is more infuriation for a corporate advisor than to be brought in to identify major areas of weakness and then told that the weaknesses can not be addressed because it is part of the culture. This perspective paints culture as some highly rigid, static element, which it is not. Like many things, culture is a ubiquitous element of an organization that is largely driven by perception. Two people may work for the same organization, yet define the culture in two dramatically different ways. Because it can be so many things to so many people, culture has become the easy excuse. Ethics, the Backup Excuse If culture doesn’t emerge as an excuse following the “we’re different” proclamation, you can be sure that ethics will. Somehow, it seems that every modern day business practice from functions other than HR generates an ethics violation when applied inside HR. We can’t apply the same marketing principles inside the organization that marketers use externally to attract and retain customers, because that would be manipulation! We can’t hire to hurt the competition, because that wouldn’t be fair! We can’t apply analytics to human performance, because that would be dehumanizing! No matter what you want to do, someone in HR will find a reason why it is unethical. The Time Has Come Using ethics and culture as excuses for not acting in the best interests of the organization must stop. Letting your guard down during a war is tantamount to surrendering. As the second iteration of the war for talent picks up pace worldwide, it is asinine not to do everything in your power to attract new top talent and protect/retain existing top talent. Failing to do everything possible will result in your organization being decimated by the competition. No company large or small will be exempt from fighting. As demand exceeds supply, the enemy will raid your house, taking anyone of value. Most salespeople spend a majority of their time trying to “steal customers” away from their competitors. Great recruiters also realize that the best hire a firm can make is a hire from their direct competitors’ top talent. Only socialist recruiters fight this notion by throwing up cultural and ethical concerns around poaching. There is no room for socialism in business; your responsibility is to the shareholders, not the greater public. So why hire a competitor’s talent?

  • Your talent pool goes up immediately.
  • Your competitor’s talent pool goes down proportionately.
  • You can directly learn from your competitor’s techniques and approaches.
  • You might get a few customers along with the new employee.
  • It forces you to pay close attention to your own top performers in order to keep competitors from poaching them away.
  • It forces your competitors to pay extra time and resources toward retaining their own employees.

Some actions to consider:

Article Continues Below
  1. Identify and hire away your competitors’ most innovative people to slow down their rate of improvement.
  2. When one of your salespeople competes head to head with a competitor and loses the sale, hire away their salesperson the next day.
  3. Ask your own top performers who’s better than them at a competitor and then target those individuals.
  4. Offer an increased referral bonus (bounty) for referrals from key competitors.
  5. Use the names of your competitors in your resume keyword search engine in order to flag and prioritize resumes from that firm.
  6. On their first day, ask new hires who came from a competitor who else is good, and then target them.
  7. Target your competitors’ top recruiters.
  8. Have you recruiters target and hang out at restaurants and watering holes across the street from your direct competitors.
  9. Hire top talent from a competitor whenever you can get them. Hire them as a “corporate resource” and get them on board, even if you don’t have a current opening for them.
  10. Search your competitors’ promotion and PR announcements for names of top performers to target.
  11. Search industry publications, awards, and conference proceedings for the names of the best at your competitors.
  12. Hire an unbundled search firm to give you the names and profiles of the best.
  13. Encourage your mediocre and poor performers to join a competitor’s team! (joke)

Building a world-class organization requires top talent. Every member of the organization must be actively engaged in both recruiting such talent and retaining it once onboard. But securing top talent isn’t easy, it requires great tools and great practices. Sales organizations have been perfecting the art of acquisition and retention for hundreds of years, so their tactics and approaches have stood the test of time. No longer can recruiters avoid making use of such tools and approaches on the grounds that they violate the organizations culture or ethics. If your sales organization uses the approaches, then so should you!

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.



46 Comments on “Recruiting, Culture and Ethics

  1. BRAVO! Dr. Sullivan! BRAVO!

    Let’s stop the pussyfootin’ madness! Yer preachin’ to the choir!

    ‘A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.’ ~ James Crook

    ‘Unbridled’. Hmmm…I like that.


  2. John and Master?s article of today entitled ‘Recruiting, Ethics and Culture.’ is clearly John and Master at their very best and it is an outstanding piece of work. It is so good that I wish I wrote it myself!

    I am endlessly fascinated that organizations are unwilling to ‘steal’ the competition?s best players. The lack of desire to execute this critical aspect of building your business is laughable. (Not to mention the fact that you can?t steal an employee. If the competition has that concern, let their leadership build an organization that people are unwilling to leave as opposed to crying after they did!)

    Poaching from the competition has nothing to do with ethics. As the good doctor and Master point out, there is no place for socialism in business. There is a war out there and the competition is using real bullets; as such, the objective is to destroy the enemy, not to make nice to them!

    Also endlessly fascinating are the HR and recruiting people that pay search firms to steal from the competition. They explain it away by saying it gives them ?distance.? It gives them nothing other than the opportunity to write a check, play a fools game and demonstrate through modeling that they do not have the guts to lead by example. I can assure you that paying search fees gives you neither distance nor clean hands. Tell me, if I pay someone to punch you in the nose; is it really any different than if I punched you in the nose myself?

    If I were the CEO of an organization, it would be my objective to put the competition out of business; plain and simple. If you do not see things this way, you just do not get it.

    A special note to leadership if any of them are wise enough to be looking at what the people who build their businesses might be thinking. Start leading. Because, as pointed out in the Sunday Times of yesterday, you are expected to be ringleaders, not cheerleaders.

  3. Yes! All too often, the HR and legal teams within the corporate cultures, have gotten so sensitive to potential liability, that they have begun to label perfectly effective, efficient, and moral business practicies as ‘risky’, or ‘unfair’, or some other hip verbage du jour. This article is a refreshing reminder of why we should all be in business. To succeed.

  4. You seem to have a very low opinion of search firms and the services they provide. I would like to think reputable search firms are much more than ‘ hired thieves’ and simple go-betweens.

  5. I can?t help but think that this article is losing the plot a bit. All this talk about a war might suggest someone needs to read a bit of Sun Tzu.

    I also find the responses so far somewhat condescending to TPR’s, Corporate Recruiters and HR Professionals.

    What kind of business wants to destroy competition and why? Are you unable to compete fairly. I would encourage competition. It makes us better.

    This attitude is tantamount to saying. ?How come our competition are better than us? I want their people and their ideas. I want what they have got. I?m not good enough to build it myself so I will steal their people and destroy their company??.?

    As Headhunters, we of course always go into the ?competition? to hopefully find the best candidates for our clients. It?s the obvious place to go. But if our Clients sole intention was to damage or deliberately inflict harm on that Company, we would not participate.

    We present alternative opportunities to candidates to consider. If they chose not to leave their current employer, that is up to them. We would find someone else. To hire them just to destroy the competition means you would hire at any cost and by doing so probably ruin the individual?s career as well.

    We are in the business of finding talent for our Clients, not destroying other companies. We help to build careers, not destroy them to benefit someone else?s ego. And if we are not sincere in what we do, we should not be in business along with the unscrupulous companies it appears we might be representing.

    Rather than destroying competition, how about improving your own company and making your own people winners. Do you think they would even want to leave?

    Your competition cannot touch you if your people are happy, well rewarded and looked after. They cannot steal your customers if your products are the best and offer the best value for money.

    It is not unethical to attract the best people to your company with a better opportunity and career. It is wholly unethical to want to destroy someone else?s company and their lives and careers that go with it for your own personal gain.

    Any company whose culture is to steal people, ruin competition and steal customers will not survive. It’s too shallow.

    By offering a Customer a better alternative is not stealing them. By offering a Candidate a better career is not stealing them. If it is viewed this way and destruction and theft are the intention, the culture in that company is rotten to the core.

