The Rules of Engagement of Hiring from Suppliers or Partner Companies

The very thought of a trusted supplier or partner poaching anyone might be completely unseemly in theory. Perhaps it feels a bit less tense when the shoe is on the other foot, but still: it’s a touchy subject. Many companies have contracts and legal protection against such actions, but it still happens. It’s natural through the course of business that relationships are created where some decide to explore their career options through the supplier/partner relationship. It’s been happening for decades, and it’s going to continue.

The Rules of Engagement of Hiring

That said, there are some basic rules of engagement which should be heeded when hiring from a partner company or trusted supplier. Proceed with caution, and remember these critical rules of engagement:

Don’t purposely poach

The first rule should be somewhat obvious, but it bears repeating: do not actively source talent from your trusted business relationships. It’s bad business practice to declare open season on suppliers and business partners: the result could mean the end of your relationship, legal fees, and reputation. If a hire presents themselves through the course of business and you arrive at a mutual agreement to bring them aboard, that’s fine. But don’t consider the employee rosters of your business partners and suppliers ripe for the picking.

Do know the legal implications

If your contract with your intended hire’s current employer prevents you from bringing them aboard without severing the relationship and/or incurring financial or legal penalties, do not proceed. Also, obtain all legally-binding non-competes that could prevent or delay the hire. Always involve legal counsel in these situations.

Don’t be reckless

Interview times must never occur on the clock of your current relationship. Any and all conversations must be had privately and outside of billable time. Also, don’t ask the candidate to break any non-disclosure agreements during the interview, and be especially careful performing reference or background checks of any kind so as not to endanger their current employment.

Do be upfront once you’re ready to make the hire

This is tricky and it depends on the depth of your relationship with your new hire’s company. It’s always best for the longevity of your corporate relationship to be honest and forthright about the fact that someone from their team is leaving to join yours. That said, there will certainly be questions: who approached who, how and when did it happen, etc. It’s best to be honest as possible without endangering the relationship and to do it as soon as it’s prudent for both you and the new hire. Ideally, you can always position it as a win-win, especially if the former employee will help your company provide even better goods and services for your partnership.  But you must approach this conversation with incredible care and it should happen as soon as possible.

Even though hiring from suppliers and partners is complicated, it does happen. Follow these rules of engagement and you will most likely emerge on the brighter side of one of the trickier aspects of the war for talent.

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