Thursday, March 09, 2006

Lies, Smarts or Just Plain Tact?

I had an interesting conversation with our new Worldwide Talent Acquisition Leader. We were talking about influentials in the recruiting space and the dialogue that has occurred in the online space regarding ethics around headhunting and guerrilla recruiting. My inclination has always been to lean in favor of a more, let’s say, aggressive approach to finding and hiring the best talent. I have no problem calling a candidate from a competing firm and offering them an opportunity to explore a career with Waggener Edstrom Worldwide. Companies do not own employees and if another firm offers a career opportunity that is a better match than so be it. I don’t think she disagreed with this but she did provide an interesting point of view to consider regarding guerrilla recruiting tactics—and it really made me think that there is a lot more at stake then ethics……let me explain…

Her example involved a very large retailer, and a competing firm. This large retailer had employees attending a conference in Las Vegas. The other retailer was also attending the conference and had employees staying at a hotel across the street. Here’s where it gets juicy! The competing retailer had their recruiters wear shirts with branding used to recruit employees from her company. The kicker is that they entered the hotel and mingled in the area where her company’s employees were staying. She asked me if I thought this was unethical. I thought about it for a moment and I couldn’t find an ethical dilemma with this. BUT….I did see a dilemma….

The dilemma for me was that this technique lacks tact. This is an important distinction. If you are only looking at ethics as a filter for your approach you may overlook this. She didn’t disagree with being smart and strategic about how we source candidates; however, she did have a very good point that some of the tactics being suggested out there should come with a warning label. She’s right. An organizations recruiting brand should be kept sacred. What does a tactic like this do to the brand? If I worked for her firm and witnessed this I would think these recruiters from the competing firm are cheesy and aggressive. This would not give me a compelling reason to want to work for the competing firm.

So next time you develop a sourcing tactic you think is smart, and you ask the question—is this ethical, also ask the question around tact. Will this approach convey a message that is consistent with your recruitment brand? How will this ultimately be perceived by our target audience?


Michael said...

Congratulations. This post got an honourable mention in the Posting of the Week contest at

Steve Fogarty said...

Our new Global Talent Acquisition Leader--Susan Burns made some clarifying points on this posting.

From Susan:

Steve – thanks for the heads up on the blog. Nice piece – very insightful. I would add one point and clarify another. First, the example in Vegas. This was actually two competing hotel chains as I understood the story being told. I simply applied it to what it could feel like if it were two retailers. Second, I like the addition of tact and would also add sustainability. The model simply isn’t sustainable. So, now we have ethics, tact and sustainability.

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