Here’s the scenario. I’m based out of DC. I recruit for a global strategic communications consultancy. Plain speak, it’s a PR firm. In DC alone (and I recruit for all of our North American offices), I can count out the dozens of direct competitors in this town who seek out the same kind of talent that I do, not to mention others who hire similar folks but compete for different bodies of business altogether (corporate communications, political communications, true media outlets, non-profits, think tanks… the list goes on). Some of them are smaller in size or scope, some are bigger than my company… but there are a lot of us who are all competing for the same talent. All told, my best guess is that there are probably a dozen plus HR pros and recruiters in DC (four times as many in NYC too) who do exactly the same kind of recruiting as me. And I’m sure there are more in my industry who I don’t know but are out there.
Bottom line, I’ve got competition. And that’s kind of a good thing when you consider that I’m a competitive person. I don’t like losing. And I’m a sore loser. I want to do better, be better than the others. I like to keep my eye on the competition as well. I am always checking up on how they’re recruiting (including which of them are jumping into the social media space, too). I try to keep up on what they’re recruiting for and who they’ve hired recently (check out their careers site, plus use LinkedIn for more data). And I try to keep tabs on who their key players are… just in case. You know, keep your friends close and the competitors closer. Or maybe not…
I recently had an interesting realization about my so called competitors. Last month, I was sitting on a panel discussion talking with a room full of 100 students interested in PR as a career at Howard University – and mid-way through this panel discussion, I realized that I pretty much had half of my competing recruiters sitting around me. And we were chummy in our chat with the students. We echoed each others’ sentiments, we talked about how we evaluate candidates similarly or differently, you could tell that we were all pretty friendly with one another and had respect for each other… and later that same day, I found myself talking it up and having a giggle fest with a recruiter for a competitor.
And then there are the other PR firm HR pros active in social media whom I’ve gotten to know. Amybeth Hale was one of them before she went to AT&T, then you have others like Trish McFarlane, Brian Batchelder and Michael Glazer. These are folks I follow, but not because I want to keep my competitors close to keep tabs on them. I am simply interested in them and what they are up to as fellow HR pros. Strange, kind of. Right?
But perhaps we can be friends! Call me crazy – but what I just finally recognized is that when you look at the hundreds of other PR firms out there, and then dozens who are big enough to be a direct competitor to mine… there are distinctions between us. Our cultures are unique and different from one another. There will be candidates drawn to other firms over mine, and vice versa. And as HR pros, part of the reason we’re all in this business is because we like to develop talent. We like seeing great talent find and take the right steps for their career to take them to the next level – and we want people to always land in roles that are going to be the right fit. The right fit isn’t always going to be with my firm, or their firm… but people will land where they are supposed to land. Won’t they? Let’s call it fate of sorts.
So what’s the harm in us being chummy and working together, even as competitors? Just something I’m thinking about of late.
Jessica Lee is a VP of TA at Marriott International where she leads a team that enables the company to think big, broad and boldly about all things talent acquisition and in effect, keeps them relevant and ahead of the curve in how they attract and acquire top talent. Don’t be fooled by that fancy pants title and description though, she’s still an everyday HR gal in the trenches at the core. SPHR certified, a decade and a half into trench HR life… she can whip up a corrective action plan or source for your purple squirrel in a heartbeat.