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Everyone in my team (3 people) is very much dissatisfied with the direction the company is going: The hours are long, the pay mediocre, and the pressure huge. We're all actively looking to change jobs. We're also recruiting a new team member to replace the one who left last month.

We had a great candidate, who I really liked not only as a potential coworker but also as a person. He's reluctant to change jobs, afraid of the consequences as his present job is not at all bad. Our HR is working hard on convincing him what a great workplace we are. Personally, I would hate for him to start working in this toxic place, especially after the entire team leaves.

I think I would like to contact him and let him know that we're all looking to leave soon. Can I, or do I have to stay loyal to the company? What are the possible consequences of warning him?

I am not working in HR. I was directly running the first round of interviews as a team member. I don't expect to have any more official interactions with him until he joins our team, so I'd have to reach out to him.

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    can you rephrase what you are asking? "Should I" questions are going to get opinions for answers. Questions like 'how can I discreetly do X" or "what potential consequences will X have" are more likely to get meaningful answers. – dbeer May 22 at 13:26
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    Can you edit your question and describe your involvement or responsibilities during the hiring process? I.e. are you responsible for communication with the candidate? Are you involved in the interview? etc. – dwizum May 22 at 13:27
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    I agree with dwizum. Anyone answering has to make an assumption about your role in the hiring process and that assumption may be the difference between a good answer and a bad one. Please clarify if your job duties will bring you into contact with the candidate organically or if you would need to create that contact. – Myles May 22 at 14:10
  • question from the other side: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/89567/… – aaaaaa May 23 at 0:01
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11 Answers 11

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Are you anticipating talking to the candidate as part of the interview process?

If so, then you should answer his questions honestly. You could make him aware of specific problems that he may come across, but don't badmouth the company. Ultimately it's his decision and his responsibility to do due diligence.

If not, and you're proposing contacting him unsolicited outside the process, then you are in risky territory. You are certainly exposing yourself to disciplinary action if the company finds out, which may well happen if the candidate declines an offer and the company ask why. (Though I accept you may not care about your current job, being fired will still make your next job hunt harder). There might also be data protection issues around obtaining the candidate's contact details without authority.

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    It sounds like he already interviewed the candidate, since he says he liked him as a potential coworker. – Barmar May 22 at 23:50
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    The advice still stands (with the word "again" inserted in the first sentence) - but it will seem even more weird to the candidate if RiverSong makes informal contact to say "no, don't come here" having given a different impression in the actual interview. – Julia Hayward May 23 at 7:27
  • Methinks the following is missing from this answer: OP could leave company review on Glassdoor, so as to help this and other candidates do their due diligence. – Denis de Bernardy May 23 at 12:29
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    True, but not all candidates use Glassdoor or take extremely good/bad reviews seriously. – Julia Hayward May 23 at 14:09
  • @JuliaHayward I feel like the potential employee would read between the lines for the discrepency between formal/informal contact. – Adonalsium May 23 at 14:44
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1. Do not misrepresent your company.

Important part of the interview is when you ask the candidate about his expectations of the new job and give him the overall idea about the work processes in your company. One of the points here is to make sure that your company doesn't, by any chance, have the same traits that were getting on candidate's nerves at his last workplace. Because if it does - the candidate would find that out the day he joins in, and he would certainly be unhappy about not knowing that up front. While you (and your team, and your company) want a happy colleague who wouldn't think that he's been tricked. Hence, put the facts plain and square, neither concealing them, nor decorating nor disfiguring your company. It is the right thing on many levels: making sure that the prospective candidate would stay; maintaining honest company profile; identifying weak points of your company and bringing them to the management.

2. Protective advices are for close friends.

To begin with, taking a personal advice requires trust. Are you sure he trusts you enough to take such advice from an interviewer? The second reason is that once he has all the facts he would make his own conclusions and wouldn't need that advice anyway.

3. Let him have his opinion and be his own master.

People who has left (or are going to leave) often tend to paint the things more grim than they appear to an uninvolved person. It's not about being dishonest, it's more about accumulated dissatisfaction. His opinion may vary. If he thinks that those facts are a molehill - so be it. Perhaps, he values that particular job higher then possible long hours. If after a few years he changes his mind - so be it, too.

4. Speak only for yourself.

Don't speak for other people. Statement like "we all think that ..." sounds like you're striving to give your claim all the weight it may get, while at the same time excusing yourself of sole responsibility for such opinion. Sorry, that just wouldn't smell good.

