As a new employee, is it common to edit assignment or non-compete agreements before signing?
If the conditions are reasonable, it is not common. Here are the main reasons:
- It isn't an easy sell
- There is no possibility of a counter-offer
- Most people aren't lawyers
Is that your plan?
If the conditions are reasonable, it's hard to argue against them. If you don't want to poach employees, why would you be against a clause making it a contractual obligation?
"But Employer, what if we part on good terms, and I join an employer that hires one of your former employees without my knowledge and places him below me without me knowing!"
So what's the solution, to throw out any clause prohibiting poaching because there could be a rare corner case? You can just ask the employer to assign them elsewhere until the expiration of that clause, and there is almost zero possibility that a manager would not be told about the work experience of someone they are supposed to manage.
Is this an ultimatum?
Unlike haggling over vacation time, perks, and salary (where you can trade from one to get more of another), the contract is usually delivered after the major items have already been decided. At the end of the day, one side has to say, "It's my way or the highway", and that's a risk that a lot of potential employees just don't want to take, especially if the clauses are reasonable.
If you do have deal-breaking clauses (things such as, "we own all your work produced anywhere using any resources in any way for now and forever. If we even think you thought up that idea while sitting in the company restroom, we will sue for ownership of that idea and send you to the poor house") then they should be discussed earlier if they are of a concern to you.
I enter in to contract negotiations in good faith, assuming that there won't be any absurd clauses like that in there, since I wouldn't want to work for a company that made crazy claims (and wouldn't feel uncomfortable walking away if they refused to remove them).
It's industry standard.
Most people are not lawyers, and won't even know an unreasonable clause when they see one. So the fact that as someone who does check you find it reasonable means that most people probably didn't bat an eyelash and signed, both in this company and others like it.
How many full-time employment contracts in your industry have you read over? Probably fewer than the company lawyers have. If the contract seems reasonable, chances are it isn't out of line with what the industry standard is. Even if it isn't, claiming that it is industry standard (or company policy) is going to put all but the strongest of souls off on pushing too hard.
If you really don't like the non-poaching provision, rather than fighting to remove it, fight to improve it. For instance, instead of this text:
For 24 (twenty-four) months after termination of this Agreement, the Employee is prohibited from directly managing a former employee of the Company
You can change it to something far less likely to cause an issue (assuming you aren't directly going to poach an employee).
For 12 (twelve) months after termination of this Agreement, the Employee is prohibited from directly managing a former employee of the Company in a direct competitor
Alternatively you can make it a bit more roundabout and more likely to work out in all reasonable cases for you:
For 24 (twenty-four) months after termination of this Agreement, the Employee must ask the consent of the Company (not to be unreasonably withheld) before directly managing a former employee of the Company. If the Company does not expressly prohibit such employment within 4 (four) weeks of submission of the request, the request will be implicitly granted.
Both will be uphill battles, but the point is that they both look to give the employer the same right to stop you from doing naughty stuff, while still giving you some leeway post employment if you really need it.
Before suggesting anything, you need to ask yourself, "Am I really willing to walk away from this job if they say no?"
If not, I'd suggest holding your tongue.