In my thirty years of helping companies hire from their competitors, I have come to believe in two truths: when the economy is either very good or very bad, the amount of lateral hiring ticks up dramatically. Two other phenomena accompany those truths: both hiring practices and the speed at which a hire goes from hello to goodbye escalates to the workplace equivalent of warp speed, and lawsuits and litigation spawn from there.
It is therefore precisely in moments like this that companies who want to hire from the competition need to slow down and take stock of their methodology — if, indeed, there is a methodology. Whether there is or isn’t, here are four firm rules to follow in order to hire from the competition:
1. Don’t go for one-offs.
The first rule of hiring from the competition is to ensure that lateral acquisitions are not “one-offs.” They should be the result of a formalized and disciplined hiring process. Many a lawyer and consultant will hate me for these next words, but my firm does not charge companies anything — other than travel-related expenses — to help companies establish protocols and processes for identifying, vetting, processing, and onboarding qualified recruits. I know that if the company establishes a well-run Hiring Program (note the caps), then it will hire more recruits with better recruiters. That is where I will make my money (and continuing contributions).
2. Start at the top.
Establishing a Hiring Program begins at the top. Company leaders must be willing to not only make the Program a corporate initiative, they must also be willing to turn a recruit away if the potential hire is not brought properly through recruitment. Most executives are at least willing to listen and start implementation. However, fewer are comfortable telling their internal or external recruiters that the prized hire will be rejected because the established rules were not followed. Consequently, in addition to a commitment to put a disciplined hiring process in place, leaders must also be willing to enforce the newly established rules.
3. Train your recruiters.
Every recruiter for the company must be trained. It sounds simple, but it’s actually somewhat of a large task. There are professional recruiters, in-house HR folks and professional talent acquisition seekers, as well as so-called “headhunters,” but there are also those in almost every organization who, at any given moment, are themselves recruiting. Managers take potential hires to lunch; revenue producers look to bring experienced folks onto their team; CEOs look for good first lieutenants. Anyone who, as part of their work effort, looks to bring someone in from the competition must be considered part of the Hiring Program. And why not? Setting it up is free, after all.
4. Be exacting.
Lastly, a good Hiring Program must have an exactness to it. Every single person who is trained must be taught using the exact same words in the exact same sequencing. That is the way the company’s newly armed recruiters, or its lawyer, will be speaking to recruits. The exactness of the language allows the business to achieve two incredibly important benefits: the recruiter uses the correct approach, and the recruit buys into the discipline. For example, every recruit should be told that they can’t bring original records (and/or other types of information) from the old company to the new company. If you as a manager are told by a recruit that the person with whom they spoke regarding the Hiring Program said they could — whether it’s their past sales spreadsheets or other documents — then either that recruiter needs a refresher, or the potential hire will not make for a good employee.
Finally, take your time. Don’t speed. There are ways to shorten the process but never shortcut the trip. Maybe you get away with speeding for a bit, but I guarantee you will end up in a speed trap if you do.
About the author: Steven L. Manchel, Esq. possesses the highest-possible attorney rating and has extensive national experience in recruiting matters, broker-dealer litigation, securities litigation, and complex civil litigation. In the employee departure arena, he has handled matters ranging from single employee transitions to the types of retention and attraction issues arising from large corporate mergers and acquisitions. The case study in his new book, I Hereby Resign (New Academia, August 27, 2019), is used in his ongoing lecture at the Harvard Business School.