Edit: At the current stage, when your communication with the candidate is over, I wouldn't advice you to contact him behind the company's back. The best thing (in terms of honour) I can think of is to persuade the HR person to give the prospective candidate the key facts about the job. On the ground of representing the company in a fair way and hiring a consciously willing candidate.

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    This. Especially if you want to leave on good terms with the company in the future. – John Hamilton May 23 at 4:13
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    HR won't do that, because they want to hire the guy, and if they tell it like it is, they guy wont' take the job. Trying to convince them to will get no benefit, and will out the OP to the company. HR is not your friend. – Ben Barden May 23 at 13:05
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Can you? Yes. There is nothing stopping you, physically or legally. There are a variety of options on how to do this, if you choose to do it.

Possible consequences of telling him? If you tell him, and the word gets back to the company that it was you, you are reasonably likely to get fired before you can get a new job. The company would be correct to do it - you're being pretty blatantly disloyal - but that doesn't mean that it's the wrong decision, morally speaking. If the company finds out that someone warned him away, but doesn't find out who, then they might not fire you all, but it's likely that your relationship with your bosses will get even more toxic before you flee. If the company finds out from this that you're all planning on leaving, that could have similar results, but at the end of the day, the worst they can do to you is either fire you without severance or make your work life suck more.

You can control for this somewhat by reducing the information you provide to the potential new hire, and asking him to keep quiet on it. Make a throwaway email account, and give him a warning about the troubles with the company that doesn't directly say "and we're all leaving". It'll make it notably less likely that he'll say anything about his reasons, and even if he does, he won't know that it's you, and he won't know that you're all planning on leaving. It won't be as compelling as you telling him directly, but if he's uncertain, then it should be enough to ward him off.

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    "Blatantly disloyal" to a company that probably won't show you an iota of loyalty when things get tough ...yeah, I'm having trouble seeing the moral dilemma here. – Kenneth K. May 22 at 21:40
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    It's not hate mail since it doesn't disparage the recipient @TonyK – Ben Voigt May 23 at 1:37
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    @TonyK Hate mail is directed at the recipient. Otherwise anything negative written about a specific person in a letter could be hate mail. Source is en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_mail – Jon May 23 at 4:12
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    Legally, the OP probably has a contractual duty of loyalty to the employer. The employer could probably (theoretically) sue for damages; the only problem would be establishing what those damages would be. – Martin Bonner May 23 at 9:14
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    @TonyK After reading an email like that I would feel like I dodged a bullet, so I'm not entirely sure why that would ruin ones day. – EpicKip May 24 at 6:07
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If it's not him, another soul will get into the same problem. You cannot prevent everyone to join your team, and only giving heads up to the people you like would also be wrong. As long as you are part of the team, you should stay out of this, if you are asked to be part of the interview process either you decline or make sure you are not screwing it up. After you leave if someone ask you about the company you can say whatever you want. If you screw your company because they are screwing you, you are not much better than them. Just do your job well till the las day and move on when you can.

  • I agree almost completely, except that I don't think you need to decline to participate from the interview process. You should answer questions honestly, and fairly (e.g. "How would you describe working here?", "We'll, it is a high pressure shop, and we do put in some pretty long hours"), but you also need to realize that your answer is subjective. Maybe compared to where he is now, the hours are good and it is less pressure. – dan.m was user2321368 May 22 at 14:04
  • I agree, I suggested he decline if he cannot give propper opinions without talking shit about his company, for exaple the word "toxic" shouldn't be mentioned – Homerothompson May 22 at 14:27
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    "If it's not him, another soul will get into the same problem." - there are people out there for whom even a lousy job would be welcomed. This guy already has a job, and one that he's reasonably happy with. The only reason he's considering it is because HR has been doing really well at selling this lousy job. – Ben Barden May 22 at 14:41
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    I strongly disagree with this answer. The OP does not want to "screw the company", they want to be honest. There is no oath between employee and employer, just a contract that says the employer will give money for the OP work. Period. Lying to prospect employees is not part of the job description and in this situation I believe the moral thing to do is to be honest regarding the issues with the company. – Bakuriu May 23 at 21:07
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It wouldn't be in your or his interest to reach out to him to speak badly of the company. However, there is nothing stopping you from creating a friendship if you enjoy his company, and anything that is said would be... circumstantial. Or more like, you should make sure it is. When talking about the company, open it with a white card instead of a red one. Instead of saying

You shouldn't work this company because of [so and so]

Say

I recommend that you request a higher pay for the job; your responsibilities will definitely go beyond what they want to pay you.

