I've been asked to recruit for two positions for which we do not have "real" openings for. The two people whom we will potentially be replacing are not aware of their pending demise although dicussions about poor performance have happened and performance improvement plans are in place. I'm all for strategic recruiting and pipeline building but this seems shady to me. I'd appreciate your thoughts and experiences with this issue.

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As a long time recruiter on the Corporate side of life I've had to do this a lot. Ideally it's best if your company just cuts the bait and fishes (terminates the under performing employees) before you start the search. And as much as I have argued NOT to recruit prior to the said employee(s) being dismissed, I have run into frantic energy from the hiring manager and their boss(es) who get a sense of pre-relief when they know the back fill is posted and there is some type of recruiting process happening in and around the "other" activity. Personally that does not make sense to me. Professionally I have to go with the flow and avoid publically identifying ourselves when I post and have to route resumes away from our ATS and into another annonymous email address, which makes it more difficult. And if you're within the actual screening process of the process and the "said" employee(s) are still on staff.....well it just gets complicated. At some point you do have to disclose why you're confidentially posted or recruiting and I think it makes the company look creepy. And if the potential candidate doesn't think it's creepy because they are interested in the job they are either blowing smoke up my butt for favortism status, or they are unethical and either scenario gives me the creeps about them! This is NOT a win-win situation for any of the parties involved.

I don't advocate for this type of recruiting process, but like I stated above, for some strange reason it serves up some solace for those running the day-to-day show. It can be done and it can be successful, but you as the recruiter don't control all aspects of the "sneakiness" so there is always a HUGE possibility of disclosure at just about every turn. But hey, sometimes we just gotta do what we gotta do and go with the flow. I wouldn't worry about it too much.
Thanks for your responses. It just seems so unethical to me (my predicament, not your responses). I agree with you, Peter, they need to just cut the employee loose but unfortunately it doesn't always work out that way. One of the searches is for an employee who I thought was going to be terminated but turns out the hiring manager wants me to look and if I find someone really, really good, then she might consider terminating. Seriously? I'm no where close to being the moral police but shouldn't there be a sense of honesty and professionalism? I'm tempted to push back and say that unless a termination happens, I won't recruit...but I guess that may not bode well for my continued employment.
This is a time where the talent pipeline that you should be continually building and nurturing should come into play. If you can show your management that you have a qualified pool of potential candidates to draw upon when they pull the trigger they will be less stressed over the situation and less insistent about the need to actively recruit prematurely. Their concern is likely the time it will take to get someone in the door, if your proactive planning lends itself to a shorter time to fill, that concern is alleviated. Partnering with the hiring managers to get wind of these situations early will help in your pipeline planning.

It's never a pleasant project to recruit for a replacement due to imminent termination as it means that someone hasn't succeeded in your company, but it happens. This won't be the last time you are asked to do it, so developing a candidate pool for next time will only ease the burden for you.

Sandra also makes a good point - this type of search is the bread and butter of some third party firms so if it makes sense for your organization a TPR could be a good option.
I've pushed back under those circumstances and sometimes the hiring manager sees my point and goes to termination and sometimes they don't. Just like life. Sometimes it happens our way, and most often it doesn't. Them the breaks. If you have a good relationship with this hiring manager, I'd push back. If not, then take it to a higher level and add the "ethics" to the conversation. Good luck! Nasty can of worms you've been handed!

Graciela Lopez said:
Thanks for your responses. It just seems so unethical to me (my predicament, not your responses). I agree with you, Peter, they need to just cut the employee loose but unfortunately it doesn't always work out that way. One of the searches is for an employee who I thought was going to be terminated but turns out the hiring manager wants me to look and if I find someone really, really good, then she might consider terminating. Seriously? I'm no where close to being the moral police but shouldn't there be a sense of honesty and professionalism? I'm tempted to push back and say that unless a termination happens, I won't recruit...but I guess that may not bode well for my continued employment.
That being said, do you have any tips for me? The hardest part I forsee is responding to the "Why is this job open?" question.

Rayanne said:
I, like Peter, have had to do this, as well. It did not feel unethical to me though it was extremely difficult. It is part of the job as the in-house recruiter. It was extremely difficult when I had to replace a friend - one that I ate lunch with everyday!

