I would like to pose a question to the group.  I think all recruiters (corporate, contract, external, etc.) would agree that it is a good idea for corporate recruiters to directly source out of competitors via cold calls, social networks, linkedin invites, etc, at least part of their time.  It adds value for the organization for which they are employed, and goes against the myth that corporate recruiters are nothing more than paper pushers and job ad placers.


However, there are still corporate recruiters with whom I speak who feel that as a corporate recruiter, headhunting directly into one's competitors can be a slippery slope.  I will not state some of their reasons as to keep this discussion as objective and fresh as possible.


My question to the group is when, if ever, is it NOT acceptable to directly source into your competitor and/or business partner?  We can certainly exclude non-competes from a legal standpoint such as law firm/client or CPA firm/client relationship, where it may be both legally and ethically unsound to do so.  But what about the less clear cut cases?  For example, two firms who have a joint selling arrangement where one delivers the software and the other delivers the hardware for a product.


I would like to hear as many viewpoints as possible.  I posted this question to a linkedin corporate recruiters group a few weeks ago and I felt like virtually all of the answers were the types of answers you'd give in an interview (not very thought provoking or controversial).  Let's mix it up a bit here.  External headhunters, here's your chance to sell your case for using the outside hired guns!  Thanks.

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Business Partners - Great way to mess up the partnership to the detriment of both partners. Why would you want to piss off a partner. Refer to the definition of "partner".

Competitor - Don't see too big a problem here except. Be sure and check the entire list of hires the company has made in the past year to be sure that none of the new hires have any kind of non solicitation clause with their prior company. Even if you don't know it many may have a non solicitation agreement even if they didn't have a non compete. It won't be the end of the world but if your company receives a cease and desist letter it won't come directly to you. It will go to the head of your legal dept or your CEO and work it's way down hill. Doubled edged sword, execs may think it's fine and say "go for it" or you could get your nose slapped.

Also check to be sure that your CEO and the CEO of the competitor are not on the executive board of some trade organization together or play golf together. Believe it or not your top execs may have "friendly competitor" relationships with others in your industry. If so the conversation may go something like this:

Your CEO: Hi John, good to see you again have you had a chance to review the minutes of the last meeting? I
liked your thoughts about the association of widget manufacturers fighting the new export tax
for our industry.

Competitor CEO: Thanks Jim, it is a critical piece of legislation for our entire industry. By the way, six of my
key people have reported that one of your internal recruiters has been calling them trying to
solicit them to go to work for you. Are you staging some sort of raid on my company.

Your CEO: I am very sorry that is going on John. I had no idea that little idiot was stupid enough to do
something like that. I will see that it stops immediately. As we have discussed there will always
be people who want to leave us to go to work for you and vice versa but as we agreed we would not
directly solicit each other's employees, all i can say is i am sorry . I regret that we even had to have
this conversation.

You can write the script of the CEO's conversation with you when he gets back in the office. If he ever speaks to you again instead of telling your boss to knock your silly butt out of the air for embarassing him.

The unknown politics of direct recruiting into business partners and competitors can fast lead you into shark filled waters with no dorsal fins visible on the top of what looks like smooth sailing. You can do it but be sure you know where the bodies are buried before you start digging holes.
This is a good question and there are variety of answers.
Firstly I agree that as a Corporate Recruiter you are a lot more valuable if you can source candidates and headhunt.
But you have to be careful as most business's can not operate in their market alone and draw on a number of relationships to achieve success. Whether you have a Joint Venture with a competitor or you are on a preffered list in competition to a competitor (this can sour clients relationship if they hear you are poaching from each other) these are only two of the many.
But the biggest one is that you do not want that same competitor doing the same to your firm. The unwritten rule is you don't poach from us and we will not poach from you. If indeed you are sourcing direct and head hunting candidates approach with the same caution that you would as an external recruiter.

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