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A recent post from the RCSA was highlighted to me today. Now I’m not one to read these things usually, but given their commendable involvement in dealing with the clowns at MBIE recently, I’ve taken a bigger interest in our(*) governing body of late (*yours, not mine). The post can be read here, but for those too lazy to click a link or scared of being RickRolled, the article is titled “Concerned about Consultant “Poaching”?”. To summarise, the RCSA has heard rumours that attendance to their almost infinite rounds of conferences and awards are not low because they’re really lame, it’s because recruitment firms are scared that their staff will be “poached” by other recruitment firms. The article proceeds to explain how membership of the RCSA (on both a company-wide and individual level), would prevent this happening in an unethical way, and warns us, like naughty schoolchildren, that we’ll be hauled up in front of the RCSA Imperial Wizard should we breach some “code” of this “High Level Alert”.

In the words of MBIE, there’s a lot to unpack here.

Firstly, the term “poach”. By definition, it means: “illegally hunt or catch (game or fish) on land that is not one’s own or in contravention of official protection.” By this definition, approaching a passive candidate has nothing to do with poaching. It is not illegal. Candidates are not owned by employees. And unfortunately, as any recession proves, us recruiters have no official protection.

Definition two is closer to the mark: “take or acquire in an unfair or clandestine way.” However, again, it’s a wildly inappropriate terminology for essentially asking someone if they’d like to find out about another business. Approaching potential candidates is in no way unfair. As Recruiters, we all (should) have the ability to do it. And most people who were approached by a recruiter were glad they were. It also doesn’t need to be clandestine. Let me prove it. If you are not a client of Rice Consulting, we do and will actively try and approach your best recruiters and place them elsewhere. There. Not so clandestine is it?

Secondly, the article seems to differentiate between “poachers” and Recruiters. I put it to you, members of the jury, that “poaching” as the RCSA call it, is or should be a major part of what a recruiter does every day. They also go on to say, that if you are naughty enough to “poach”, it needs to be done with professionalism as set out in 10 meaningless “codes”. Check them out and tell me if they mean anything to you.

Reading the article, I get the sense that the RCSA really does not like its members to recruit staff from each other. It seems quite a staggering idea when we spend our life telling our clients that we’ll take staff from their competitors on their behalf. Maybe I’m biased as the co-owner of a rec to rec business, but I think recruiters moving firms is what keeps great firms great, and simultaneously cleans out the chancers. If a recruitment firm is constantly losing staff, is it because of the unethical poaching that the RCSA is so scared of, or is it that the losing firm has a crap culture and shit remuneration? Blaming a recruiter’s proactive approach is like blaming solely the mistress and not the straying husband. It’s not only the RCSA who are dark on this however. I remember Jon Rice once being called a “leech on the industry” by one of those grumpy old men at Enterprise Recruitment. Apparently, we’d taken a couple of his staff over the years. Hopefully we’ll take more. Here at Rice, we don’t take it personally however. I have a few rules I work by in regards to all things “poached”, and I sleep well enough at night. Here’s my 10 commandments:

  1. I don’t approach people who work for my clients
  2. However, just because we placed with you in 2012, doesn’t make you a client
  3. I will work with candidates from my clients if they approach me
  4. No, I won’t tell you when your Consultants approach us (and yes, this has been asked of us)
  5. I’m not fussy or clandestine on how I approach people. Mobile, desk phone, company email, smoke signals, followed home at night – they are all fair game
  6. I can proactively approach staff from your company and we can still work together in the future
  7. Yes, I will then stop approaching your staff
  8. Briefing us does not make you a client unless you pay me a retainer
  9. Yes, I know you think it does, and you think it will protect you, and you don’t really want us to hire from us, and you think we were born yesterday
  10. I can still be amicable and share a beer with recruitment firms that we recruit from. It is not personal, even if you want it to be because you’re an egotistical child

Anyway, that’s enough from me. Keen to get your thoughts on rules of engagement, so feel free to comment below.