Imagine this scenario: You’re at your desk, battling a deadline when an associate (or perhaps a headhunter) informs you that a high-achieving employee from a rival company, let’s call him “Paul,” is inquiring about job openings at your company. While Paul would be a great fit, there are currently no vacancies. What do you do?

You could either (A) return to your pile of unending paperwork, or (B) extend an invitation for a casual lunch with Paul. The right answer is option (B).

While you might be tempted to focus on your immediate workload, hear me out. What you don’t know about this situation could be potentially disadvantageous. Here are some things to consider:

  • Paul’s availability and how it aligns with your company’s hiring schedule.
  • Possible openings due to current team members seeking opportunities elsewhere.
  • Insights Paul might provide about upcoming changes in the competitor company, offering you a strategic advantage.
  • Gaining a better understanding of your competitor and your own company from Paul’s perspective.
  • Building rapport with Paul who could rise to influential positions in the future and offer you opportunities.
  • While this doesn’t mean you should meet everyone who expresses interest, it’s worthwhile for high performers and those in roles that are challenging to fill.

During the call, introduce yourself and express your interest in understanding their career aspirations. In the meeting, clarify that there are no current openings but you’re interested in learning about what they’re seeking in their next role. Also, ask about their reasons for exploring opportunities outside their current company.

The responses will indicate whether your company could provide what Paul is seeking, and whether his expectations are realistic. If not, the conversation still serves as a valuable opportunity for gathering industry insights and competitor information.

The conversation could lead to one of three outcomes:

  • Paul could be a potential asset to your team, fitting well into your company’s culture and achieving his goals.
  • Paul’s expectations are unrealistic.
  • Paul’s expectations are realistic, but your company can’t meet them.
  • In the latter two cases, try to gather as much information as possible about your competitor and share this with your HR department and superiors. This is also a chance to evaluate and optimize your own team’s performance.

Treating Paul respectfully and valuing his insights not only earns his respect but also could lead to beneficial networking opportunities. Paul might even refer potential candidates to you in the future. Networking at this level can offer numerous benefits.

If you determine that Paul’s goals align with your company and his expectations are realistic, the next step is to understand his timeline for transition. Depending on this, you may need to review your resources and plan accordingly. If you realize that another company might be a better fit for Paul, do not hesitate to suggest it. Good karma never hurts.

In planning for potential changes, assess your team, particularly the least performing member. Consider how replacing this person with Paul could improve your team’s performance. If the benefits are significant, arrange for a formal interview within two weeks.

Identify ways to reallocate your least effective team member to a more suitable role. If none exist, consult with HR and your superiors to explore options for enhancing your team’s performance. Remember, successful companies continuously strive for improvement.

For more insight and tips, drop an email to Dan Simmons at 

About the Author

Dan Simmons founded Continental Search in 1996 but focused exclusively on animal nutrition recruiting in 2002. He is currently focused on recruiting top talents such as nutritionists, technical support professionals, sales managers, and executive-level positions, including technical directors and VP of sales and marketing.

Dan has won over 20 awards from Top Echelon Network, America’s leading placement network, including Placer of the Year in 2009 and the prestigious Million Dollar Award. He also authored seven eBooks—all available for FREE download here

For the latest job opportunities, you may connect with Dan on LinkedIn or email him at