    Some actions to re-consider:

    1.Identify and hire away your competitors’ most innovative people to slow down their rate of improvement.

    You should not hire people to slow down the competition. You hire people to add value and improve your own organisation. Rather than trying to drag your competition down to your level, how about trying to raise your game to their level.

    2.When one of your salespeople competes head to head with a competitor and loses the sale, hire away their salesperson the next day.

    Maybe the business was lost because of your company rather than the individual. And why on earth would the successful salesperson would want to join the losers. They have just won the deal. Why change?

    3.Ask your own top performers who’s better than them at a competitor and then target those individuals.

    What a daft question. If your own top performer admits to that, you should train ?em or sack ?em

    4.Offer an increased referral bonus (bounty) for referrals from key competitors.

    Your own employees then become more interested in recruiting than doing their own jobs. If they fail to do their own job as a result, they will be replaced by the people they find for you. Nice.

    5.Use the names of your competitors in your resume keyword search engine in order to flag and prioritize resumes from that firm.

    6.On their first day, ask new hires who came from a competitor who else is good, and then target them.

    Leave these to the recruiters

    7.Target your competitors’ top recruiters.

    Don’t assume they would prefer to represent an unethical company. Not all recruiters are desperate and would move because they have been asked to. Please give us a bit more credit.

    8.Have your recruiters target and hang out at restaurants and watering holes across the street from your direct competitors.

    Is this how you think Recruiters operate? Any takers on this one?

    9.Hire top talent from a competitor whenever you can get them. Hire them as a ‘corporate resource’ and get them on board, even if you don’t have a current opening for them.

    Just hire them anyway? This is the quickest route to going out of business. Taking on people you don’t need or don’t have headcount for will probably mean someone else losing their job to make way for them. But there, it’s war!!

    10.Search your competitors’ promotion and PR announcements for names of top performers to target.

    11.Search industry publications, awards, and conference proceedings for the names of the best at your competitors

    12.Hire an unbundled search firm to give you the names and profiles of the best.

    Leave these to the Recruiters

    13.Encourage your mediocre and poor performers to join a competitor’s team! (joke)

    A much better idea than training and developing them internally of course. (Another joke)

    I can?t help but think that any company that operates under these guidelines and believes what has been said, has no long term future and good job if you ask me. If your own salespeople are losing deals, it could be the Company they represent and the products and services they sell. The solution here is not to blame your competition and therefore try to steal their people and ideas but to have a good strong look at yourselves and fix what is really broken.

    Only a weak CEO would have the objective to put the competition out of business. A good CEO is more interested in developing their own business and their company a better one. They let the weaker competition do the worrying.

    Fortunately, someone with this attitude would never be in business for long or even likely to make it to CEO.

    Punching noses? Stealing people? There is a war out there?

    All a bit over the top I think and frankly not a lot to do with quality recruitment. The only discomfort zone I feel in right now is the suggestion of being part of unethical business practices.

  6. Dr. Sullivan and Master Burnett hit the nail squarely on its head when they tell us it?s time to ?lose the excuses’. That?s what we make when we don?t want to do something: EXCUSES. And we tag line them with high brow words like Ethics and Morals and we stick them under headers like Company Culture or Mission Statement. Yeah, Uh-huh, pass the peas. What did Queen Gertrude say in Hamlet? ‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks.’

    Why is it we don?t want to do something? Usually because we view it as ?different? and different means change and change is hard for most people. It?s really only different. Different is scary for most ? scary is bad. Or is it? Yes, it?s outside our comfort zone. We?ve all been taught to think ?inside this box?
    of our heads (sorry Howard!) without venturing out. That?s why schools don?t offer degrees in Entrepreneurship or Business Ownership. We?re lessoned on becoming good ?employees? ? very few come away from school with their first thoughts ?I?m going to own a business!?. New graduates are peppered with, ?Have a job yet? Huh? Huh? Huh?? until (just ask them) they can?t stand it anymore and get a job!

    I propose that what the Sullivan/Burnett/Adamsky/Jones/Sharibs of the world are telling you to do is outside most of your comfort zones. ?Get on the phone? Who, me? You?re kidding right?? No, we?re not. Lose the mike fright ? lose the excuses ? lose the comfort of your cubicle and dare to do what makes you squirm, what makes you uneasy, what makes your heart beat a little faster. Learn something new today ? venture a little bit out. While you?re at it, venture a whole lot out. Dare yourself. Have some fun for once.

    The great Mark Twain said, ?We all live in the protection of certain cowardices which we call our principles.? Someone else said, (maybe it was him also) ?Principles are expensive things.? They sure are. You gotta? break some eggs to bake a cake. Fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen. We?re takin? off for the Discomfort Zone…

    On another note:
    Interesting quote ? I wonder what he meant by this? Maybe there is something under the hood…naahhh can?t be. Musta? been one of his bloopers.
    ?If you’re sick and tired of the politics of cynicism and polls and principles, come and join this campaign.?
    George W. Bush

    Well, let’s credit him for trying…


  7. Mr Haley,
    Finally, ethics!
    Thanks for the professional viewpoint.
    The original message you are replying to really disturbed me.
    I feel sorry for that individual, I think they should probably look at another industry.
    They obviously don’t like what they do.

    Best Regards,
    Keith Severtson

  8. Anthony,

    Hats off to you!!!!! Excellent points. We, as recruiters, are supposed to strengthen businesses not weaken or destroy them.

  9. I dont think the article or comments were meant to suggest doing mortal harm to other companies out there, I believe it was focused on suggesting a couple of things.

    1) That great people with strong talent and the appropriate knowledge reside at our competitors (and that not just a corp perspective, I would suggest the same is true from a TPR POV). If I can recruit this person who is a strong performer, who requires little ramp up, who can be almost immediately effective into my company and I can slot them into a requirement I have, then its an advantage all around. That I can deprive my competitor of this talent at the same time…. all the better :).

    2. That everyone in a company should have their recruiting dial turned up a few notches. That they ultimately should be part of the greater recruiting effort, while it not being their function or job. They should be part of the greater recruiting net, maybe its just in having casual dinner conversation to their friends about the great place they work, perhaps its keeping in contact with professional peers they’ve met at a user group, or industry expo and passing the name along to the recruiting team. Maybe its in passing along the name of a great person at their former employer who they think would benefit from a position at your company. Its a seed that should be planted.

    3. That as the baby boomers start to retire in the forthcoming years, there will be a need to replace them. That pool could come from growing your inhouse talent, but then you need to fill those holes as you promote your own people upward. If even half the data is correct, there will be a shortage of qualified, effective future employees that potentialy you and I will both be trying to hire.

    The ‘War for Talent’ was coined back in the days of the bubble. It remains to be seen if the war will be won in a traditional manner, using guerilla tactics or a combination of both.

    BTW, on the note of stealing competitors employees, see what SAP is doing and publicising heavily…

    It makes for interesting reading.

  10. Anthony,
    good for you and excellent responses.

    One thing I have noticed that this article also NEVER, NOT ONCE, mentions to the recruiter how to make sure they PROTECT themselves or their company from possible lawsuits..

    For many that don?t know already there is a reason that lawsuits are being won regarding this topic, and there is actual legal terminology that defines it ?
    Employment Poaching, Employee Raiding, Employment and Business interference, Contractual interference, Employment Interference, Unfair Competition .

