I was listening to part two of the recruiting podcast the other day going to work and was surprised by a comment you made.

I believe Mark said he recommended calling a recruiter to touch base on a quarterly basis. I'm o.k. with that and even do so myself. What I was surprised by is when he recommended giving the name of a strong performer in his own organization as a potential candidate for poaching (recruitment :) He said it would be a win for himself, the recruiter, and his coworker.

I can see the triple win here, but what about a win for the company paying Mark his current salary? Even if his coworker was not happy in his current position, I just can't support Mark's position of actively aiding a strong performer to leave the organization.

Maybe I'm missing out on a real fundamental issue here or maybe we have to agree to disagree on this point.

Keep up the great work on the show.


DaveTehre's picture

Jim, I know your question wasn't posed to me but I couldn't help responding. I agree with your thought. In fact, that is further proof that the under-belly of referrals exist. Recruiter calls me... I'm not looking... do I know someone who might fit this role?.... sure, that other guy who's views I don't agree with... (I WANT him to leave).

I think that is a risky behavior but I know it happens. I think of giving referrals as a way of keeping my name in that recruiters rolodex... but I can't bring myself to offer the name of someone in my downstream, or even in my company.

Mark's picture

Jim (and Dave) -

[Sorry this took so long. I thought I had posted, and then got behind.]

Please let me clarify my thoughts for you. I'm sorry for any misunderstanding. This points out that there are times when podcasts are ill-suited to true explications of all the subtleties of such nuanced situations.

I'm going to address many points that you made or implied (or that I inferred).

But let me also say that I stand by my recommendation.

In a nutshell, recommending a recruiter call someone is no more disloyal to my company - in fact it's patently less so - than staying in touch with recruiters myself. How is it that it's okay for you to talk to a recruiter but not them? My referral has NOTHING to do with my friends' state of mind about staying or going. It has to do with helping him think FOR HIMSELF about his career. I think it's absolutely reasonable (and better for the company!!!) for him to be able to readily compare external opportunities to internal ones. If he stays and he's done some comparing, his decision to stay is rooted in an analysis that's relative to the market and therefore much more likely to be compelling. A decision to stay because one has no clue what is out there is simply NOT a professional choice in a world where HR openly admits that they are NOT managing your career. I don't consider that good or bad on its face... it just IS. It's a fact.

Let's be clear - I have never suggested anyone EVER leave where they are, unless they are treated unprofessionally or are truly unfulfilled. I am the poster child for STAYING WHERE YOU ARE. I have written extensively about the intangible goodwill that one never sees, appreciates, or gives weight to when one considers leaving a firm. I counsel people to stay all the time.

I DO NOT believe that recommending a recruiter call someone I know is "actively aiding" someone leaving. There are simply too many steps between an initial conversation and an accepted job offer to feel like I'm the bad guy here. [On the dark side, though, if I don't make the referral, and my friend is laid off (more on this below), then I AM the bad guy, in a way.]

I believe that for 90% of the managers I know, if they compare side by side two opportunities (one being where they are now), if the analysis comes out roughly even, they should ABSOLUTELY stay where they are. The reason for this is their lack of consideration of goodwill, and also the fact that they are being SOLD on the new company... and so their evaluation is skewed enormously positive for the prospective opportunity, whereas internal organizational scuttlebutt always seems negative.

I don't believe talking to a recruiter has ANYTHING TO DO with staying or going. I NEVER recommend any of my friends or associates pay one damn bit of attention to what the recruiter thinks he or should do. Separate from the inherent referential bias, the fact is, the recruiter will not be the one making the move.

Put differently, it's not "talking to a recruiter" that causes someone to leave. It's a distinctly better opportunity... and if this person we're talking about referring or not referring is good, shouldn't your company recognize that? Should he stay just because it's "good to stay?" Does the company have a responsibility to give him or her an opportunity to use all his or her skills?

And let's be truly intelligent here. Despite my recommendations, the recruiter often gets more traction with the candidate than he or she should... and the candidate's SPOUSE gets less. Many managers justify this by saying that their spouse doesn't work, or "doesn't do THIS kind of work", or "doesn't work at THIS level", whereas the recruiter has good points to make and lots of experience to share. What a stupid construct. Folks, let me be the first to say it to you if you don't know it already: the most important "experience" to consider in making a job change is the "experience" of waking up next to someone for the rest of your life who doesn't like the move you made or the job you took or the hours you're keeping.

