By Jessica Miller-Merrell 

In every area of business at every single company, people have the opportunity to backstab, gloat, lie and cheat at one point or another. Some of the decisions regarding whether or not to do so may be black and white, while others fall in gray area. The opportunity may be clear or it could be hidden. These situations present themselves in all shapes and forms, and that is certainly true of the recruiting and hiring world.
When a door opens, what’s a recruiter to do?
It wasn’t too long ago that on Friday morning when I was working as a recruiter, I hopped into my company-branded van and drove to my biggest competitor’s office to recruit their soon-to-be former employees. I had been tipped off by a member of my new-hire class that the company was planning to lay off 200 of their employees and had mistakenly paid out the employees’ unused vacation hours a week early, essentially announcing the layoffs. Having more than 100 positions open, I saw this as the perfect opportunity, the kind of thing that recruiters’ dreams are made of. However, even knowing what kinds of positive things this could bring for our company, I had a choice to make.
Sportsmanship in action
I had to consider whether or not the move was sportsmanlike. We’ve probably all heard the term used at our kids’ little league practice or even in our own adult softball leagues, but most people wouldn’t associate sportsmanship with the recruiting and hiring industry. However, it truly is the perfect term to encompass all that we must think about as recruiters. Sportsmanship covers whether or not an action is ethical, fair, respectful and considerate of our peers. Taken independently, those terms don’t necessarily help us arrive at the right answer, but you get a much clearer view when you consider how each term applies and how they interact with each other.
Considering what sportsmanship looked like in that specific situation, I first picked up the phone and called my professional peer who was a recruiting director at the company in question. I first confirmed my reports and then offered a way to help employees by setting up a referral program to fill the open positions at my company. This approach addressed the four opportunities that I believe a recruiter has to be sportsmanlike.
Being respectful to companies and candidates
Sometimes all it takes to do the right thing is approaching competitors and candidates with respect and dignity. Be upfront and honest about your intentions rather than sneaking and going behind others’ backs.
Offering solutions not manipulation
When I called my peer at the company I had been tipped off about, I turned the focus off of my desires and made it about their employees’ needs. I wasn’t lying to create an opportunity but instead presented a solution to the issue at hand.
Focusing on the best environment and experience for the employee
It can be easy to get blindsided by thinking about what we can gain from a situation but we should never forget about the human that sometimes gets stuck in the middle. If I had hopes of swooping in for the kill and hiring their employees for far less than they were worth because I knew they were vulnerable, I wouldn’t be acting in their best interest.
Creating a competitive, yet professional environment against competitors
When I called my recruiter friend at the other company, he actually opted not to accept my partnership offer, leaving me to make the call of whether or not to go. In this case, I had been respectful of my peers and was offering a good solution for their former employees, so I felt that I was in the clear to head over with flyers in hand. My recruiting team cruised the parking lot, handing out flyers, scheduling phone screens and building a pipeline of candidates that were impacted by the layoff. This is where creating a competitive, yet professional environment comes into play. Your competitors won’t always like what you’re doing, but you can be sportsmanlike in the process. 

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media. She’s the Chief Blogger and Founder of Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmillermerell.


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