    Now Granted there are going to be determining factors which will set a precedence, but one of the biggest factors which does win law suits was one which was described here in this article
    – ‘Identify and hire away your competitors’ most innovative people to slow down their rate of improvement’ then giving strong examples to do so;
    It should be noted if a CEO were to Physically outline a business plan of action to do this, and the company has shown through their present and past actions a consistency of poaching a competitor then the proof will be in the pudding and that company will definitely have a lot of explaining to do in court and it could become expensive for them. Yes there are actual court cases out there regarding this issue. This topic has been explored on ERE before, and one could do a search to find some of the cited cases.

    There are a growing number of companies to take legal action against what is commonly termed ’employee poaching’ and of course not surprisingly, most poaching lawsuits have business-related undertones

    Be aware that Employment agreements with strong confidentiality or employee raiding provisions have key factors in some of the cases brought to court. It is important to be aware of all terms and conditions of employment and restrictive convenants that the other company may have with their employees; which may include –

    Provisions to prohibit ex-employees from soliciting other employees for a specified period, better known as Anti-Raiding Clauses ?
    ?A company may sue a competitor for unfair competition where the competitor consciously raids the company and induces the resignation of key employees, thereby crippling the company’s operations or causing other damage to its business. ‘

    -Also what about if you are helping that employee break a contract? That would of course be contractural interference. Even though the employee has a right to work, they have a legal binding contract that a third party intentionally helped break and the possessor of a contract or other property right is entitled to pursue a claim against an intermeddler who adversely affects those property rights

    – There can also be issues when a competitor makes calls soliciting employees during work hours

    – also if an employee brings or misuses confidential information, including computer information, utilizes trade secrets, business information

    Remember that any Competitor who breaches a clause or uses other improper means to solicit employees can be charged with tortious interference with the company’s relationship with the employees or its customers. And since this alleged behavior potentially involves what the law recognizes as an ‘intentional tort,’ the violating party may be liable for punitive as well as compensatory damages

    Another possible cause of action, for example in Virginia, is for civil conspiracy. Virginia has enacted a business conspiracy law that allows for recovery of punitive damages. The typical basis for this type of action is one in which the competitor allegedly conspires with the former employee to unfairly induce current employees to leave the company?

    By the Way has excellent articles on this subject.

    Regarding Ethics and this topic ? definition of Business Ethics ?? Business Ethics is the branch of ethics that examines ethical rules and principles within a commercial context; the various moral or ethical problems that can arise in a business setting; and any special duties or obligations that apply to persons who are engaged in commerce. Those who are interested in business ethics examine various kinds of business activities and ask, ‘Is the conduct ethically right or wrong?’ ‘

    On a personal Note, answer this question – if a company was raiding YOUR company, and business was suffering would your CEO just sit still and take it, allowing their business to suffer especially if there was financial recourse?

    There is also the cause and effect dynamic here as well. Poaching and raiding creates a negative connotation in any industry, in many ways a company will lose their social responsibility as their role of self interest becomes more and more prevalent, there would be social and business consequences that come from any economic action that could wreck havoc causing their personal conduct to be questioned.

  11. Anthony:

    I admire your energy and faith. Reviewing an article that obtuse , wrong headed and ridiculous could only be described as an act of faith.


  12. It’s obvious to me that A) some people here are not familiar with Dr. Sullivan, his style and his purpose, and B) that Dr. Sullivan clearly needs to include one if not both of the following disclaimers on future articles: 1) ‘The advice in this article reflects the opinion of the author and will not apply to everyone:, 2) ‘Please do not read if you are faint-of-heart’.

    Does Dr. Sullivan’s advice and opinions apply to all recruiters and all business situations? No. In my specific situation, it would never be my goal or my company’s goal to put our ‘competititors’ out of business. But my goal and my company’s goal is to hire the very best, and in order to do so, some of Dr. Sullivan’s advice and opinions are very relevant to our enhance our ability to hire the very best.

    I can also see where this advice would be very applicable in highly competitive markets where it is not only critical to strengthen your own company, but to weaken your competititors at the same time.

    The War For Talent is on, especially if your goal is to hire the top talent in your field. If your goal is simply to hire people, and you are successful relying on traditional hiring techniques, then Dr. Sullivan is clearly not for you. But if you have the need to be more aggressive in your recruiting strategies, and your goal is to hire the very best regardless of whether they are active or ‘passive’ job seekers, then Dr. Sullivan’s advice is highly relevant.

    So thank you Dr. Sullivan for raising the bar for recruiting and your efforts to make recruiting a true strategic partner aligned with the goals and objectives of our businesses. As it has been said before, recruiting is a contact sport. It may be OK for some out there to avoid that concept, but for many of us, Dr. Sullivan’s advice is only too relevant for us to ignore.

  13. Working in an industry where we all get tarred with the same brush of being unprofessional and unethical can be frustrating. The interesting thing about the responses on this article so far is that all the TPRs are against the dubious practices suggested and the Corporate Recruiters seem to be for it. There?s hope for us yet 🙂

    What I found wrong about this article was not the idea of finding the best people for your own company; that?s obvious to anyone in this industry and new ideas to do so are always welcome.

    It?s the intent to damage another company and get their best people whether you have headcount or not. Just get them. It seems almost an afterthought that actually you should hire people to improve your own company and if they come from the competition then so be it.

    Selling better or cheaper products and services is not even remotely related to stealing your competitors’ most innovative people to slow down their rate of improvement.

    One is good commercial business practices while the other is deliberately inflicting damage on someone else?s company for your own gain. The playground bully stealing little Billy?s sweets because he wants them and can?t be bothered to buy some for himself.

    And the most concerning thing is that it?s open to misinterpretation as we have seen by some of the responses supporting the ideas. As a CEO you simply do not set out to put another company out of business. You might wish it, but you do it by improving your own company, not deliberately trying to sabotage someone else?s. Besides, competition is healthy because it keeps you focused on being better. Only if you’re incapable of this would you seek to destroy someone else.

    You might have noticed that Tim Henman has proved incapable of winning Wimbledon yet again. Rather than trying to improve his own game, maybe he should shoot the opponent. He might win then.

    One last point, if you?re not in HR or recruitment because you like people, then you?re in the wrong business. This is a people business.

  14. The following is an Except from the upcoming online names sourcing training series, ‘The Magic In The Method’.

    Names Sourcing and Free Enterprise (Free Trade)
    There are some in our trade who refer to what we do under the label ?social engineering?. The definition of social engineering is, according to Webster?s, ?management of human beings in accordance with their place and function in society?applied social science.? There are many other definitions on the web for it and many of them address the issues of computer hackery, system breach and other acts of malfeasance. It?s in no way advised that the information conveyed in this learning series be for the purposes or gain of any of these illegal activities, and, as there is no focus in this series, nor reference to, utilization of any organization?s hardware or software to gain information we will not be using the term social engineering in any of these contexts.

    In general, if you?re not acting purposely and maliciously to destroy a competitor, you are free to source into your competitors for good employees. My favor falls on the side of our industry practices in the name of free enterprise. I am well aware that corporate has some grievances that are well-founded and deserve attention. Corporations can be harmed by losing key employees to competitors. Most importantly, they stand to lose trade secrets which strikes at the very heart of their existence, and curiously, in my opinion, at the very heart of free enterprise. At first glance, we?d all like to believe it has nothing to do with us. But does it? It seems to me the issue lies with our intentions. It?s hard to find any guidelines for hiring a competitor?s employees out there. Basically, the following is my brief interpretation of the subject – it just seems like common sense to me. I am not an attorney, nor do I have any aspirations (or hope ever) to be one. It is an admirable profession, far beyond my capabilities. A very good guiding principle for hiring a competitor?s employees should be:

    ?Any employee is not entitled to use or disclose the former employer’s trade secrets, and the new employer is not entitled to use the employee as a conduit to gain the benefit of the former employer’s secrets.?

