Wednesday Wisdom: Poached, please - with solicitation on the side

Dear Claudia,

I recently challenged my recruiting team to source hard-to-find candidates from a department of a local competitor, and one of the recruiters came back with a whole roster for us...unfortunately, she slept with one of their engineers to get it. She doesn’t think it’s a big deal, but I’m really concerned about using this information under the circumstances. What do you think?


Dear Uneasy,

Truthfully, I think you may have more to worry about than a roster of names here…but we’ll start with that.

There are lots of opinions about competitive recruiting practices, and mine tends to be that all’s fair in love and war. You have employees? Somebody somewhere will eventually try to recruit the good ones away. And to be honest, if an employee is happily engaged in his work it will be a cold day in you-know-where before my recruiting call is going cause him to change jobs. In general, I think you're doing a disservice to your business if you don't figure out who works for the competition.

That said, I would definitely address the potential risk that this incident poses, on two fronts. Companies have found themselves in more than a little hot water for poaching practices over the years, especially when intellectual property is involved. Oh, and let’s not forget that you have an employee who crossed a potentially illegal line in mixing business with pleasure (is it a stretch to say that she was paid for sexual favors? I’m not sure, and I’m definitely not an HR specialist, but I’m guessing there’s a law that was broken or bruised somewhere in this mess).

This would be a good time to seek out at least two important people for a chat: the executive at the head of the business unit that will potentially hire from the list, and a trusted resource in your HR department. Have a serious talk about the information in hand, how it was obtained, risk and reward to the business for aggressively recruiting from the list, and any potential liability to the company for the actions of the employee. These kinds of decisions are best made with an eye toward what's best for the business as a whole, and not just the interests of one group or department.

On a lighter note, I’m really curious to hear what you challenge your team with next. They sound like a very creative bunch.

In my day job, I’m the head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage engagement for competitive advantage in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here.

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Views: 220

Comment by RecruiterGuy on April 30, 2008 at 12:38pm
The statement was, "she slept with the engineer to get it"

We can speculate all we like about free love and personal life - but based on the above - if we actually have admittance that she traded sex for the list - it's no one I'd want on my team and grounds for termination in my book. Of course, don't hold me to what corp lawyers might decide once escalated. :-)

@Claudia - Malcolm Gladwell fan? (ref: Tipping Point)
You ask how to measure the impact of a recruiter's actions on a corporation? The recruiters are the front-line. They are often the first impression many job seekers (and existing/potential customers!!) take with them.
Asking for a true measurement of that is, in my opinion, like asking for the true measurement of a ripple in the ocean. Of course - given today's technology and fast communication made easier and faster than ever with things like 'twitter' - perhaps the ocean is too large a body of water to use as an example.

Recruiters should be above reproach in this arena. Sadly, our profession sometimes has a reputation we're always working against. Individuals like the above example (fictitious or not) only serve to continue the 'slimy-anything-for-a-buck-liar-liar' recruiter image.

/me steps off the soapbox.
Comment by Joshua Letourneau on April 30, 2008 at 1:01pm
Yeah, I question the source of the statement. Maybe I'm different, but I don't blindly accept statements at face value unless they're bonafide facts - like believing in a guy in the clouds that has an all access pass to Club-Med in the 'afterlife'.
Perhaps put best by Robert McNamara, "Seeing and Believing are Both Often Wrong."
Comment by Chuck Radcliff on April 30, 2008 at 1:21pm
The Question to ask is are you more concerned because she got the list or how she got it. Ask yourself how you would feel if she did not tell you she slept with someone to get it.
Comment by Joshua Letourneau on April 30, 2008 at 1:38pm
Hey, if I can briefly interject, I just wanted to toss out there that 'ethics' and values are highly personal issues - in fact, they're highly situational as well. Is there a 'right' and 'wrong'? Not really, at least not in a black & white sense - sure, we may fall on either side of the fence more often than not, but I think we have to be careful with this subject as you can often be blanket-branded either an "angel" or a "devil". The truth is that we're all probably both from time to time - it just depends on the situation and who is doing the 'judging' per se. In fact, I like to think I'm a more 'ethical' person than 'unethical', but it all comes down to the eyes of the beholder. Being ethical in some situations is unethical in someone else's eyes and vice-versa.

That's why the ethics issue can divide so many, but it shouldn't - we all have different paradigms and different frames of reference . . . and truthfully, I believe no other issue divides our industry more than 'ethics'.

I only toss that out there because I've seen (time and time again) people get branded as "saints" or "criminals" based upon how some may perceive their answer to a given question. The Penelope Trunk issue on ERE was a much different one that illicited a great deal more flaming than this particular situation, and in fact, that's why it was put out there - to stimulate conversation and flaming in the first place. As they say, "sex sells" and the easiest way to ratings is through a little skin!

I ask all of you as my recruiting brethren and brethrenettes to withhold immediate categorization or judgment against anyone for how they answer an ethical issue given any one particular situation. One sound bite doth not a person make :)
Comment by Claudia Faust on April 30, 2008 at 1:39pm
Good point, Chuck -- perception is reality for the beholder, even if it may not be the truth. So you're saying that if the manager feels better about having the information as long as she doesn't know how it was obtained, maybe it's time for a reality check herself? Or at least, a little more clarification before handing out team assignments?

I agree, btw -- which is why I find ethical dilemmas so juicy...
Comment by RecruiterGuy on April 30, 2008 at 2:22pm
Joshua Letourneau said: "One sound bite doth not a person make."

Well said, sir.
Comment by Joshua Letourneau on April 30, 2008 at 2:52pm
Thanks, RecruiterGuy :) Ethics can be quite 'Macbeth-ian' if you ask me!
P.S. I liked your Gladwell reference - we should start a new conversation on some of the content from his other book, "Blink". If us recruiters are so consciously avoided by some, imagine how the subconscious mind feels about us!
Comment by Slouch on April 30, 2008 at 3:32pm
i wonder how many people out there would spend the night in order to make the money placement.
Comment by Kiran Ponnada on April 30, 2008 at 3:33pm
I think there is already too much said here. My experience tells me that the recruiter mentioned about sleeping with the engineer because she was expecting a reward/ pat-on-the-back/ promotion from the manager. I see no other reason why she would say that she slept with the engineer to get the list.
Comment by Ken Totten on April 30, 2008 at 4:24pm
Maybe I'm in the minority but I feel that "the means does notjustify the ends". As individuals and as representatives of our employer we should be concerned about good business ethics and the perception of inpropriety. Over time we earn a reputation by those we serve and come into contact with. What do you want your reputation to be?


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