Not so long ago it would have been a faux-par for a business to directly approach employees from their competitors. Not so anymore; over the last few years there has been a shift in attitudes and behaviour that has people claiming recruitment is dead.

Is this because platforms such as LinkedIn make it easier, personal contact information is more easily accessible or because the social barriers of doing so have dropped in the digital age?

It is now common practice across all sectors to directly engage people about opportunities and not just from the HR or talent acquisition teams. There are many who put this down to LinkedIn providing an easy portal to access to people’s job and contact information; the fact is anyone with a bit of training can map 90% of a business using just LinkedIn.

However, the reality is that businesses have always kept an eye on the competition and most sectors are small enough that people know each other across different companies.

There is not a professional that I deal with who does not have a mobile phone, this means you no longer need to call through the switchboard to reach people with some cover story. Typically these gatekeepers would act as a barrier and the idea of calling your competition to poach their people would verge on industrial espionage!

The digitalisation of our daily lives means we are now desensitised from constant communications from every angle and channel (for example 12bn emails were sent per day in 2000 compared to over 200bn per day now). Consider if you will how many recruitment businesses, boutiques and independent consultants there are approaching candidates.

In my view there are a few reasons for the change in behaviour that sees more businesses approaching candidates directly:

  • People are now more comfortable being approached through multiple channels by individuals they don’t know but can verify quickly with an online search whilst on the phone;
  • Talent acquisition has become a recognised part of business strategy and can add value rather than just being outsourced on an ad-hoc basis;
  • Information is easier to come by and the days of the headhunter’s black book are long gone;
  • The proliferation of boutique recruitment firms means there is no such thing as candidate exclusivity anymore;
  • There has also been a shift in social attitudes meaning you can approach employees from your competitors without fear of reprisal if caught out.

All of these factors have impacted agency recruiters and headhunters; a follow up to this article will look at how businesses should adapt to continue adding value.


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Businesses require the best talent in the long run but often interim support is invaluable.


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