    In other words:
    DO NOT hire a competitor?s employees if your intention is to put the competitor out of business.
    DO hire a competitor?s employees if your intention is to gain good employees.

    Restrictive Covenants
    Be aware of them. Be also aware that they may be fair or unfair. See your state laws for applicability. A little learning on this subject can be dangerous! Trade secrets need to be protected regardless of what law applies.

    Bravo Dr. Sullivan, for venturing out onto this cracking and creaking limb to say what needs saying. Let’s not forget this is a forum of peers – not a judgment at Nuremburg, so let’s keep these discussions friendly and non-accusatory. It?s important to get these controversial subjects out into the open. Nothing sanitizes like sunlight.

  15. What is unfair about approaching the talent that your competitors have and you wish to have in order to see if your company can provide a better opportunity? How do you ‘steal’ an employee? Kidnap him from his desk? I believe ‘poaching’ refers to cattle. I see nothing in Dr. Sullivan’s article that encourages any illegal or immoral act.
    For heaven’s sake, haven’t many of us in this forum been approached and recruited away from our last positions?

  16. Deborah,
    noone said it was wrong or unfair to recruit from competition.. What is the issue is the how it is done, why it is being done that could cause problems, and the many lawsuits that are becoming more and more prevelant proves that this is the case.

    Poaching to cause or causing financial distress to a competitor is not only ilegal but morally wrong. Recruiting individuals to offer them better opts, and to just find strong talent, well that is a different story.

    What I brought up was the legal aspects in protecting yourself if one is recruiting from another company. There are things one needs to be aware of if one is going to recruit from your competion.

  17. Incredible,

    Some people I think are taking the idea of this article to its most extreme.

    I wish also, that some people would try (for a moment) to stop throwing up the old ‘them and us’ corporate vs TPR reasoning for everything we do. We are, most of us, professionals and are in this profession because its what we do.

    We are dipping in the same pond. If we are all going into a company (lets say its Acme corp.)to hire away their best talent, their A players, their ‘difference makers’ arent we all doing the same damage to the company. Lets also assume we are not going in there to do damage or cripple the company but to hire some of the best people in the industry. Whether I go in multiple times or you go in multiple times, is that not advertently damaging that corporation by depriving them of their best people? Does anyone assume that depriving them of their best people will be a boon for Acme Corp?

    I repeat, lets assume we are not going into to intentionaly damage that company, but depriving them of their best people will likely have an adverse impact. That we assume that this is not particulary beneficial for Acme Corp.

    Does anyone take this into account when recruiting from Acme corp, or are Acme corp just another ‘source’ for the ‘client’?


  18. Karen et al:
    Perhaps the words and phrases used by Dr. Sullivan seem a bit cut-throat. But my careful review doesn’t identify anything but what healthy coroporations are practicing. The primary purpose of actively recruiting your competitor’s staff (only the movers and shakers you want) is to improve your position. There may or may not be an adverse affect on your competition. But if there is, I don’t know of a CEO that wouldn’t be happy with increased market share as a result of agressive recruiting. I said agressive, not ‘illegal.’ People who set out to destroy as a primary motive don’t usually succeed in the long haul, because they don’t have a productive mission and purpose. It compares to a game of chess. Winning the game does require observance of the rules, but some ‘cultures’ playing the game don’t really want to play even tho they are sitting on the chess board. Dr. Sullivan is merely attempting to point out what it takes to remain on the chess board as a viable player. I do not believe he is advocating immoral or illegal behavior.

  19. Eamonn, there is a very subtle difference between you going into your direct competitor and us going into your direct competitor on your behalf. It crosses a very important line and one that should not be ignored. But I don’t think that’s relevant to this article.

    As far as taking it to the extreme, we can only read what is written. Articles on ERE are meant to shock to get the response, otherwise no one would respond to them. They are opinions rather than facts and that’s what makes this forum so unique and interesting.

    Have a great weekend everyone.

  20. Anthony if you don’t mind I would love to take a crack to Eamon’s question.

    Eammon, it comes down to business ethics, and reputation. Now if your company does not care it wont mean anything, but let me explain by using an example in my industry.

    There was a Global fortune 50 company that had hired inhouse recruiters to directly recruit from their competitors. It got so bad that the joke was in the industry that if ‘XYZ’ did not call you you were not breathing. They were not discriminate in their calls, and they called into the companies during work hours, on the cell phones (on the company’s dime and time)-

    Well needless to say XYZ also lost a lot of their friendly competitors and their not so friendly competitors respect and business, they also did quite a bit of damage to a few companies. They were and still are (even though they have ceased and desisted) the talk at all the trade and association meetings. People in the industry got so disgusted with them in the past 4 years that not only would they not work with them, but they also found that candidates would not work for them, due to the percieved lack of ethics. If you could do that to them, you could do that to me, attitude.

    This company was sued a couple of times, settled a couple more, grievances were made to unions, and they have since gotten rid of this recruiting department.

    Most of the companies in this industry who do Use TPR’s do request that we keep their name confidential for as long as possible. They don’t request any specific company (most of the time) and just want to see qualified candidates. They are careful about stepping on their competitors toes, because they do find that they can work togethor with them on business deals, or just have a relationship along the way. One thing they also like to maintain in their community is a presence of ethics.

    Again, if this is not a concern of the company or industry you work for, then this is probably not a topic you would need to relate to.

  21. This arrived this morning n a Yahoo grop i belong to – it’s sponsored by

    I thought it might be interesting in this thread.

    TRAPS: When an interviewer presses you to reveal confidential information about a present or former employer, you may feel it’s a no-win situation. If you cooperate, you could be judged untrustworthy. If you don’t, you may irritate the interviewer and seem obstinate, uncooperative or overly suspicious.

    BEST ANSWER: Your interviewer may press you for this information for two reasons.

    First, many companies use interviews to research the competition. It’s a perfect set-up. Here in their own turf, is an insider from the enemy camp who can reveal prized information on the competition’s plans, research, financial condition, etc.

    Second, the company may be testing your integrity to see if you can be cajoled or bullied into revealing confidential data.

    What to do? The answer here is easy. Never reveal anything truly confidential about a present or former employer. By all means, explain your reticence diplomatically. For example, ‘I certainly want to be as open as I can about that. But I also wish to respect the rights of those who have trusted me with their most sensitive information, just as you would hope to be able to trust any of your key people when talking with a competitor?’ And certainly you can allude to your finest achievements in specific ways that don’t reveal the combination to the company safe.

    But be guided by the golden rule. If you were the owner of your present company, would you feel it ethically wrong for the information to be given to your competitors? If so, steadfastly refuse to reveal it.

    Remember that this question pits your desire to be cooperative against your integrity. Faced with any such choice, always choose integrity. It is a far more valuable commodity than whatever information the company may pry from you. Moreover, once you surrender the information, your stock goes down. They will surely lose respect for you.

    One President we know always presses candidates unmercifully for confidential information. If he doesn’t get it, he grows visibly annoyed, relentlessly inquisitive, It’s all an act. He couldn’t care less about the information. This is his way of testing the candidate’s moral fiber. Only those who hold fast are hired.

  22. This posting is in response to the firestorm created by Dr. Sullivan’s latest article here on ERE entitled ‘Recruiting, Culture and Ethics’.

    He’s taking a beating (are you still ticking Dr. John?) for proposing a simple premise – some of us need to lose our excuses.

    ‘Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.’
    ~George Washington Carver

    Firestorms are what get news coverage, and for that, I thank you Dr. Sullivan.

    I propose that what Dr. Sullivann is proposing is that we change our thinking in response to market pressures. Scary keyword: CHANGE

    The following is an interesting article that showed up in my email this morning and addresses the psychology of change in an organization. I don’t think we have much to worry about – we all seem to be exhibiting one or more of the stages decribed below.