Your devotion and work is for the company/person that pays you. While it may be a tough part of the job, it is also a growing experience and each time you will learn a better, easier, more discreet way to handle it. If this job were easy, they wouldn't need us. So I will take the difficult part every now and again.
Nicely said. Thanks.

Rayanne said:
Aww..., yes, that is a troublesome question.

I would just say, "The department is expanding a bit and there is hope that we can take it in a new direction."
I'm in this situation now, as a third party recruiter working on a confidential replacement for someone who is not working out. The approach I'm taking is just being honest as I think it will help find the right person. I'm saying something like this, "This is a very critical and busy position and unfortunately the individual in the role doesn't prioritize well. Instead of doing work that he is behind on, he's been chatting with his friends on the phone for extended periods of time, discussing their favorite TV shows."

This helps screen for the role, and make sure someone is hard-working and knows how to focus and prioritize.

Graciela Lopez said:
That being said, do you have any tips for me? The hardest part I forsee is responding to the "Why is this job open?" question.

Rayanne said:
I, like Peter, have had to do this, as well. It did not feel unethical to me though it was extremely difficult. It is part of the job as the in-house recruiter. It was extremely difficult when I had to replace a friend - one that I ate lunch with everyday!

Your devotion and work is for the company/person that pays you. While it may be a tough part of the job, it is also a growing experience and each time you will learn a better, easier, more discreet way to handle it. If this job were easy, they wouldn't need us. So I will take the difficult part every now and again.
Graciela,

Have you considered asking the hiring manager what he'd like the message to be? It's important that once someone gets to the interview stage with him that the candidate gets a message that is consistent with what you have told them. Nothing will throw up a red flag for the candidate faster than getting two different versions of the story.

Again, partner with your manager here - it's important in order to help having to do this again a few months down the road.

~Becky
As an external service provider, even though I work for the client, I feel I have just as much responsibility to candidates that I am placing. My initial thoughts in reading this are whether I really want to place someone into that company, knowing that their "internal" people processes could be bettered. I would really want to be sure that the company has a clear definition of what will be expected by the replacement. I would hate to have this individual come to me six months down the road, looking for a new position because this one didn't work out.
Alternatively, it is also part of our services to discuss the position and company needs in great detail and at great lengths. The clients we have created relationships with are open to feedback from our perspective - in fact, in my roles and with the companies i have worked with in search, it was expected. If we think that the solution doesn't lie in replacement but other internal issues, we are going to make that suggestion. We will also pass on the work if do not feel that this situation is questionable.
While I agree with Regan regarding having a sincere concern about placing a candidate with a company whose internal process may be broken and passing on the work if the situation is questionable, this particular situation doesn't appear to be so. Graciela indicates that there have been performance plans put into place after discussions about said poor performance. Certainly the company is doing their due diligence to allow the employee to become successful? This is simply part of business and as a recruiter for the company, you must support your hiring managers to ensure they have the strongest possible teams (which includes learning the success keys for the role and essentially what lead to the lack of success for the current employees so you can adjust for the next hire.

If you have concerns about the ethics of the company, you have larger issues to contend with than just how to handle this particular recruiting assignment...
But if you answer that question to the person you ultimately hire, and they find out (which they will, it never fails) then you've 'lied' to them. I don't think that's the best way to start that relationship. It's much easier to tell the truth, however you present it. It's no secret that some people/positions don't work out. I would much rather start our relationship the right way than worry about how someone feels about us terminating a current employee. I don't mean for that to sound as harsh as it sounds, but the reality is that not everyone is in the position that is best suited to them, and not every position has the most qualified person sitting there. That's life in the working world!


Rayanne said:
Aww..., yes, that is a troublesome question.

I would just say, "The department is expanding a bit and there is hope that we can take it in a new direction."
My first thought after reading your post Graciela was that it must be slow on the internal hiring front for you to have to source potential candidates for positions that are not even vacant... yet. I agree with the previous poster that they should term the employees as soon as possible. It sounds like the HM is sitting on the fence...
What next, they assign another recruiter in your department to start sourcing for internal recruiters because the dept is expanding?? Or are preparing to let you go but do not want to broadcast it.

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