Poaching: Is It Just Business or Vengeance?

It happens all the time: You land a new position and find that there are other open positions that maybe your previous co-workers would be interested in.  You tell your new supervisor and, on your recommendation, they give you the “green light” to reach out to them and ask.  Nothing wrong with that, right?

But when do you go too far?

In the recruiting world, its typical for a recruiter to reach out to a client’s competitors to try and steal away their employees.  After all, its easier to find someone who is already doing the job you are hiring for AND in the same industry that will be able to plug in right away.  We call that “business.”  And if an employee is happy at the job they currently have, no amount of wooing will be able to change that.

And it would seem to be perfectly acceptable to use a new hire to do the same type of scouting that would happen if you hired a recruiting firm.  Let’s face it – they know exactly the environment these other employees are in and what may be the reasons they would entertain leaving.  But, there is a point of crossing the line.

I recently had an employee move on to another opportunity with a competitor who began to reach out to his former co-workers to see if they would be interested in leaving and coming over to his new employer as well.  We’re not talking one or two employees….he reached out to at least 5!  Each were key employees in their own departments.  Where this former employee “crossed the line” and has now left a bad taste in not only his former employer’s mouth but that of his former employees, is he began to harass these employees.  And when employees wouldn’t respond or take his phone calls anymore, he turned them over to his new boss to try calling them…to the point that one of their targets came to ask me if we could somehow get them to stop calling him.

Now we’ve crossed into the unprofessional side…An employee determined for vengeance.

Just as we tell jobseekers not to bad talk your past employers during a job interview, seeking vengeance against a former employer leave create a reputation for you personally…not the company.  This can be particularly harmful to you when it’s a niche industry and the power players all talk to each other.  Competitors in the marketplace doesn’t always make them enemies.  Word will get around if you go down the “vengeance” path that can come back to reflect negatively on your new company and you as an employee when you go to move on to another employer.

This can be particularly dangerous for small businesses who don’t have a strong reputation to fall back on, not to mention to potential for legal issues involved from cases of slander to non-competes.  It may seem like an easy and cost-saving tactic to use, but its not always the smartest.

Keep it just business by taking yourself out of the equation.

There is a reason why recruiting firms exist and sometimes the “smarter” approach to poaching as a tactic is to use them to carry it out.  They can approach your desired candidates from a point of confidentiality and feel them out to see if “jumping ship” is really something they would consider.  Remember, just because you perceive an employee as unhappy at their current job doesn’t mean they have the same desire to leave that you did.

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As the Interviewer: Stages of the Interview

There are so many different ways that companies are conducting interviews these days that it begs the question: Should there be different steps in the interview process?

Some will say the process depends on the size of the company…others will say it depends on the level of the position.  But too many times either a vital step is missed or more steps are added that complicate the process and may end in loosing a candidate or having to re-hire again because a candidate didn’t work out.

Not knowing the best way to approach the interview process is really no one’s fault.  The Art of Interviewing is a topic discussed with Jobseekers but never have I seen it as a topic taught from the Interviewer’s perspective.  Like with any HR or Management position, it is just “assumed” that you will know how to interview because you have achieved those roles in your career.  And this is where I have seen mistakes be made.

You have may a process that works well for you and your company….and congratulations if you do!  But for those that find themselves wondering if it could be better or struggling with always seeming to hire “problem” employees that aren’t discovered until after the fact, here is a breakdown that hopefully will help you.

Stage 1:    The Phone Interview

Duration: Typically no more than 15min

For some people, they think the Phone Interview is a waste of time and go right to bringing the candidate in for an in-person interview.  However, you are missing a key opportunity especially if this is a candidate that will be working on the phone in any capacity with your customers.

The main purpose of conducting a phone interview is to hear the person’s phone etiquette.  Are they quiet and timid or are they hyper and interrupting?  Do they speak clearly?  Do you perceive any attitude when they are answering you that your customers may misinterpret?

Questions are by the Interviewer are typically: questions about the current job that they have, what interested the candidate about your job opening and the “why do you feel you are a fit for this job?”  Based on the impressions over the phone, you decide whether or not to go to Stage 2.

Stage 2:  First In-person Interview with HR

Duration: Typically 30-45min

Here is where many Managers just don’t understand why HR has to get involved to interview.  After all, when it comes to doing the job (especially if it is technical or specialized) how can HR really be a good judge about who would be a “good hire” and who wouldn’t?  The purpose of the “first interview” is not to find your ideal candidate right off the bat, but to serve as a “gatekeeper” to weed out all of those that may not be a good representation of the company or a fit with the company’s culture.

Your HR person is looking for a “personality fit” when they first meet with the candidates:

  • Do they speak clearly?
  • Are they thoughtful when answering questions about their background?
  • Do they show they can think on their feet when asked questions about past problems they have encountered?
  • Are they a personality a fit for the company and how it projects itself to its customers?
  • Would they bit a fit with the other employees?
  • Are they looking for more career-wise than the company is able to offer to where they may become dissatisfied quickly?
  • What are their reasons for gaps, changes in career, leaving previous employers?

They made it past the “check the box” on their resume to get the interview, but now it’s time to see how they answer questions about their experience and aspirations to see if – personality-wise – there is a match with your company.  When HR finds the candidates that they feel fit this requirement, now it’s time to get into their specific skills and experience to see how it relates to the job you are looking to fill.

Stage 3:  Second In-Person Interview with Hiring Manager

Duration: Typically 30-45min

This is where the Manager gets to focus just on the candidate’s background and skills to ask questions to see if they will be able to fill the job you are looking to fill.  Don’t waste your time with some of the typical questions you can find on the Internet such as “Where do you see yourself in 5yrs?”  Remember, that’s the type of questions your HR person has already asked to see if they would have a future with the company.

Make the most of your time by focusing on “if” and “how” this candidate in front of you would be able to:

  • Come up to speed to do the job you are hiring for or will they need more time to train and become accustomed…
  • Are they technically up to par with the skill set you are looking for or, with a little time and training, could you train them up to be the ideal employee…
  • How well do they seem to listen to direction – do they listen to you or interrupt you when asking questions…
  • Do they offer ideas and suggestions based on past experience as answers to the questions you pose…

Let’s face it – you are looking for that employee that can hit the ground running right after their first day, so use this time to uncover if they will be able to work with you (as their manager) and do the job efficiently so you can quickly make a choice on your new hire.

Optional:  Reference Checks

Today’s jobseekers often wonder if companies ever do call on references before hiring them and, in all honesty, many companies don’t…mainly because they don’t think it will get them any insight into a candidate as they are expecting.  So, as a result, jobseekers don’t want to share references in the early stages of interviewing (and they really shouldn’t be required to) and employers aren’t taking the time to do their research.

With social media today, there are so many ways to “reference check” an employee to see if they would be a good hire.  Many candidates will have LinkedIn accounts that allows you to see not just their resume, but more about outside activities such as: volunteer positions and articles published, not to mention how professionally they work to appear online (is their photo professional or questionable?).  Same can be said for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram….anything that is set to “public” that you can see – your customers and clients will be able to see to.

But don’t discount the phone inquiry!  Yes, there are companies staying away from offering reference checks because of implied legal retaliation, but some are still willing to share especially if it was a great employee that they were sorry to see go.  Just stay away from family and friends as references.  Even students can offer teachers as references that will give you more of a peek into their personality and ethics.  And don’t pressure an employee to give you a reference from their current employer unless you have already extended a job offer.  Ask for past supervisors and even subordinates. 

You will already have an idea if you want to hire the person or not before you make the call so keep the conversation on how well they carried out their job, how they got along with others, did they have ideas to bring to the table, etc.