    Understanding The Cycle of Change, And How People React To It
    By: Robert Bacal

    Managers often make the mistake of assuming that once a change is started, that employees will see that it is going to take place, and get on side. This is rarely the case. Because change causes fear, a sense of loss of the familiar, etc., it takes some time for employees to a) understand the meaning of the change and b) commit to the change in a meaningful way. It is important to understand that people tend to go through stages in their attempts to cope with change. Understanding that there are normal progressions helps change leaders avoid under-managing change or over-reacting to resistance.

    As we go through the stages, you will probably find many similarities with the process a person goes through with the loss of a loved one.

    Stage I: Denial
    An early strategy that people use to cope with change is to deny that it is happening, or to deny that it will continue or last. Common responses during this stage are:

    ‘I’ve heard these things before. Remember last year they announced the new customer initiative? Nothing ever happened, and this will pass.’

    ‘It’s just another hair-brained idea from the top.’

    ‘I bet this will be like everything else. The head honcho will be real gung-ho but in about six months everything will be back to normal. You’ll see.’

    ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’

    People in the denial stage are trying to avoid dealing with the fear and uncertainty of prospective change. They are hoping they won’t have to adapt.

    The denial stage is difficult because it is hard to involve people in planning for the future, when they will not acknowledge that the future is going to be any different than the present.

    People tend to move out of the denial stage when they see solid, tangible indicators that things ARE different. Even with these indicators some people can remain in denial for some time.

    Stage II: Anger & Resistance
    When people can no longer deny that something is or has happened, they tend to move into a state of anger, accompanied by covert and/or over resistance. This stage is the most critical with respect to the success of the change implementation. Leadership is needed to help work through the anger, and to move people to the next stage. If leadership is poor, the anger at this stage may last indefinitely, perhaps much longer than even the memory of the change itself.

    People in this stage tend to say things like:

    ‘Who do they think they are? Jerking us around’

    ‘Why are they picking on us?’

    ‘What’s so damned bad about the way things are?

    ‘How could [you] the boss allow this to happen?

    Actually people say far stronger things, but we need to be polite.

    Stage III: Exploration & Acceptance
    This is the stage where people begin to get over the hump. They have stopped denying, and while they may be somewhat angry, the anger has moved out of the spotlight. They have a better understanding of the meaning of the change and are more willing to explore further, and to accept the change. They act more open-mindedly, and are now more interested in planning around the change and being participants in the process.

    People in this stage say things like:

    ‘Well, I guess we have to make the best of it.’

    ‘Maybe we can get through this.’

    ‘We need to get on with business.’

    Stage IV: Commitment
    This is the payoff stage, where people commit to the change, and are willing to work towards making it succeed. They know it is a reality, and at this point people have adapted sufficiently to make it work. While some changes will never get endorsement from employees (downsizing, for example) employees at this stage will commit to making the organization effective within the constraints that have resulted from the change.

    Concluding Points
    Let’s conclude with some key points:
    1) The change process takes a considerable amount of time to stabilize and to work. Don’t under manage by assuming it will ‘work itself out’ and don’t over-react when faced with reasonable resistance.

    2) Worry if there is no resistance. If the change is significant it means that people are hiding their reactions. Eventually the reactions that are not dealt with will fester and can destroy the organization. Likewise with anger.

  23. Maureen, the article you submitted, whilst very good really applies internally to an organization going through change.

    Dr Sullivan’s article might be initiated with the heading ‘It’s time to kill the excuses’ but rather than giving 13 ways to improve your companies methods and effectiveness at recruiting the best people, it was a 13 point ‘kick the opposition’ plan and not all the points were that ethical or realistic.

    One is about improving your own company, the other is about trying to damage your competition. I believe the best way of beating your competition is through being focused on improving your own company. That’s all.

    I can see you are keen on quotations, so I have one for you from the great man himself 🙂

    ‘There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction’.

    Winston Churchill.

  24. Karen,

    Interesting story but all this tells me is that there was a company out there that had poor recruiting practices and did some very heavy calling into a few companies.



  25. It’s amazing that we have a quote in the string about failure and excuses followed by the reasoning that we don’t want/need to recruit from our competitors talent pool.If we follow the reasoniing that we don’t want to upset our competitors or our clients competitors then we can simply look for the untrained,unproven,or unemployed.OR,we can wait for our competitors talent to come to us,probably when they have reached the height of non-performance and are about to be canned.The old saying goes…You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.You can make a top performer aware of opportunity but you can’t make him pursue that opportunity.The main reason people change companies is not money,prestige,etc.Research has shown that the top reason for changing is a lack of (or perceived lack of) respect and appreciation from ‘da man’ for efforts expended on behalf of ‘da company’.To say that it’s unethical to approach talent from a competitor is an excuse (in my opinion) to justify call reluctance or some other hang up that one may have.Approaching top talent is not unethical nor is it ‘wrong’ in any moral or legal sense.It’s done everyday in such areas as broadcasting,sales,management,etc,etc,etc. Now if you feel that it’s wrong to approach top talent or if it bothers you morally or you think that somebody may get upset with you if you hire away a good or even great employee,it’s no problem.I have no problem whatsoever with talking to these folks.If they respond favorably,great.If not,that’s great too.Doesn’t hurt my feelings or make me feel bad.In fact,it’s nice that they are happy and don’t wish to explore other options.Are there companies that play into my hands by treating their employees like dirt?Sure are and I will take advantage.Do I worry that I might offend some manager somewhere by approaching ‘his’people?Nope.If that manager is really good,I don’t stand a chance anyway and he/she knows it.Besides which,I probably was not going to be invited to Sunday chicken dinner with the manager and his/her family anyway.There are some of the items in this article and this string that are perhaps a little over the top but basically,if you wait for the game to come to you,you will find yourself in the cellar.Some of the comments in this string suggest that approaching top talent at a competitor is akin to pillaging and plundering instead of good practice.That’s the part that I really have trouble understanding.Where do you suggest the talent is if not at another company?As far as ethics,it is unethical and a deriliction of fiduciary responsibilty to get your brains beat out in the marketplace because you don’t want to upset a ‘friendly’ competitor and I really want to be in the stockholders meeting when you explain that you are losing share because your competitor is a nice person and you don’t want to offend them by hiring the best people possibly available.

  26. Very good point Eamonn, they actually had poor recruiting habits and did heavy calling into Many Many companies. To not be called by these individuals you were not breathing. They were not selective into who they called.

    Their mission was to hire and they were willing to ‘train’, but it is still to be determined if any training for the individuals actually occurred, as many individuals did not last very long…

    Again, the Ethics Moral regarding this company may not be an issue within your industry or company, but there are some companies who do have a hands off approach, and a very high discretion approach to recrutitin…

  27. Larry,
    I think you are missing something here, many of the people on this board are not suggesting it is wrong for you to recruit directly from your competition, what we are suggesting is watch out for how one does it, and the reasons you do it. The how and the why’s can get you into trouble.

    Dr. Sullivan did make some good points, but in the same token suggesting to cripple your competitor well that is not only crossing a grey line/ethical, it actually crosses a legal line. It is one thing to recruit a couple of people a year from the same company, but if one recruits several people over and over, not only do red flags appear, but then the company has recourse against the company who damages it.

    There are some things to look out for when recruiting directly which I did point out in my previous post. Knowledge of the law when reaching out to your competitors can save your and your companies hiney when you are doing the job, note I only covered some of the aspects, there are more, that is why it is a good idea to be aware.

