Should You Try to Poach Your Competitors’ Employees?

March 8, 2019 By: Dave Rietsema
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The current labor market is tight; it can be difficult to find top talent that isn’t already working in the field. With this in mind, it can be tempting to look to the competition when it comes time to find a new recruit. The prospect of bringing on an employee that is well versed in the field and even knows some trade secrets from the competition can certainly seem like a golden opportunity.

There are some risks that may come with the practice as well, though, and some alternatives that may work better.

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Legal Considerations for Poaching Employees

Some companies require employees to sign non-compete agreements. If you poach an employee that was bound by a non-compete agreement, the company may sue for damages. This can be injurious to the relationship with the new employee and can cause real trouble for your company, so be careful.

It’s important to ask candidates that apply from other companies about whether there is a non-compete agreement in place. In some cases, there may be a waiting period which can be prudent to heed.

Wooing Employees Away from Competition

Since employees and candidates are people with autonomy and the freedom to choose, the very word “poaching” isn’t exactly accurate. Employees are lured away from their employers by the prospects of another company that pays better or offers a better fit every day. Showing off what you have to offer can be just as effective in wooing employees to your company as directly targeting them.

Even if a passive candidate makes the first move, however, it’s still important to be aware of non-compete agreements that may exist.

Treating Employees Well

Your employees can be your biggest promoters when it comes to sourcing and recruitment. Employees that feel well cared for will speak highly of your organization in a genuine and organic way that’s impossible to match with other recruitment tactics. Treating your current employees well, carefully crafting company culture, and making sure your employees are content can help you to attract candidates away from other companies.

Be Wary of Employees That Jump Ship

While recruiting candidates that are already established in the field provides a level of safety in that they are well trained, remember that those employees are opportunists. They jumped ship to go to your company because your company seemed more appealing, so they may do the same if an inviting offer comes along. A lack of blind loyalty isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world, but be prepared to meet their expectations continuously or eventually lose them.

Recruiting from Other Avenues

The competition isn’t the only source of great candidates, so don’t rely too heavily on poaching from competitors. Great candidates may be just out of college, retired from another field and looking to learn new skills, or rejoining the workforce after an injury or other incident. Be sure to look beyond the trappings of the competitions’ star employee to diversify your talent and keep it fresh.

Good applicant tracking system (ATS) software can help you recruit candidates from many avenues. If you think your company could benefit from implementing ATS software, we can help you figure out your best solution. Visit our vendor match page to get started.


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