To Poach or Not to Poach Talent? It’s Just Un-American If You Don’t

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Before we get right in and answer this question, let’s all get on the same page.

What is “Poaching?” Wikipedia defines it this way:

Poaching has traditionally been defined as the illegal hunting, killing or capturing of wild animals, usually associated with land use rights.”

It can also be a cooking term, like “Poached Eggs” or “Poached Salmon,” but that’s not what we’re talking about.

There’s nothing wrong with “poaching”

The fact of the matter is that I don’t like the term “Poaching” when it is used regarding talent acquisition.

Business Insider loves to use this in titles when they are talking about normal recruiting activity (Here, here, and here to share just a few). There’s nothing illegal about “recruiting” like this someone from another firm. Nothing!

Google has a talented group of software developers. Facebook needs software developers. Facebook recruits Google developers to come work for them.

That’s recruiting at its most basic, and there’s nothing illegal about it. That’s actually the basis of our capitalist society, free market economy.

So, why is it that we use the word “Poach” when describing something that is just basic business?

Yes, you feel robbed when your people get “poached”

It’s because when an employee leaves you for your competition it pisses you off! You feel robbed. You feel like it should be illegal. “Wait! I spent so much time and effort to get you here and now you’re just leaving me, for her!!!

But, it’s not illegal. It’s not “poaching.” It’s business. You either do it well, or you use words like “poach.”

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Can corporate recruiters “poach?”

Let me put it to you this way: If I was running your corporate talent acquisition department and we had a recruiter who felt like they shouldn’t “poach” from the competition, I would ask that recruiter to go work for the competition! At that point, that’s basically what they are doing anyway!

I feel so strongly about this, I truly believe a really good corporate recruiting function can cripple your competition. Truly!

It’s about beating your competition

If your corporate recruiters take the best talent from your competition and bring them to your team, your competition isn’t long for this world.

Oh, yeah, but that’s poaching, Tim.” No, that’s capitalism. That’s free market. It’s what our country is built on.

So, what I’m trying to say is this, if you don’t poach your competition’s talent, you’re not American!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


6 Comments on “To Poach or Not to Poach Talent? It’s Just Un-American If You Don’t

  1. I would agree that there is nothing wrong with pulling your competition’s talent. There is a finite amount of great talent out there and in order to maintain a competitive advantage you need to bring the best talent to your organization.

  2. Spot on, Tim. Its all about free market economics and competition. As an employer who is losing talent to a competitor, you either focus on getting better or end up closing your doors.

  3. I say poach. Poach your ass off!
    And here’s a dose of reality that seems to go unmentioned. If someone does “get poached”, it means you didn’t do what you needed to do as a leader or as an organization to make them unpoachable. Now there’s an idea – I want to create a Poaching Prevention Plan.

  4. Would you still poach if the person worked for your friend? If not, then that’s your conscious talking to you. You should think twice about the practice just because your friend doesn’t own the company. How about taking the time to invest in developing talent among under-developed communities? That would be a win-win

    1. No reason not to do both!

      If you’re in business, and your friend owns your competition, there’s going to be plenty of times when you have to make decisions between doing what’s good for your company and doing what’s good for your friend. If you can’t do that, or if your friend insists on taking it personally when you “poach” the talent they couldn’t keep, then you should probably not own that business anymore; you’re not doing a basic part of your job.

  5. It’s funny how times change. A few years ago this subject sent tremors through many recruiting departments and made most recruiters weak-kneed, red-faced and teary-eyed. Thank goodness most have come to their senses.

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