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How to Hire People Away from Your Competition

When the pool of applicants for any given position doesn’t meet your standards, the next step is to attract high-quality candidates away from your competition. While many in the recruitment industry call this “poaching,” it is a natural move that can benefit the potential candidate as well as the company willing to pay the most for the employee.

Ask Recent Hires Who They Admire Most in Other Companies

To find out which potential candidates are bringing the greatest amount of success, talent and leadership to your competitors, Venture Beat suggests asking recent hires for advice on who in their business network might be a good match for the company[i]. If enough people repeat the same names time and time again, you have a great target for a potential hire that would cripple the competition and put your business at a major advantage.

Start Out Subtly

If possible, hire a search firm or head-hunting group to initiate the idea of job prospects without being pushy or intrusive. Prospects who are interested will naturally follow up, and then your recruitment team can take over through direct communication with the potential employee. Brenda Snyder, quoted in an article from Inc.com, suggests “Using your professional network to spread the word that you’re hiring and approaching the candidate you’re interested in on neutral ground.[ii]

Find Out What Candidates Really Want

Blindly making an offer is rarely the right way to attract top talent to your company. Instead, be upfront about your desire to work with the candidate, and have them explain what they need to make the move to your organization. This article from the Harvard Business Review reminds hiring managers to think beyond simply financial remuneration, such as allowing board members to sit on commercial boards as well, or perhaps including stock options for employees in lieu of a higher salary.[iii]

Don’t Ignore Any Legal Concerns

In many competitive industries, and especially when it comes to talent that’s working in research or development, there are some legal concerns to consider before poaching employees from competitors. According to attorney Stacy Bekman Radzit, “it is prudent for employers to ask potential new hires whether they are under a contract that would prevent them from working for that employer. Employers can request such information in a job application or in an addendum to an employment agreement, if one is to be executed.[iv]

These tips can be vital when it comes to hiring away top talent from your competitors. Keep in mind, however, that you should also focus on nurturing your top performers because competitors may be reading this very same article.


[i] http://venturebeat.com/2011/09/02/how-to-hire-and-retain-talent-in-a-competitive-market/

[ii] http://www.inc.com/guides/201101/how-to-poach-an-employee-from-a-competitor.html

[iii] http://hbr.org/special-collections/insight/scaling-social-impact/how-to-hire-top-talent-when-you-cant-pay-top-dollar

[iv] http://www.ober.com/publications/608-potential-risks-hiring-competitors-employee