Steven's Blog

Forget Recruiting. Poach.

Don’t recruit. Poach. In a tight labor market, there is no percentage in tentativeness. If there is any time to go on the offense, it is now.

I don’t know why recruiting firms call what they do a “search.” Who cares about a search? A search is easy, and often consists of little more than trawling through LinkedIn.

These firms should instead be touting their prowess at poaching, because that is where the value is.

They should be poach firms instead.

However, you don’t want to rely on so-called search firms to secure the best talent anyway. The CEO of a major IT company here in Japan told me how difficult it was to find qualified management talent for his business. One of the myriad Tokyo-based executive search firms he had asked for help finally found a qualified candidate. The CEO made him an offer, he accepted, and the CEO hired him, paying a sizable commission to the search firm in the process, only to find out he did not need the firm’s help in the first place.

On the new hire’s first day on the job, the CEO saw other managers greeting him with uncanny familiarity, welcoming him, and congratulating him on having landed the job. Every senior executive on his team already knew the guy from previous work in the industry! He immediately ordered all his senior staff to give him the names of at least three people they know who would be qualified for working at the company.

Do you think an executive search firm could do better than that?

Forget “gentlemen’s agreements” not to poach. This is nothing more than a collusive, anti-competitive practice. Not long ago, Apple, Google, Adobe and Intel lost a nine-figure class action lawsuit in the United States for their collusion not to poach each other’s employees.

Collusion not to poach is unethical. However, there is nothing unethical, immoral, or shameful in poaching.

In a saturated market, you don’t hesitate to steal customers from competitors. So why wouldn’t you steal the best employees in a tight labor market? Click To Tweet

If you have the ability to dramatically improve someone’s life as they help you improve your business, you have a moral imperative to at least let them know the opportunity exists. They are adults and can decide what to do on their own.

So go on the hunt. Poach the best.


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