Recruiters Don’t Steal People, Managers Lose People

So often recruiters are accused of  “stealing your best employee.”  While it is true that we do present opportunities to your employees, the fact is, we don't steal them. To the amazement of most recruiters, the vast majority of the time the employee already has a resume prepared and ready to go.

All we do is ask them if they would be open to discussing a potential career opportunity. Virtually 95% of the time the employee replies, “Yes.” Why would anyone not want to know what is going on in the market, have a discussion around their career or just get a feel for current compensation ranges? Even if they are completely happy in their current position, this is good stuff to know.

The important, and I believe the most relevant question is,” Why, out of the 95% that are open to discussing career opportunities, do roughly 10% indicate that they are happy with their job, and although it sounds like a good opportunity, they aren’t interested in pursuing it further?”

What do these 10% have that the other 90% don’t? That is something a recruiter has nothing to do with. They generally have four things, 1) they are learning in their current position, 2) they feel they are having some impact on the company, 3) they are growing, and 4) they respect their boss. When these four things are part of a person's job, the best recruiter can’t get them to move.

An example of this recently happened. I was jointly interviewing candidates with one of my clients.  At dinner one night, my client started asking me about the job market, “Is it picking up?” and  “Are any particular industries hiring?”  He mentioned that he thought the market was getting better because in the last couple of months he had been contacted a couple of times by recruiters for potential opportunities.  Like most, he listened to what they had to say, but in both instances he thanked the recruiter for the call and flatly turn them down.

Why, I asked?

Like most, his answer had nothing to do with compensation. He commented, “I enjoy what I’m doing. I have a great boss and most of all I’m challenged.” Then he added, “When I stop being challenged it is time to move on.” In fact, prior to being promoted to his current position he was looking. If his current position had not come open he would have left the company.

As he explained it, “My last boss treated me like a step child (I used step child. His word did start with an S). The position had lost its challenges, the job was the job, and that was all there was to it.” His boss was rarely around to support him and he was doing the same thing this year as he had done the last three years. Boredom and lack of respect for his boss had set in. The good news was that he worked for an excellent company. BTW, he has been with this company for 12  years and in his current position for 4 years.

This is a classic example of how one employee went from engaging recruiters to telling them, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

We realize that not every company has the ability to promote someone or move them to another position in order to retain them. However, that doesn't mean there aren't a number of things a company can do to help their best talent feel challenged, feel that they are learning, and be respected by their boss. This can happen in just about any sized company.

The best recruiter couldn't “steal” this person.  It all had to do with the job and the person's boss.  The vast majority of people leave because they lose respect for their boss.  The best selling book, First Break All The Rules, validates this. This book should be required reading for all managers, regardless of how many years they've been a manager. As recruiters for the last 30 years, my partner Barry Deutsch and I, can also validate this is clearly the number one reason candidates tell us they are open to talking about a new position.

To help companies and hiring managers identify some of the things that managers can do to retain their best talent we have put together for you to download our 8 Level Retention Matrix. This matrix will help you identify whether or not your managers are doing what it takes to retain your best talent.

If your managers do some, or most of these, you won't lose your talent to a recruiter. Your competition will.

You can also download for free our most popular chapter on sourcing top talent from our best-selling book, You're NOT The Person I Hired. CLICK HERE to download your free chapter.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Brad Remillard


About the Author

Brad Remillard is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Brad is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.


  1. I enjoyed this – thanks for writing it.
    I believe recruiters should get on their high horses abt this subject – this theft concept is ludicrous and works to companies’ advantage – that’s why they bandy about the terminology so loosely.

    Don’t be fooled, recruiters and don’t hold back.

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