Hiring Wisdom: Is It Unethical to Recruit a Competitor’s Best People?

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Is it really unethical to recruit your competitor’s best employees?

From time to time, when I tell audiences that one of the best places to find the quality employees they need is from the competition, someone people will object because they mistakenly believe that going after people who work for the competition is unethical.

That’s when I have to ask:

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  • Since when did giving someone a better opportunity become unethical?
  • Why is it OK to go after a company’s best customers, but not OK to go after their best employees?
  • When did employees become property owned by the organization that employs them?
  • Why does it make the business news headlines when a company hires a CEO from a competitor, but it is not OK to go after and offer an opportunity to a frontline employee or manager?
  • Since all the best people who want to work are already working, where do you find the quality people you need to excel?

In Sam Walton’s words: “If you beat your competition to the best employees, those best employees will help you beat competition.”

This was originally published in the August 2014 Humetrics Hiring Hints newsletter.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally-known authority on recruiting, selecting, and hiring hourly employees. He has been the president of Humetrics since 1976 and has over 30 years of practical experience, research, consulting and professional speaking work to his credit. Contact him at mkleiman@humetrics.com.

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3 Comments on “Hiring Wisdom: Is It Unethical to Recruit a Competitor’s Best People?

  1. I agree that it is perfectly fine to go after your competitor’s best, but always be aware that there may be consequences to doing so, especially if you are in complimentary types of work. For instance, as a retailer, we have had supplier companies poach our excellent staff behind our backs. They tend to find business with our company much harder to compete for after doing things like that. If you are grabbing employees from companies that are competition, who cares if you tick them off. But if you plan on maintaining strong business ties with them, it might be better to speak with management about your intent to talk to their employees first as a courtesy. It really depends on your circumstances.

  2. Hello Mel,

    It is not unethical but it could be the wrong thing to do.

    If we hire competitor’s best people and new employees fail to become successful then it was the wrong thing to do.

    The best people to hire are often found in the pile of qualified to be hired job applicants who were not hired.

  3. You may find that the person was the best in the environment provided by your competitor, but will not prove to do well in your company’s. You may also find that
    while the customers liked the salesperson, they have loyalty to the company and
    in many instances are just to lazy to change suppliers. The grass always looks
    appears over the septic tank.

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