Recruiters Going Rogue

Dec 9, 2009
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

srs-logoI was listening to Fred Wilson speak at the Social Recruiting Summit about a month ago and found myself wondering what a venture capitalist was doing speaking to a bunch of corporate recruiters. Of course his involvement in the funding for web 2.0 companies such as Twitter and Indeed is a natural connection to a conference aimed at using social media to recruit, but the world of a corporate recruiter is so much different than that of VC. As we neared the end of his presentation I decided to let him attempt to draw the connection for me.

My question was very simple, but I didn’t expect to get a valuable answer. You see, I am the type of person who always asks a question when listening to a presentation, but rarely receive insightful answers. I have come to expect a mediocre response which includes some degree of “it depends” and ultimately proves to be relatively useless. This was definitely not the case with Fred.

I asked him how a recruiter bound by an infinite number of legal and policy restrictions can influence corporate leadership to embrace new technology which has yet to be proven as an industry standard. The question also has implications for influencing leadership on any issue which is a bit edgy. Fred’s answer: “Go rogue.”

What he meant was to go out and execute your plan, and then present your results to those who were skeptical. The idea is that it is much harder for someone to argue with results than it is to argue against intentions. When you think about the source of this comment, it all starts to come together. VCs make a living by looking for situations where others do not necessarily buy into the proposed payoff, and then prove those people wrong. I guess there is a good reason to have a VC talking to a bunch of corporate recruiters.

As a corporate recruiter I understand the draw of this approach, but I believe there are three key ideas needed to make it successful.

  1. Don’t break the law, or any important company policies. Going rogue is a tactic to be used when you can’t get support for a strategy, not for violating intentional strategies by your company.
  2. Do the majority of this work on the side. Who gets mad at an employee for putting in time on the nights and weekends to keep their company on the cutting edge?
  3. Share your results when the time comes. Don’t talk about the time you spent on the weekends or any “I told you so’s.” Focus on the positive impact which has resulted, and what this means for the company.

It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. But, if you achieve strong results you may not need to do either.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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