    Regarding Ethics well that is common sense and comes down to your company’s position on that matter. If you don’t have business relationships with your competitors, and you don’t care how others may perceive you in your industry well this does not have any bearing on you or company. But remember, a reputation is hard to get back once lost.

    One thing to note many companies do try to set up agreements with other specific companies so that they do not recruit from each other, but that is crossing a Grey line – term is called collusion, so that is also something one must watch out for when setting up agreements like that with your friendly competitors.

    Happy Hunting and Good luck to all!!

  28. Here’s whats wrong with this article:

    it’s aimed at corporate recruiters and it’s telling them: ‘be a tiger, a warrior, I know you really wanted to be a social worker but now your at WAR’. a preposterous notion in itself.
    next, it assumes that these new minted tigers will so devastate the competition that they’ll never be able to retaliate. Third, destroying the competition may be on the list, but for most companies making a profit comes lots higher. Playing to a third string negative objective is dumb. Starting a fight that you don’t know you can win is stupider. Thinking that corporate recruiters have the nessecary blood lust for this terror campaign; well, we’re moving far from the sublime here.

    What companies used to do, before the current wave of thinking (?) in hr practices, is hire a third party to recruit the competition anonymously.It was and still is, extraordinarily effective.

  29. Bill,

    So well said, with so few words, a gift I need to learn to acquire.
    Excellent points.

  30. ‘What companies used to do, before the current wave of thinking (?) in hr practices, is hire a third party to recruit the competition anonymously.It was and still is, extraordinarily effective.’

    Great, If you hire a gunfighter to do your fighting for you, that makes it all ok?
    I guess if someone else does the same thing for you… it leaves you clean and ethical. LOL

    I recommend hiring 3rd party people because they already know it’s a war, not because it keeps your firm out of a war.


  31. Dr. Sullivan,
    you do make a good analogy. I could also understand your skeptisism, but it does come down to this..

    When a company calls me, they are asking me to find them talent, based upon specific qualifications. They do not know if I have them in my database or not, and they do not know who I am going to call for them to produce the said talent.

    When an effective recruiter is recruiting, they will keep name of the company they are recruiting for confidential. Thus Candidates and the company they are working for are not aware of why we chose to target said company. (we are able to determine if a candidate is willing to consider placement with a particular company before we get into deep conversations.)

    One of the benefits of working with a specialist as well is if a candidate is not interested in a specific company or has interest in more than one, the TPR will be able to present the applicant to several companies at one time.

    Thus the motive of the TPR thus becomes one that will benefit the candidate AND the Employers they represent, helping candidates find a better position in the company of their preference.

  32. Karen

    When I was a Chief Talent Officer, we knew AND directed the 3rd party search people to the competitors we wanted to raid.

    If the target firms didn’t know that we were targeting them… now THAT would have ben a surprise.

    And we of course had a blocking strategy, because we knew they would retalliate.

    We even had a give away take away metric to track how many we got from them vs them getting from us.

    Hell, we even raided our own parent firm (HP) after they spun us off.

    I even know a firm that has the cajones to Fedex the welcome package (mobile phone, computer, bus cards etc) to the desk of the newly hired employee during their 2 week notice period at their current firm just to send a message to other employees how different we were!

    It’s a War!


  33. Dr. Sullivan makes an excellent point. TPR’s know it’s a war and have stockpiled weapons appropriately. Very Good TPR’s know where the bodies are buried in their territory and especially the best ones. They pay close attention to the hot skills for future use.

    We try hard to fish with a net and not a line when times are slow so we have people in mind for a client need regardless of whom they work for at present. Of course, an ethical TPR never recruits from another client.

  34. John:

    I didn’t mention a thing about ethics, nor am I concerned about the ethics of recruiting from competitors, If I were, I’d certainly be in another business.

    Yes, TPR’s know it’s a war. The use of a third party offers a degree of deniability and creates a veil behind which all parties can find some shelter. It’s the difference between a cold war and a hot one. Most corporations are far too busy trying to increasing profitability and productivity by creating better products and practices than indulge in ruinous trade wars.

    Incidentally, were I some junior corporate recruiter, inspired by your bugle call, I’d really want to check with upper management before I declared war on a competitor in my company’s name.

  35. Bill and John,

    Bill, you are correct, more and more companies are concerned about their reputation, and also the effect that direct recruiting will have with the relationships with their friendly competitors. It also discourages future employees as well from considering employment with that particular company.

    Rumors spread, controlled rumors become created, Candidates and internal staff become disgusted, and people begin to question the company. This I have seen on a personal note as a TPR.

    John, again we do disagree. As was stated earlier, to consistently go after A particular company consitently and raid it is illegal. Red flags will appear, and companies will now take care of their own by creating very stringent contracts, and then go through litigation to protect their companies.

    If a company is not creative in their internal recruiting efforts by targeting several companies instead, they are putting themselves into a heavy financial burden.

    There are companies that have created an agreement with a paricular company which protects them from recruiting from each other, but again this must be entered into very carefully because in most states this would be cnsidered collusion…

    John, the article you wrote was excellent, but it should be acknowledged, today the market has become highly litigious, and what might have been considered the norm yesterday is not today. Due to the extremely high number of lawsuits today it might be rellevant to note the considerations a company needs to take into effect to protect themselves from a future lawsuit.

  36. There is no war. There are only people trying to create one for effect. We all know what war is really about and it’s not nice.

    So who would want to honestly work for a company who wants to start a war and whose priority was to hire you because of who you work for rather than what you can achieve. And how long would it be before they moved you on for someone else?

    It’s all in the original article folks.

    The best way of protecting your own employees is to look after them.

    Let’s be professional here. Competition is good. It’s what makes us grow and get better. Ask any athlete.

  37. Morning John:

    I have a question for you. When a person or corporation hires a top notch law firm to represent them in some important matter would that under your line of thinking also qualify for hiring a ‘gunslinger’? (And just for the record I kind of like that analogy, I always did like the West lol)

    ‘Great, If you hire a gunfighter to do your fighting for you, that makes it
    all ok?
    I guess if someone else does the same thing for you… it leaves you clean
    and ethical. LOL’

  38. This article dovetails well with Dr. Sullivan?s later article ?The Best Practices of the Most Aggressive Recruiting Department?; which, has generated more dialogue about ethic, business standards and professional practices then it has about best practices.

    Dr. Sullivan raises the issue of logic. Not everyone looks at logic (or recruiting or culture or ethics for that matter) in the same way. In fact most people have never even had a course in any of these disciplines. In the same vein, not every organization can justify developing a dream-team recruiting department.

    But lets say that someone in an organization with a high turnover environment does ?recognize the business logic behind some practice or approach?, are they in a position, to be a change agent if they have no input into strategic, tactical or financial planning?remember, they?re simply administrators.

    Moreover, considering that HR is typically viewed as an administrative function where people are hired accordingly, to fulfill an administrative function, it would be a real stretch to imagine such a person would have developed the competencies to ?recruit.? Consequently, it may not be that they ?personally don’t want to do it?, it may be that they?re simply unqualified to do it.

    As far as ?someone in HR will find a reason why it is unethical?, I?ve found that their concerns run more with whether it?s legal?remember they?re administrators (people with training that are more likely to be concerned with contract terms than results).

    As I implied in one of my reviews to Dr. Sullivan?s ?The Best Practices of the Most Aggressive Recruiting Department?, TPR?s understand Culture and Ethics in terms of recruiting, better than almost anyone?in that sense they have the right stuff. And as I also mentioned, size matters?not every organization has the resources or need to staff a sophisticated internal recruiting dream team. Again, maybe he covered this in another article; but if not I?m still looking for Dr. Sullivan to address and/or acknowledge these simple facts?it might even be a good disclaimer to consider in future papers.

