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Why Poaching Employees from Competitors Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

by | Hiring, Insights, Management

I used to be of the mindset that hiring an employee away from a competitor was an all-star recruiting move. I thought it would bring powerful competitive intelligence, a robust rolodex, and veteran experience with someone who knew how to succeed with the best of the best.

I was wrong. Poaching a competitor’s employees often generates more issues than benefits and there are many reasons why:

  • You usually get someone who is already set in his/her ways who can be difficult to re-train in how you do things.
  • If the competitor is much bigger than you (always was for me), the resources that employee is accustomed to receiving are very different than what he/she will get in your company.
  • Bigger competitors move slower. If you have a small and nimble company, the employee you poached might not be able to keep up.
  • His rolodex is usually never as impactful as you think. Hire someone for his potential, not who you think he knows.
  • A competitor won’t let a really good person go if it’s a well-run company. Why are they letting this person go so easily?

Instead, I changed my recruiting mentality to hire for potential. Hiring people who are about to break through to the next level in their career can produce powerful results. If you help that person reach or broaden his potential, you’ll get a loyal employee and someone who brings a fresh, new perspective who will hopefully work hard for you for years to come. And you’ll have an easier time training that person in your way of operating/thinking which has enormous benefits.

In addition, finding people who are in similar but different industries and have done similar types of jobs can be a good method of candidate sourcing. It avoids many of the issues associated with poaching from competitors because the person is coming from a slightly different industry and can breath new air into how your industry operates. That can be an excellent way to hire a top gun with veteran experience who can easily apply his experience to your business.

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