Need Talent? 25% of Companies Are Contacting Competitor Employees Directly

Latest i4cp study reveals almost half of companies recruit from competitors, while a quarter contact competitor employees directly

SEATTLE, WA (December 10, 2009) - The recession may have weakened the war for talent, but the battles have intensified. In the latest member-driven study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), which looked at competitive recruiting practices among organizations, a quarter of companies said they recruit new talent by contacting their competitors' employees directly. Over 40% say they actively source competitors' employees in certain positions to a moderate or higher extent.

The study, the results of which are now available exclusively to i4cp members, also revealed that, when searching for talent, 67% of respondents' organizations utilize recruiting firms to fill positions. Not surprisingly, large companies (10,000 employees or more) are more likely to use an external firm (79%) than firms with 1,000 workers or fewer, which reported they do so 58% of the time.

Though a majority of organizations use external recruiting firms, a third of respondents said that using headhunter techniques are seen as "bad form" for internal recruiters, and a quarter stated that they damage a company's brand.

Mostly, companies polled use external searches selectively. Overall, 58% said they use headhunters to fill certain key positions. In high-performance organizations - firms that consistently outperform their competitors in market share, revenue growth, profitability and customer satisfaction - 63% use external firms for filling key positions, compared to 54% of lower performers. Overall, only 15% said they use the option "fairly often" for a minority of jobs in the organization.

"These study results speak to the fact that many organizations are concerned not just with finding talent, but with finding the right talent," observed i4cp senior research analyst Carol Morrison. "Developing current employees for advancement is an excellent strategy, but recognizing that there are times when a company can benefit from hiring externally and adding fresh perspective is a very practical and relevant sourcing approach, too."

In general, senior leadership positions are the most likely to be targeted for headhunting services, with 66% of respondents tabbing that as their top choice, followed by positions where talent is difficult to find (44%), and 40% of respondents use headhunters to fill high-skilled positions.

Regarding the future use of headhunting for talent searches, the results are mixed. Overall, 23% of polled organizations said they don't plan to headhunt in the near future, while 22% are "discussing" the option, 20% are planning to try it on a limited basis and 16% plan to use headhunters on an increasing basis. Almost a quarter (23%) of high-performance organizations plan to increase the use of competitive recruiting practices, compared to just 4% of lower performers.

So, how else are companies recruiting these days? According to the study, 13% opt for online search engines (Google, etc.) from a high to very high extent, and the same percentage turn to LinkedIn as an avenue for finding talent search options. High-performance organizations are more likely to use search engines (20%) and LinkedIn (12%) than lower performers (23% and 9%, respectively).

The Competitive Recruiting Practices survey was conducted by i4cp in November 2009. The full results of the survey are available exclusively for all i4cp corporate members.

About i4cp, inc.

The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) is the world's largest vendor-free network of corporations focused on building and sustaining a highly productive, high-performance organization. Our vendor-free community facilitates innovation by giving our members - among the largest and most respected organizations in the world - access to:

  1. Peers to spark new ideas and prevent "reinventing the wheel,"
  2. Research to enable members to understand current practices and next practices,
  3. Tools to put ideas and research into action,
  4. Technology to enable members to easily access tailored information and execute workforce strategies.

With more than 40 years of experience and the industry's largest team of human capital analysts, i4cp is the definitive destination for organizations seeking innovative ways to improve workforce productivity. For more information, visit

Erik Samdahl
Erik is the head of marketing at i4cp, and has nearly 20 years in the market research and human capital research industry.