    Nearly twenty years in executive search tells me that Dr. Sullivan may be underestimating the rigidity of corporate culture (or any culture for that matter)?as a general rule. So, if you think about it, ?culture? may really not be ?an empty excuse? any more than ‘We’re different’ is true.

    Even so, I agree with him that ?ethics and culture as excuses for not acting in the best interests of the organization must stop? for the reasons he cites. For any that want to argue the merits of his council, they should first take courses in logic and ethics. Alternatively, they can save the time and money and just hire a search firm; which will eliminate the need for the education, the overhead and the arguments.

  39. Bill,

    Haven’t had much time, but wanted to say dido. What a blinding glimps of the obvious. Great comment.


  40. Reading the article and looking through some of the responses it seems something gets lost. The bottom line is that recruiting top talent is not illegal. But ‘preditory recruiting’, to ‘intentialy create harm to a competitor’ has legal pitfalls. Dr. Sullivan, in my opinion, was being irresponsible by not informing recruiters of potential legal issues.
    But what I find amazing is in some of the earlier articles he did just that. In his article
    ‘Poaching’ Isn’t Just For Salmon Anymore
    by Dr. John Sullivan he states :

    ‘Legal arguments – although poaching is not illegal there are certain cases that can get you in legal jeopardy. For example if you were to attempt to hire an intact team you might face a legal challenge on the premise that you are purposely attempting to harm the other firm by interfering with its employment relations, stealing its trade secrets, or unfairly competing. The second area of concern is when you hire an employee with a high level of technical skills that could be used directly by the competitor to gain an unfair advantage. Although these cases are relatively rare, they are increasing in number. Another issue can arise when you poach an employee that has signed a non-compete agreement. It is always pays to ask new hires if they have recently signed any of these agreements. Although many non-compete agreements are unenforceable it is always wise to be cautious and to check with legal counsel’.

    I have a question for Dr. Sullivan: Why in the year 2000 when this artice was written you went into great detail on the ‘legal issues’ and of your recent articles you seem to be implying that it is an acceptable business practice to raid your competition?

    I’m going to agree with Karen and some of the others on this thread. ‘Poaching’ can put recruiters in potential legal jepordy without them realizing it.
    But the bigger picture is the harm to the reputation of our industry and the threat of Government regulation so severe as to drive a majority of recruiters out of business.
    And nobody wants that!

  41. If the sky is falling… why doesn’t my head hurt?


    The answer to your question is simple… this is a case study of just one firm, so it describes what actually happened at just that firm.

    And in the 7 years of doing it this way… the FACT is… they haven’t been sued, lost recruits or customers.

    Speculation and idle worrying about what ‘might happen’ are no substitute for facts! None of the things that many forum readers have been warning about… have actually happened.

    And the year you got your law degree was?
    And have you calculated the probabilities of being sued? Or the business benefits of doing it this way vs ‘getting sued’. As a CEO, I never let lawyers or the fear of being sued overcome my ROI and probability analysis.

    Incidentally, recruiting has become global since 2000, so the ‘trade secret’ stealing argument has been diluted, as US laws no longer dominate recruiting or business.

    The fact that… the dir of recruiting spoke in front of the shareholders meeting says it all. The CEO knows this way works. To think that as an outsider, that any TPR’s are smarter and have more information than their CEO and senior managers is just… unbelievably arrogant in my book.

    John Sullivan

  42. This is great. So according to your logic it’s okay to rob banks because you’ve been doing it for 7 years without being caught.

    It’s okay to deceive and blackmail candidates because you’ve been doing it for 7 years without being caught.

    What tosh!!!!

    Ironically it was 7 years ago (1998) that Bernie Ebbers finished swallowing up MCI which some would say was his biggest mistake. It was MCI’s decline in it’s long distance business that started to drag WorldCom’s stock price down with it. We all know the rest of the story. For 6 years, he probably thought what he was doing was good business because no one had sued him (yet).

    The measure of good practice in recruitment is not about not being sued. It’s about being professional towards clients, candidates and the candidates employers whilst still achieving your targets.

    You are actively promoting unethical practices whichever way you dress it up.

    It does not matter whether it’s 1 company or 10 that use them, although I’m not sure there are 9 others that would want to use these practices and brag about it.

    I am amazed that any business anywhere lowers it’s practices to such a level that the key issue is not ‘Will this practice work well and give me the return I want whilst ensuring professionlism and quality?’ but rather ‘If I do this, what are the business benefits versus the chances of us being sued?’.

    There are many creative, professional, effective and enjoyable ways to recruit, even in today’s competitive market.

    Why not promote these instead?

    Does promoting rotten apples over good apples mean that all the good ones have gone?

  43. Dr. Sullivan,
    Hmm again it seems that you have gone to intimidation regarding someone discussing the law?

    What does having a law degree have to do with knowing the legal issues of your Industry? Every Accountant, HR Manager, Real Estate Broker, Recruiter Should be aware of these issues. In fact when you mention lawsuits and ROI, are you not AGAIN (as you also did this to Me) performing the Same Behavior that YOU accuse us of.

    Recruiting has gotten Global since 2000 ? Sullivan, recruiting has been global since the end of time that we know it.. I find your comment is misleading and darn Many of Us Smart recruiters are aware of that!!!! We know individuals who have recruited internationally and have done it for as long as the phone, and Fax has been in existence. In fact the computer has created more legal issues and laws regarding privacy that Recruiters DO Need to be aware of!!! So Why did You stop Advising of the Risks!!!

    By the way, I have found Other Articles. where you have mentioned the same information even after 2000 ? in fact a post as early as June 14-2004. in Cite HR (business case in HR)? the percentage you gave wasVERY VERY low regarding the lawsuits, in fact off the record low, (I think you were right on target about the law suits growing in the original article mentioned here. (as per the FTC) but you did mention that though Not illegal that there were legal implications?

    Now I find it interesting, if there are legal implications how is an action not illegal.

    Not being sued, (YET!) I think it interesting that you say seven years, where Michael Homula?s profile states ?lead a team of Talent Acquisition Consultants??Since their inception in fall of 2001 they have achieved a?.? Cut and pasted from ERE. Gee, well that is only 4 years Actually!!!! Now Granted, I may be missing something!!?? HMMMM!!!!

    And I have always found the word Yet to be well utilized!!!!!!

    Regarding ?legal issues? and Trade secretes why stop there, that is NOT what is ONLY considered Illegal ? the issues fall under Unfair Competition, Unfair Business Practices (amongst other things)

    And by the way this industry is VERY much regulated in over 14 STATES ? There definitely are employment law and labor related laws, regulations that DO dominate Employment industry ? besides the OBVIOUS ? ADA, OFCCP, Title VII, Fair Credit Reporting ACT, AAP, title I, title III, IRCA. FLSA, Which by the way do also impact TPR?s as well

    Then there is also –
    UNFAIR COMPETITION – Any of various torts (as disparagement) that interfere with the business prospects of a competitor or injure consumers
    ANTI-COMPETITIVE – business practices that prevent and/or reduce competition in a market To Monopolize, cause harm to disadvantage competing firms and consumers who are not able to avoid their effects, generating a significant social cost

    For those who keep wanting to risk it
    The Federal Fines for Unfair Business Practices under the Anti Trust and Trade Regulations are up to 10 MILLION Dollars. Yep 10 million for corporation and 350 thousand per individual, and imprisonment up to three years.

    I might add that every state also tightens the ropes that much more by having their own state bureau that enforces federal and their state laws sometimes the FEDS Ambiguous laws seem weak.

