SmartRecruiters Blog

Your Best Weapon Against Talent Poachers May Surprise You

The war for talent is cause for dread among many employers. No one wants to fall victim to talent poaching, and companies often shy away from the issue and end up losing their best people.

But with the job market improving and the competition for talent heating up, this situation isn’t going away any time soon. The choice is yours: You can either suffer losses or embrace the battle.

The Talent Poaching Problem

Talent poaching has become a growing concern as the economy booms. No matter what industry you’re in, your competitors are on the hunt for the best workers — even if they’re already spoken for.

Talent poaching can hurt financially, but it also hurts on a personal level. When someone is poached and leaves our company for a competing firm, we feel as though we didn’t live up to our standards to ensure that the employee wanted to stay and grow with us.

Even though poaching is unpleasant, it’s a reality we live with. The best way to fend off poachers and retain employees is to build a strong company culture that’s immune to whatever perks and prestige your competition can offer.

Use Your Company Culture as a Weapon

The fact that your competitors want to recruit your employees speaks very highly of both your employees and the mangers who train and lead them. If they weren’t exceptional workers who drove your profits and were enjoyable to work with, no one else would want them.


To keep these outstanding team members, you must make sure they have the best possible experience within your company so they aren’t tempted to leave. Here are four ways to create a culture that can help you hold on to top talent:

1. Infuse Your Company Culture into Your Hiring Culture

Better retention starts with a solid hiring process. Only add people to your team who are a good cultural fit. Base a portion of your interview process exclusively on ensuring that the applicant naturally aligns with your company’s core values. Every person is unique, and you should spend plenty of time during the interview getting to know him or her as much as possible.

2. Celebrate Success

There are countless ways to do this, but no matter what, make it a big deal. If you host an awards ceremony to reward team members who embody your company’s core values, send official invitations, get trophies engraved, serve champagne and cake — the works!

We have everyone submit a “bucket list” of 10 things they want and use that list to offer rewards and incentives for such winners. Personalized rewards are more meaningful than money because they show employees you truly care. They can be strong motivators and help develop long-term loyalty.

3. Reward Employees for Being Desirable

Each time our team members get a recruitment email from a competitor, we reward them with a bottle of wine. The wine is both a celebration of the fact that they have proven themselves to be highly sought-after and a token of appreciation for their loyalty to us.

4. Make the Most of Losing an Employee

With the search for talent as competitive as it is, you’re bound to lose an employee now and then, no matter how great your company is. But don’t get caught up in the loss. Here are some positive aspects that you can take advantage of:

     A. Learn for the Future

As transparent as we hope to be, people are usually more honest once they leave a job because they have nothing to lose. Conduct thorough exit interviews, and ask about areas that you can improve for future hires. Ask about the expectations of the role, opportunities for growth, onboarding, assessment plan feedback, and company roadmap. Look for mistakes on your end and ways to improve employee retention in the future.

     B. Don’t Burn Bridges

Losing employees to competitors can actually improve your business due to the influx of information. Social ties don’t always end when professional ones do, and it’s natural for former co-workers to get together occasionally for drinks or dinner to talk shop. If you and your team members remain on good terms with poached employees, you’re much more likely to keep the lines of communication open, giving you a broader scope of insight into your field.


As uncomfortable as it may be, your company is at war. You can sit idly by and risk losing your top employees, or you can be proactive and give your staff members the best opportunities possible. A culture committed to recognizing the value of your employees is your best weapon against talent poaching, so batten down the hatches and break out the bubbly.


ben kirshner elite semBen Kirshner is the CEO of Elite SEM, a fast-growing online marketing agency with a passion for building a team of industry experts. Elite SEM was recently named Crain’s New York Business #1 Best Place to Work 2013 and a Top 7 Tech Company to Work For by Mashable, and it has a Glassdoor 4.9/5 rating. Photo Credit infoq.

 SmartRecruiters is the hiring platform with everything you need to source talent, engage candidates, and make great hires. Read more on Hiring Culture.

Ben Kirshner