Another Back-Room Deal to Prevent Poaching

Chain Link FenceApple, Google, Intel, Pixar, Adobe, Intuit — large and prestigious firms — are all named as defendants in an anti-trust lawsuit over their supposed gentleman’s agreement not to poach software engineers from each other. If true, it would mean that if you’re a software engineer at Apple, but you really want to work at Google, well, no Google recruiter was going to call.

This isn’t the first whiff of anti-poaching collusion among these companies, either. In 2010, the Department of Justice came to a settlement around non-solicitation agreements involving six of them.

In fairness, none of these arrangements prevented engineers from applying to other companies. That Apple engineer could apply at Google and be considered for a position. The deal only addressed recruiting efforts.

This comes on the heels of last year’s uproar in New Jersey over job ads that specifically said only currently employed people should apply. In that case, the ads were from several different companies. The result was several states barring the use of such requirements in their postings.

One thing that’s becoming apparent: Companies are going even further in using past employment as a measure of future employability. Where you worked, what you did and how recently you did it are all even more important as they seek to differentiate good candidates from less-than-ideal. Like coding problems or references, a candidate’s work history provides guidance to their skills and qualifications.

What do you think? Is poaching just good hiring practice, or is it ethically questionable? Tell me what you think in the comments below.

Comments

  1. BY Fred Bosick says:

    Anything that restricts employee mobility is bad. Just imagine the uproar if someone tried to restrict capital mobility.

    Poaching, in the conventional sense, does not take into account the feelings of the animal being hunted. The poaching described here, isn’t. If each of these companies made efforts to value their employees and pay them properly, there wouldn’t need to be any defense against “poaching”. Any gentleman’s agreement is an admission that they’re worried that an employee might think working elsewhere is a good idea.

  2. BY R Michael Small says:

    “Where you worked, what you did and how recently you did it are all even more important as they seek to differentiate good candidates from less-than-ideal. Like coding problems or references, a candidate’s work history provides guidance to their skills and qualifications.”

    Not entirely. There are many people who are under, or un, employed for no reason other than decisions made at the top to cut costs, purchase lots of stuff as they bled dry the company, the wrong person was irritated, the right people were not stroked, etc. Conversely I am confident there are plenty of people working who are no smarter than, perhaps not even as smart as, those who are not. Addtionally, age, education, experience etc. which used to be viewed as positive attributes, are now being used to reject candidates. Meanwhile “tech companies” whine they cannot find enough qualified candidates, especially in the area of so-called “legacy” systems.

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