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Welcome to the Hotel California - Companies That Recruiters Say They Won't Recruit From...

Know a company in your town you won't recruit from?  You likely do and it's based on you being burnt at least once, if not multiple times, from hiring talent from that company.  It didn't work out, so you've characterized all who work at that company as "persona non grata".  You wouldn't hire a young Jack Welch from that shop at this point if you found him available there.  After all, he's an alumni of THAT company.

Of course, it's never that simple, but human nature and the business press tries to make it that way.Hotel-california BusinessWeek has a interesting article up on the Companies headhunters love to avoid:

"BusinessWeek reached out to more than two dozen top headhunters and more than a dozen management consultants. The question: Which companies do they largely avoid recruiting from?

For all of the vaunted "academy companies" such as General Electric (GE), IBM, (IBM) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), revered for honing executive talent that thrives elsewhere, a significant number of companies are seen as weak in that realm. They may do well financially, but they can't seem to cultivate leaders others want to poach. Whether it's their quirkiness, poor leadership development, or political culture, these players have become the corporate equivalents of the Hotel California: You can check in and enjoy your stay, but the risk is that you can't leave. Three of the companies named as problematic by recruiters—General Mills (GIS), AT&T (T), and Intel (INTC)—made this year's ranking of best places to start a career.

Right away you should see a problem with the perspective of this article.  It's interviewing the type of executive headhunter that recruits for the C-suite, and that's not where most of us live.  For example, when I look for sales pros, I love seeing someone who has 5 years of sales experience at ADP.  Why?  Because I know that they've survived an environment that will train them, but also cast them out if they can't cut it.  So I get the benefit of all that training, and if a candidate's looking to move after that time period, odds are they're looking for more action.  Unfortunately, if you took this article's advice at the lower level, you would pass on that opportunity.  More from the BW article: 

One peril is a tendency at some companies to relegate managers to narrow duties, thereby fostering limited skill sets. A case in point, according to Minneapolis recruiter Mark Jaffe, is Automatic Data Processing (ADP). As Jaffe jokes: "You can be the vice-president in charge of payroll services for veterinary offices with between 8 and 12 employees at ADP, and you can do that for 20 years." Jaffe says that makes it hard to tell "what a manager's abilities might look like beyond that miniature scope." Benito Cachinero-Sánchez, head of human resources for ADP, disagrees and says the company's strong financial performance and low employee turnover are a result "of the opportunities that are created within the organization."

Same thing on the cultural fit side.  Sometimes you need the uber-aggressive vibe that only a cultural transplant can provide.  Again, believe the BW article and you would pass on all candidates from shops like Oracle and EMC:

Then there are the aggressors. Several Silicon Valley headhunters say they're now hesitant to recruit from two of the tech sector's most successful companies—Oracle (ORCL) and EMC (EMC)—because of their testosterone-driven, take-no-prisoners cultures. Managers who thrive there, they say, are often bad fits anywhere else. One recruiter describes Oracle as "Silicon Valley's version of the Bear Stearns trading desk. You've got a company full of men who would all walk over their mothers to get to the top. And EMC isn't too far behind." Oracle declined to comment. But Jack Mollen, executive vice-president for human resources at EMC, makes no apologies for what he calls a "results-oriented" culture. "Some people might feel it's aggressive, but our people want to be put in jobs where they can work hard, take risks, and get recognized," he says."

The moral to the story?  You can't make sweeping generalizations about any company.  Drink the kool-aid on articles like this and you miss good candidates below the C-suite that are likely a fit for what you need.  Better to rely on your own experience when drawing conclusions on which companies (and more importantly, talent pools within that company) to avoid in the marketplace.



Um..Since when is the culture at Oracle "bad"?? In the sales world wouldn't we all die to have that culture in our sales org? Maybe that's just me or maybe I haven't worked for any one who cared about my mother..

Kris Dunn

AWM - Couldn't agree more. Sometimes your culture needs someone that's more aggressive than the ones you currently have (regardless of dept..). That's when you go find someone from a smashmouth place that's not afraid to mix it up...


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