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: 273

Comment by Maureen Sharib on April 30, 2008 at 3:31am
I love this subject - it's sure to rile! We have had raucous and rowdy discussions over on ERE on this over the past few years and I have expressed my displeasure over organizations staking claim over the word.

For some reason when I went there to search on the word this morning very few results came up - I don't know if the system's been purged of the firestorms that raged over there but if it has ERE is poorer for it. It could be that the search function is acting up (which it seems to do more often than not!) Try the search function later.

Turning to an alternative, I found 148 discussions over on the Sourcers Unleashed Yahoo group when I searched on the word "poach". We've had some real doozies in there too!

The newer Sourcers Guild Yahoo group had 8 discussions that included the word.

This subject is an exciting and always current topic about competitiveness and always fans the readership flames - smart of you to touch on it!


Maureen Sharib
Telephone Name Sourcer/MagicMethod Trainer
513 899 9628, Inc.
maureen at
My NameSourcer blog.
Join the MagicMethod Phone Sourcing network here.
Comment by pam claughton on April 30, 2008 at 7:12am
I don't think there's much to worry about here. I can't imagine this person really slept with the engineer just to get names...I suspect she would have slept with him anyway! If not, then she's quite the dedicated employee.

Take the names and run with them.
Comment by RecruiterGuy on April 30, 2008 at 8:25am
She gets an "A" for 'motivation'
Depending on the Engineer I suppose. Should the Engineer have been a Brad Pitt (or whomever the flavor of the month is) look-a-like then I can't imagine it was too much of a chore for her and to Pam's comment - it probably wasn't far fetched that she'd have done it anyhow.
Of course, if the Engineer looked like a horse kicked him - gosh, she really took one for the team.

She gets an "F" for ethics/morality
This person has put the company name and reputation on the line. Poaching from a company is one thing - sleeping with someone to get the list to poach from has put a mark on the company she's affiliated with that won't soon go away. (what is this, recruiting in the 80's?)
Definately someone I'd be quick to release if the recruiting mojo she brings to the table is more apt to be something you see on a late night cable channel.
Comment by Maureen Sharib on April 30, 2008 at 8:51am
It's deliciously scandalous, whatever grade you give it, and makes our work interesting! I think Pam's got the right idea.
Comment by Recruiting Animal on April 30, 2008 at 9:40am
I think it's disgusting but it's an interesting angle on prostitution because you can make more for a placement than a trick.
Comment by Recruiting Animal on April 30, 2008 at 9:43am
Hey this is a good question for "Hump Day" isn't it?
Comment by Claudia Faust on April 30, 2008 at 10:10am
After reading your note, RecruiterGuy, I have a question: how does one measure the impact of a recruiter's actions on the company's reputation? can one person really have that much of an effect on talent attraction? or is it only when those actions seem to align with the company's overall behavior that the tipping point occurs?
Comment by Claudia Faust on April 30, 2008 at 10:22am
Maureen and Animal, RecruiterGuy said he might fire her as a corporate recruiter. From a third party vendor perspective, would she get fired if she worked for either of you?
Comment by Joshua Letourneau on April 30, 2008 at 11:15am
I agree with Pam - I'm also not understanding why she would make her personal sex life public. I would say her and the engineer hit it off personally, and this is more about her personal life than corporate espionage (in the CIA sense).
So, did she 'sleep with the engineer to get the list'? Probably not, and we've been in the free love era since well before I was born.
In my experience, names are worthless in the wrong hands . . . so I hope the bottleneck isn't recruiter ability.
Anyway . . . no 'laws' were broken here. Did the engineer potentially violate 'trade secrets'? Maybe, if his (or her) non-compete was written in such a way.
Comment by Joshua Letourneau on April 30, 2008 at 11:18am
P.S. And by the way, if not for 'Free Love', I might not be here - my parents just recently turned 50, and they have some interesting ways in which they look at the world. Some boomers are out of touch, but some are not - in fact, I laughed watching my father play a Nintendo Wii for his 50th while his grandkids were downloading YouTube videos.
What does this have to do with prostituting for lists? Nothing :)


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