Guest blog from Terkel.io

Competition in the job market is fierce. And while some industry-shattering shifts are taking place, history is the greatest teacher. Let’s take a look at highly memorable examples of when leading competitors lured top talent away from their fiercest competition at the time. By doing so, you can learn how to better keep your best talent and attract top job seekers in a competitive labor market.

Greatest Recruiting Poaches of All Time

 

10 business leaders share their most iconic recruiting poaches of all time with some invaluable lessons from each move.

  • The One Iacocca Poached
  • Netflix
  • Google Luring Away Vint Cerf from MCI
  • Apple Luring Justin Sullivan from Google
  • Amazon’s Darcie Henry Moves to Snapchat
  • Apple Against Burberry for Angela Ahrendts
  • Bill Gates and IBM
  • Sega Snatches Away Bruce Lowry from Nintendo
  • PwC Poaching Steven James Zeff
  • Me, With My Roommate

The One Iacocca Poached

One of the most notorious poaching escapades was when Lee Iacocca poached GM executive Robert Eaton over the Chrysler. Car companies are famously competitive and that was a huge move. It did a few things. Iacocca passed up his own top car guy, Bob Lutz, to be his successor, which he later said was a huge mistake. Selecting the uptight Eaton also was the first step to Chrysler’s demise. Eaton was the one who orchestrated the merger with Daimler-Benz. That led to a 2009 government bailout, which set up the company to be acquired by Fiat.

Baruch Labunski, CEO, Rank Secure

Netflix

Back in 2018, while Netflix and Activision Blizzard were discussing a joint venture to stream some of Activision’s content, Netflix saw a ton of potential in then-Activision CFO Spencer Neumann, and poached him. In fact, it’s rumored that legendary Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was actively involved in the bid to lure Neumann away from Activision. In the end, Netflix’s overtures succeeded, and they managed to snatch the up-and-coming CFO away from Activision.

However, Activision sued Netflix for interfering with its employment agreement with Neumann, who was under a three-year deal. This wasn’t the first time Netflix was sued for such actions either. They’d also been sued in the past by Fox and Viacom for similar poaching. Basically, Netflix has a major appetite for poaching top talent, and they don’t mind if they get sued for doing so along the way.

John Ross, Chief Executive Officer, Test Prep Insight

Google Luring Away Vint Cerf from MCI

One of the most significant recruiting events in recent times occurred when Google managed to lure away Vint Cerf from MCI. As one of the key individuals involved in the development of the Internet, Cerf was a major asset to MCI. However, Google recognized his potential and offered him a position that was too good to refuse. Cerf’s departure was a major blow to MCI, and it contributed to the company’s eventual downfall.

The incident is a reminder that even the most talented employees can be poached if another organization offers them a better opportunity. companies must be constantly vigilant in order to protect their best and brightest from being recruited away by their competitors.

Lorien Strydom, Executive Country Manager, Financer.com

Apple Luring Justin Sullivan from Google

One of the most well-known recruiting poaches occurred in 2014 when Apple lured away Justin Sullivan from Google. Sullivan was a key player on the Google Maps team, and his loss was a major blow to the company. In order to lure Sullivan away, Apple offered him a hefty raise, stock options, and a position on the executive team. The move was a major coup for Apple, and it helped to cement the company’s position as a leading player in the tech industry.

Travis Lindemoen, Managing Director, nexus IT group

Amazon’s Darcie Henry Moves to Snapchat

In May of 2021, Snap Inc. (Snapchat) poached Darcie Henry, a veteran Amazon exec to head up its Human Resources department. A Cornell grad who was with Amazon back when it was only four years old, she’s responsible for growing its team of employees to 1.3 million from a mere 2,000. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel says, “Henry has vast experience in leading large, rapidly growing teams around the world and will be a tremendous asset to Snap.”

Michael Van, CEO, Furnishr

Apple Against Burberry for Angela Ahrendts

In 2014, Apple Inc. recruited Angela Ahrendts away from her role as CEO of Burberry to be its first-ever Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores. Ahrendts was widely credited with turning around Burberry’s fortunes, and her experience in luxury fashion made her a perfect fit for Apple. In her new role, Ahrendts was tasked with overseeing the development and expansion of Apple’s physical and online retail presence.

Thanks to her leadership, Apple’s retail stores became some of the most profitable in the world, and the company’s online store experienced record sales growth. Ahrendts’ recruitment was a major coup for Apple, and she played a key role in cementing the company’s position as a global leader in consumer electronics.

Jim Campbell, Founder, Epic Caribbean Vacations

Bill Gates and IBM

While there are many great recruiting poaches of all time, one of the most notable is probably Bill Gates. In 1993, while he was still working for Microsoft, Gates orchestrated a merger between his company and IBM that resulted in him becoming CEO of Microsoft. This move ultimately led to him leading PCs into the digital age and creating some of the world’s most successful software companies.

Johannes Larsson, Founder and CEO, JohannesLarsson.com

Johannes Larsson NXTThing Pull Quote

 

Sega Snatches Away Bruce Lowry from Nintendo

Let’s head back to the mid-80s when one of the greatest recruiting poaches of all time occurred when Sega hired Bruce Lowry who at the time was Nintendo of America’s Vice President of Sales. Lowry became the new Sega of America President in a stunning turn of events. Sega and Nintendo were competing directly against each other in the hot new home-video game console market. Lowry and Nintendo were just coming off the massively successful launch of the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) and Sega tasked Lowry with launching their first console in the United States with the Sega Master System.

I don’t think you could have hired someone better with the knowledge and insight that Lowry had after just launching the NES, which was the biggest competitor for Sega. Lowry was lured away by Sega as they let him choose his office location (San Francisco) and lead the way in launching the SMS. It might not have been as successful as the NES, but it launched the console wars and helped the underdog Sega.

Seth Newman, Director, SportingSmiles

PwC Poaching Steven James Zeff

In 2002, PwC poached Steven James Zeff away from Arthur Andersen. Zeff was a key individual at Andersen and helped PwC to land a number of major clients. This was a huge recruiting win for PwC, as it not only increased their market share, but also gave them a significant competitive advantage. Zeff’s knowledge and experience were instrumental in helping PwC to become one of the world’s leading professional services firms.

Ludovic Chung-Sao, Lead Engineer & Founder, Zen Soundproof

Ludovic Chung Sao NXTThing Pull Quote

 

Me, With my Roommate

I met my roommate on Facebook, as I was new to Charlotte. She was relocating to Charlotte and worked in the same area in which I recruit in financial services. In the first 30 days of knowing each other, we moved in together, and I poached her for a Fortune 50 client and got her a 70% raise. After a crazy counter-offer from the competitor (her former employer) we ended up just $5k ahead of the competition in compensation, but she still took the leap from her old job to the job with my client. It was a huge poaching victory and a testament to why it’s so important to pay your employees what they are worth BEFORE they get offers from competitors. Proactive > Reactive.

Aurora Kitko, Recruiter, Ryan Consulting Group