I was planning on a different topic this
week, but I received a telephone call yesterday afternoon from an old
colleague, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. He was presented
with a new opportunity. He is being recruited and is an attractive candidate.
But, he is faced with a tough situation. The potential new employer wants to
talk in very, very specific detail about some of his recent experiences. In
order to best answer the questions, he may violate his current employment
You see, he’s a top-notch sales
professional, well respected in his industry, and his industry is small. While
this new opportunity is slightly different, and wouldn’t necessarily be in
direct competition, his current employer may feel differently. Further, as I
just mentioned, he is being asked to share specific examples of his selling
cycle, process and problems that he has directly solved for his clients. He
called for my advice; he wants to get my take on how I would handle it. So
here’s what I told him.
Watch your back my friend, because you
never know who knows who, and you certainly don’t know what conversations may
take place without your knowledge. The geographic market you are in is a
tightknit business community and you cannot risk divulging information that may
come back to bite you. It is best to be upfront with this prospective employer
and ask them to put you into scenario-based interviews or role play. But, cut
them off before they can continue to ask, and let them know you are bound by
a confidentiality agreement, as well as a non-compete, and make sure they want
to continue. If they do, they will understand, and they will put assurances in
place that you will not be violating your existing agreement.
Pretty straight forward stuff, huh. So,
why then can I not stop thinking about this situation? Well, because although
it seems so obvious to take the ethical high road, such proper behavior seems to
elude so many faced with this same situation. Therefore, here are a few
cautionary points to consider if you are ever faced with the same concerns.
First of all, did you sign any type of
binding agreement with your current or past employer? Does is restrict what you
can or cannot say? Do you have a copy of the agreement? Are you aware of the
ramifications of violating any portion of the agreement? These are question you
should ask each and every time you are faced with a possible opportunity to
change employers. Most companies will rely on you, the prospective employee, to
disclose such information. If you do not, you may be fully responsible for your
actions, and if you violate an agreement you may well find yourself in court
and without a job.
Second, why would you take such a risk?
Ethical behavior is in question here. If you do not take the high road and
disclose your agreements to a prospective employer, they may wonder if you are
hiding something or if you can be trusted. Be upfront with them and you’ll have
a high percentage chance they’ll understand. You will gain their respect and
they will find an alternative method for interviewing you.
Third, do not volunteer any information
that may come close to the line or cross the line, it simply is not worth the
risk. Again, your current employer trusts you, and the prospective employer
needs to gain trust in you. You must avoid sharing details of a recent sale, a
successful project, or any details of your customers.
Finally, have copies of your agreements
handy. Make sure you can share the information in the agreements, but assuming
you can, leave a copy with the prospective employer. Let them know you want to
interview, that you are serious, and providing such access to your binding
agreements will say this to them.