    From the FTC – ‘The antitrust laws are aimed at protecting consumers’ purchasing power and saving jobs and businesses, all at the same time’

    So Don?t just take my word for it – FOR MORE INFORMATION DON’T HESITATE TO CONTACT –

    The FTC?s antitrust arm, the Bureau of Competition – (yes that is what it is called)they have an 800 reference line. So Don’t Just Take my word, or anyone else?s for that matter.. They do Love to assist!

  44. Dear Dr. Sullivan,
    I may not have a law degree but I can do some research. I find it interesting in your response to my observations you state ‘ none of the things that many forum readers have been warning about have actually happened’. Well here are some facts to cases that have actually happened:

    From the FTC -The FTC’s antitrust arm, the Bureau of Competition, seeks to prevent business practices that restrain competition. As a result, purchasers benefit from lower prices and greater availability of products and services- would that not include –

    Raiding during a traumatic event, Recruiting an entire team, A poaching emphasis, Warlike tactics, hiring to slow down the rate of improvement of your competitor, trying to ‘steal customers’ UTILIZING PRE-EMPLOYMENT AGREEMENTS IN SMALL BUSINESS does have some interesting cases but a great read for protection and infomation on the type of aggreements you want for your employees Common Law and Contractual Restraints on Employee Conduct – Really Great and extensive pieces of information and includes Litigation information, and definitions. (from a lawyers office) Make sure to review all seven pages – really great info as to how to protect yourself, what are Your or the employees legal rights, and HOW TO RECRUITIT W/IN the bounderies of the law. Employment Practices Audit Can Protect Against Lawsuits Make your company as bulletproof as possible with an employment practices audit. Poaching: Where to Draw the Line Is it a good idea to try to recruit a competitor’s best people? Executive Search Review Examines Growing Litigation Threat in Executive Search Industry this was back in 1999, and it is only getting worse.

    So reader beware. Free advise is worth what you paid for it. Use at your own risk!

  45. Dr. Sullivan,
    I brought back up this subject for a couple of reasons. Due to feedback I have received, both very positive and of course there have been negative comments, I felt it necessary to broach this topic once more and shed some light as to why I am very passionate about this topic. I will include my personal experience at the end of my questions I pose.

    I have some concern that when you first wrote about these type of recruiting tactics going back from 2000 or earlier to as recent as 2004 you would counsel individuals that there ?there are certain cases that can get you in legal jeopardy? yet somehow you did not feel it incumbent to mention this sage advise again. There in lies my first and biggest concern which I initially stressed in this forum.

    Dr. Sullivan, When Steve brought up the articles You mentioned that since 2000 recruiting had become global and US laws no longer dominated the recruiting business, to which I responded that Recruiting had been global for as long as there had been a phone, and since the internet, the laws have even become stricter. Nowadays, there indeed have been more law suits, many of course are not as public as the Microsoft/Google, that will not attract media attention.

    You also stated that that ?Speculation and idle worrying about what ‘might happen’ are no substitute for facts, None of the things that many forum readers have been warning about… have actually happened? and ?have you calculated the probabilities of being sued? Or the business benefits of doing it this way vs ‘getting sued’. As a CEO, I never let lawyers or the fear of being sued overcome my ROI and probability analysis?

    Which addresses my other concerns ? When you said that none of these things have actually happened, were you speaking about lawsuits? If so, then why did you bring up the arguments of lawsuits in your earlier articles?, what basis were you making your claims?

    There have been several cases presented by individuals and one member of ERE even noted that they had personally had been sued. So why did you decide to stop advising against the possibility of lawsuits in these specific articles? Or am I missing something?

    Also, you have expressed the personal lack of concern of being sued. Is it not Fair to inform others who would have concern that there is a possibility?
    Would they not want to be able to determine if the Candidate is going to be worth the Cost and Can they even afford the cost; The cost of lawsuit, the cost of paying an employee whilst they are unable to work during the lawsuit and the possible cost of settlement. And on top of that the risk of the candidate now being recruited himself after all of that.

    Should not people be informed of the legal implications and risks, or be aware of how they could reduce those risks?

    ON a personal Note. About 6 mths after I first opened my company I received a resume, it was 7 pages long, job history dated back to 1950?s, individual graduated in the 40?s. The candidate had been a Regional Vice president of sales for a National Corp, and he wanted me to help him find a position as a trade worker where they would have to lift over 50 lbs. Well I did help this candidate with their resume, and Yes I even did submit him to a position, and told him about some companies that were hiring. Well as many can guess I was unable to help this person in his job search. About 2 Mths after receiving this resume, I received a call from the State Workforce Services. They were on their way to my office for an Audit. Yes People, We can get Audited. (Cell phones were around that time) and if anyone has been in this situation, when you get that call they are about a mile or so from your business.

    I was able convince them of my good intentions with this candidate. I was able to prove assistance (thank Goodness I keep sent e-mails in Client Folders, and I maintain a strong database). That Same day, I also received notification that I was being sued. Well the state dropped the case, and so did the candidate. Had I not submitted the candidate, or have proof of submission, or actually assisting him, well that would be different today.

    Also a couple of years ago my husband was recruited for a position, gee it was awesome.. So we thought, the recruiter did such a snow job on my husband it was unbelievable, my husband took the job, and hated it. It was not what was promised, not even a little. Seems the client was snowed as well. Anyways, after 6 mths (job history looks pretty shaky now) my husband was laid off.. Company was not as solid as presented. He did get rehired, but that little stint did cost him time and it took a while for him to get work again. My husband also referred a couple of friends to the recruiter for same company who were also lied to and they also got laid off. It took almost a year for one of his friends to get a new job, and he had been with the other company for 10 years.

    When Recruiters are buying my resumes from companies that I submit them to, It does upset me.. I do not work my but off everyday trying to grow my company at my expense to create another person?s database for them..

    I have a few other very personal stories, but will not discuss in public.

    It is so easy to not be aware, just recently I was informed that owning a company directory was illegal.. Wow, would never had guessed that one, so I checked the one I had.. Yep, it said that it was for internal use only, and Restricted. Copyright laws and such like. Even asking for one is illegal, and is putting the individual I ask in legal jeopardy themselves. Well can you imagine if I got a visit from the state and they saw that directory, well that could be some interesting explaining. For sure.

    What does that have to do with recruiting and your articles.
    Well nothing and Everything. Recruiting is dealing with people, the General public on a day to day basis. Not only do we impact their lives but they can impact ours. We can be impacted by the federal government and have many legal precedence that dictate how we should be running our business. It is so easy for us to harm another, and at the same time there are many repercussions we do have to deal with daily.

    We do have a responsibility to this industry, to the candidates, clients, ourselves and each other to be informed, educated and practice specific standards to maintain the professional integrity of this industry.

    Today, it is easy to be a recruiter, but one day if we are not careful, it Will not be. We really cannot continue to make excuses for lack of industry knowledge to justify behavior especially if this behavior can come back to haunt us in the future. Especially with the government watching us like a hawk due to concerns with the many issues of privacy. The senate has proposed some interesting bills and they keep getting tougher.

    Why? think about it, we deal with personal information every day.. (if you look at CA?s OPPA law, personal information is considered anything from a name to an e-mail address) It is scary to think sometimes who has access to this information considering how easy it is to get into this industry.

    One last thing to note ? on the B.B.Burea the stats came out recently.. The Executive Search industry had 15443 complaints and ranked 323 out of close to 4000 industries (report ranks), the Employment Agencies had 90k complaints and ranked 84. Outplacement 155 with 40k complaints, and temp 425 with 10k complaints. Please Note, the lower the number, the worse the industry, the higher the better.

    Another Magnifying Glass on us!!!!

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