Recruiting Is Just Another Form of Playing Poker

You’ve got to know when to hold them (candidates) know when to fold them, know when to run, or walk away …

Just like the song, there is a lot to say about us recruiters and how we play the game of hiring correctly and to win. Below are some strategies for recruiting the right talent by simply playing the game right.

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  1. Put the game face on –– While interviewing, sourcing, or just meeting new people, we have to play cool, play smart, and play like we are here to win. Face it: finding top talent isn’t easy these days. So what exactly is your company doing to brand themselves to be in the position to show you are one of the top companies in the market that the candidate should want to fight to get into, not just waltz in like they own the place? A great example of “showing off” a company to a candidate would be GE’s career website. It has awesome branding on its careers page as to why candidates should want to work for them. The page on diversity has examples of current employees and their stories, information graphics about how the company has supported diversity in the company, and ways that employees can get involved. Now that’s what some would call playing to win in this competitive talent market.
  2. Have a strategy — Know how much money you have when you walk in (salary we can offer, benefits package, what this can do for their career) to play. Be prepared to know the market, have a game plan for execution, and find the money if you need to be creative for the right candidate in the right role. The best players in the field always have a good strategy before they start to play. Today most of the candidates have already researched on Glassdoor how much of a salary is normal in your market so make sure you are prepared for that conversation.
  3. Have a “walk out” plan — Know how much is too much before we fold (“no candidate, we will not offer you $50,00 more than what you are currently making but darn it you are good, but not that good). Have a good reason for the offer amount you are prepared to present. Be prepared for a counteroffer, and if they are asking for too much of a salary then make sure you have that backup card (option #2 candidate) waiting in line for your walk out plan to be a success. Just make sure that backup card (option #2 candidate) is just as good as the first or this plan will fail.
  4. Have a plan of attack — “Yes, company A will offer you this, but we will match that offer and give you this awesome benefits package.” Make sure that if you need to raise the stakes, you can back up your statement with some real proof for them to fold and you to win. When you do this offer, you will want to offer them long-term reasons for why they should stay in the company; if not, you are just offering them a short-term assignment and not a career plan. Planning to win the game is not just about short-term goals; it’s about long-term strategies that will get you to win the championship (low turnover rates, high morale, and happy leadership teams).
  5. Have a strut — Yeah we are a great company, if you don’t go with us then you are not on the winning team — so you in or out? You will need to back up this statement with real proof if they call your bluff. Make sure ahead of time that you are on Glassdoor and other websites in a positive light. Make sure you have great branding that shows how awesome your company is to work for. Maybe even put together a pictograph of why someone would want to work there. A great website for an example would be Salesforce’s. Another page on Salesforce website has “players cards” to show off the great talent at that company.

Do you believe in the company? If not, it will show. Make sure you believe in what you say or the candidate will read it on your face, call your bluff, and go elsewhere.

Jennifer Morgan has been a recruiter for over 10 years in agency and corporate environments. Her passion is improving processes in recruitment organizations and mentoring others. Her contact details are



3 Comments on “Recruiting Is Just Another Form of Playing Poker

  1. I would have to disagree.
    Poker is a competition with winners and losers…and you need to go for the jugular and exploit weaknesses you see in those around you. You try to sucker the competition.
    Whether on the agency side or corporate side, I have found my role as a recruiter to be a facilitator between the needs of the hiring manager and the needs of the candidates…looking for a win-win. The only way to win the game of hiring is if everyone wins…otherwise hiring managers did not really get what they want and let go of people OR the candidates did not really get what they needed and they leave for another company.
    I find the attitude I take when playing poker is not at all like the attitude I must have doing my job as a recruiter. I have known some recruiters who do have the poker attitude…and I don’t trust them. It feels like they are trying to screw me. To be a really good recruiter you need to be trusted – by the hiring manager and by the candidates. You must have both of their best interests in mind.

    1. Hi Eric, As I wrote this article, it’s purpose was to illustrate how there are similarities as stated. I agree with you that both interests must be taken into account. If you see with my article examples I highlight the great “players” such as GE and and I explain why they are one of the best out there. This article is not to down play the poker game but to highlight how we must be at the top of our game in HR, Branding, and in Recruiting. I appreciate your feedback and I think that if you took into account my examples, it would make more sense with the title. Either way, if you agree or disagree, I do appreciate your insight on how you feel and as one writer to another thank you for doing that. Best Regards, Jenn

  2. I enjoyed this light hearted comparison, and I understand and resonate with the points you made very well. I would add that if you are going to play poker, do your best to stack the odds for success for your company and for the set up of success to candidates, by knowing your candidates, objectively, when you enter the conversations about the job. Don’t get fooled by the interview poker faces. 🙂

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