Again: talking to a recruiter has NOTHING to do with staying or going. It's no more about disloyalty to your company than the company hiring someone who has more skills than you do ("that decision was not about you, Bob"), or re-organizing and making your part of the org less important ("the business is changing, Terry"), or promoting a peer of yours because he speaks a language he grew up with even though he has 2 years less experience than you do ("We've got to get some traction in this new marker, Barb"), or hiring a new person into a job you REALLY wanted a shot at, but the company needs "new blood" or fresh ideas ("Some of the VPs need some exposure to new ideas, Deb")...or laying YOU off because the decision the leadership made about the new market was either wrong or poorly executed, and there's not the revenue to justify the headcount we have over here after all, and it really IS terrible that all your years don't SEEM to count for anything right now, but it's the right thing for the business...

We did a podcast a while ago about how to lay someone off. We suggested that you stay in touch with those whom you have to lay off. Well, if you follow that approach, you are a GOD. NO ONE does this. Oh, it's the right thing, the honorable thing, the caring thing... but no one does it save the heroic few. NO ONE from your company will stay in touch with you if you're laid off, if your situation is like the vast majority. Suddenly, the people who you THOUGHT were managing your career don't even know your phone number. A recruiter does, but HR doesn't.

Nor is this "poaching". It's an oft-used term in these situations, but it's terribly misleading. Poaching is going on to someone else's land and killing an animal. The animal has no choice in the matter, and the owner of the land has rights to the animal. Hey! We're talking about people here, people who DO have a choice, and the company that may lose them has NO rights to the person.

Talking to a recruiter is NOT leaving your company. The reason people leave a company has NOTHING to do with the recruiter. It's because they're not as happy as they could be, and they find a better opportunity. Yes, the recruiter presents the opportunity to them...but if you were laid off, and went to work somewhere else, and had to build a team, would you NOT call your top performing friends? I WOULD. [And, if they stayed where they were, I would be the FIRST to hug them and wish them well and help them grow and develop, and suggest they hire other friends of mine that I can't get to come work for me.] And, if you think I'm unusual, I point you to the contracts top execs have that say that if they leave, they're not allowed to recruit others to come with them. This from the same company that point blank asked them to bring their team over if they could?

Let's just admit that your career is yours, and the loyalty equation is one that requires one to be a loyal to an organization that will be loyal in return. I'm not mad or disappointed when I say that companies are no longer adhering to that standard.

What about arguing that putting a top performer is "just the first step" in a potential chain, ending in a resignation? I'll concede that it may be. But that's like saying that because you weren't a great first boss for someone years ago, YOU are responsible for them leaving today. Not so. When it comes down to it, it's your friend's relationship with their current boss, and the company's behavior over YEARS that causes them to stay or go. The recruiter is NOT the key factor.

Finally, consider the situation that through no fault of your top performing referral's, his division is shuttered and he loses his job in a layoff. I don't blame the company for laying him off (though of course it is their fault). Could anyone blame him for having a back up plan of knowing a couple of recruiters? I can't imagine they would, and that's enough for me to suggest the connection. Leveraging my earlier point, if HE takes it a step further, and ultimately leaves the company, that's the company's fault in not being competitive for talent like him. I don't think the company's answer (or, any company agent's (you) answer should be keeping him from talking to a recruiter.

Frowning upon managers talking to recruiters is NOT a retention strategy. The best ones are GOING to get called, even WHEN no one in your company refers them. If they're good, they're going to be known as good. [If you're in a tech space, you use contractors in some fashion. Those contracting firms have other clients like you, and they share information about top performers ALL THE TIME.] They're going to get called. Better that they do so by a recruiter you trust, so they don't make a bad move and end up in a tight spot.

As long as you're okay with YOU talking to a recruiter while staying where you are, it's impossible to justify not encouraging your friends to do the same. This is just loyalty AND career management TOGETHER. Excluding them from a recruiting relationship that may never go anywhere is abdication, and it ill serves the individual and the company.

Great point you made. Maybe we disagree, but I'm happy to do so agreeably. :-)