Recruiting from a Competitor – Is It Ethical?

In some sectors where qualified labour is scarce, recruiting from a competitor is a necessity. Short guide on ethics to succeed in this delicate operation.

Although many companies avoid recruiting from a competitor and have internal recruitment policies set up as a priority, this is not the case in certain industries where labour is scarce. Some employers, seeking candidates for strategic positions that are hard to fill, simply cannot consider recruiting from other industries.

“There are not enough actuaries in Quebec, for example, to satisfy the demand,” explains Andréa Gill, a consultant in ethical leadership management at Services Praxie, and a lecturer at the UQAM School of Management Sciences. “In this particular sector, the recourse to candidates who are already employed by a competitor is very common and is not particularly frowned upon. Everyone has the right to work and every employer has the right to seek out the best candidate to meet his needs. Most of the time everyone respects this principle.”

Diligence, diligence, diligence!

Recruiting from a competitor will not hurt your good reputation in your domain if you do it for the right reasons. “You must, however, redouble diligence in these cases,” says Andréa Gill, “and assess all the reasons that prompt you to go to the competitor. You must make sure that there really are no other options and check that there really are no relevant internal candidates. If you are mainly trying to extract confidential information from the candidate, your lack of ethics will be blatant.”

For the most strategic positions, employers generally use the services of a headhunter, who will exercise discretion, who is accustomed to respecting the confidentiality of the parties and avoiding non-compete clauses that can obstruct the process.

Taking care of your future business partners

Every time you feel the need of recruiting from a competitor, you must take note of who the stakeholders are and look after your partners, Andréa Gill says. “Companies in the high tech and artificial intelligence sectors, for example, operate in a collaborative industry in which research is often done collegially with their competitors. You don’t want to alienate valuable collaborators…”

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