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I will agree that's one of the reasons why companies frown upon entrepreneurs. As a recruiter and entrepreneur who is looking, my opinion is that companies are trying to find people that fit in the organization. They're assumption is people work in a corporate setting would know the office dynamics. In addition, they view entrepreneurs as rebels or independents who might disrupt the culture, which is an unfair assumption.

I think companies need to stop looking for finding people who fit and find people who they can associate with.

I think another bias is that the entrepreneur has not been subject to formal peer review (as performed through a structured performance appraisal process).

To a hiring manager inclined to think this way, an entrepreneur could theoretically be successful without being a solid HR practitioner; success could have come by schmoozing unsuspecting customers or implementing ill-advised plans in order to satisfy a demanding customer.

Also, if the candidate is a successful entrepreneur, why do they want back into the corporate world as opposed to keeping their practice going? That line of thinking will have the hiring manager deciding that the only reason the entrepreneur wants back in is that their business is tanking, which must mean they're not very good.

I consulted for nine years and helped customers fill HR positions. I *know* they had those biases, because they voiced them to me. I wound up 'wanting back in' because the economy was tanking and I feared for my pipeline (or rather, I lost my faith in it). I ended up accepting an offer from my biggest client, who had a realistic preview of my work and attitude.

Those who have thrown off the corporate harness are forever suspect. They cannot be trusted to go along to get along, may disrupt the normal corporate political games with unduly irreverent and unwelcome independent opinions and have demonstrated a totally unacceptable willingness to abandon salaryman status. They carry dangerous germs that might be infectious. Granted, their pursuit of renewed serfdom suggests they SHOULD better appreciate a regular income now that they are no longer responsible for making a payroll, but that implies they were unsuccessful when independent and that is additionally damning.

Employment is essentially a heuristic activity. Recruiters and hiring managers seek the safest choice and eliminate prospects until reaching the candidate everyone agrees holds absolutely no risk. Thus, ex-HR-entrepreneurs start with multiple disadvantages. If their hire ends badly, everyone connected with the decision would see their careers damaged; therefore, hiring authorities rarely select such tainted candidates and tend to choose the safest rather than take a bold risk that could rebound.

Wonder if that kind of discrimination would have applied to ex-independent CPAs, doctors, attorneys or engineers? Don’t think so, from my experience. There could be something unique about the possible arrogance of HR entrepreneurs thinking they could substitute their judgment for that of the top management of the enterprise that hired them as employees rather than outside experts.

Tracy, Elizabeth and Jim:

Thanks for the thoughtful discussion and ideas offered. Particularly intriguing is Jim's question of whether this dynamic exists in other professions - or is unique to (or more powerfully present in) the Human Resources field. Interesting food for thought!

I went from practicing law to starting my own HR and business consulting company. I needed to relocate to a different state for family reasons, so I ended up closing my business and looking for HR employment. During the interview process with a large company I actually had a hiring manager tell me that my HR consulting experience didn't count since it wasn't real HR work. I was dumbfounded. It seems like there is perception that being an entrepreneur isn't real work. I'm here to tell you it was the hardest job I've ever had.

I think HR practitioners who have never had an experience outside of working for corporate employers don't know or understand the depth of knowledge and experience you need to have in order to be a true trusted adviser to your clients. There's no fake it until you make it when you own your business.

I was fortunate to find a smaller company to work for that appreciated both my legal background and entrepreneurial efforts, but having started the job hunting process again I find similar attitudes prevail. Very unfortunate that HR is perpetuating stereotypes. Aren't we supposed to be pushing through walls like this to find the best candidates?

Thanks for sharing your experience and story here, Heather. Again, can't help wondering what the results would have been if the researchers here "sampled" other professions beyond HR.

It’s really sad to think that the managers in large corporations are this suspicious of HR entrepreneurs who can bring a creative perspective to their “standard” ways of doing things.

My experience is the exact opposite of what has been noted above. My firm provides HR services to small companies under 200 employees. Since 2005, I have personally been offered at least 2 great jobs each year, but turn them down because I’m not interested in working for someone again. Recently, I lost a great partner from our firm to another fantastic job offer.

I think that it is interesting how the small firms, that often stand in awe of large corporations, are really the more aggressive businesses because they are looking for the elements that move them to the next level as compared to the big companies that seem to be looking to stabilize the current level and maintain the status quo.

Appreciate hearing your experience and point of view Richard - thanks for sharing it here!

We're hearing from a lot of people who are themselves (or have been) entrepreneurs ... would be interesting to hear from the corporate point of view on this question. Anyone?

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    Compensation consultant Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. Ann has more than 20 years of experience consulting with organizations in the areas of compensation and performance management.

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