Some people are better at dealing with stress and 'toxic' environments. He may as well get financial advantage.

Whether the above will lead onto him asking you the question you want to answer for him, such as whether it is a good workplace, is not something I'll know, but it changes facts from "our employee went out of his way to discredit us" to "our employee didn't find it his moral duty to lie about how he felt about this company." Should you be found out, that is, which I doubt you will be.

  • This is good advice. Some people can be quite resilient to "pressure" and they deserve to be paid accordingly because it can be quite valuable to the company. – mathreadler May 23 at 9:07
  • Assuming this company is a bad place to work, telling this to the candidate would indeed be in the candidate's best interest. – Dmitry Grigoryev May 23 at 11:07
  • @DmitryGrigoryev It might mean he will be too afraid to change job to a better one when that opportunity shows up, due to the stigma of all potential future job positions available to him coming with a chance of having a toxic environment which he isn't warned about. Talking honestly but objectively about the workplace is better, saying it is toxic is too opinionated. – Tryb Ghost May 24 at 8:59
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I'd say, stay within a proper employer (you are interviewing) and employee (the prospective candidate) relationship.

  • If, during the scheduled discussion, they ask

    If selected, are we going to work together?

    You can respond

    Most likely not, I will be leaving the organization soon.

    If they ask

    Why?

    Say

    I have my personal reasons.

    and leave it there.

  • No, you don't need to discuss / inform about others, staying or leaving.

  • You MUST NOT try to solicit them in any other ways/ channel apart of the official channel through which you're supposed to communicate. Remember, the candidate is not communicating with you in some personal capacity, they will be communicating with you in a professional capacity. I understand your feelings, but that said, there's professionalism. It's not about being loyal, it's about being ethical and legal.

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    Why the MUST NOT? An imperative of that strength seems like it would call for some justification. – Ben Barden May 22 at 14:01
  • @BenBarden If the candidate is a "potential candidate" and you're informing them of some information only someone from inside the organization can supply, via a out-of-band communication - you're participating in insider trading - which is mostly illegal. – Sourav Ghosh May 22 at 14:03
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    "Insider trading is the buying or selling of a publicly traded company's stock by someone who has non-public, material information about that stock." No one is buying or selling stock here. It doesn't apply. – Ben Barden May 22 at 14:06
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    Why take the chance? The OP has pretty much stated that they have zero loyalty to the company, and nonzero loyalty to the new applicant. "not desirable" is entirely based on who is doing the desiring. The company would obviously not prefer it, but, again, zero loyalty. I see no reason that it would be illegal other than possibly a deeply restrictive NDA, but we've heard no evidence of that. If you have reason to believe that it would be illegal, that would absolutely be pertinent, and you should include it in your answer. – Ben Barden May 22 at 14:38
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    @SouravGhosh, in USA if you work for a public company, somebody will tell you if and when you are not allowed to talk about the company's prospects to follow SEC rules about insider trading. If nobody has talked to you about it, you're not one of those insiders. – O. Jones May 22 at 17:31
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I would say no, do not warn your potential employee away.

Try not to take this the wrong way, but it's possible the toxic environment you are describing might leave along with your team.

Or, maybe all of you quitting might be the wake-up call that your management needs to fire a bad manager.

Or, maybe what you don't like about your current job the new guy would find exciting and a rewarding challenge.

In any of those cases (or others) you would be doing him or her a disservice by tainting their opinion about the company. If you have interaction with them during the hiring process, absolutely answer their questions honestly. I wouldn't mention that you are leaving, unless it is already public knowledge; you wouldn't want your manager or coworkers to find that out that way.

  • I guess the only possible caveat would be (though not sure how this would change the answer) if the toxicity rises to the level of criminal behavior. In any case, this is a good answer. – bob May 24 at 16:34
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I agree that someone who's reasonably happy in their current job should not be deceived into taking a new one that sounds like it has little chance of turning out well. If he was desperate it'd be different, but allowing someone to come in these circumstances is not morally justifiable.

However you should also cover yourself. So I wouldn't badmouth the company directly or extensively, and certainly not say anything about anyone's plans for leaving as that is too fraught with potential repercussions. I don't see anything wrong with sending him a friend request on LinkedIn, and reaching out in a friendly-like way 'hey, interviews are limited, I just wanted to make sure you could get answers if anything's occurred to you since'.

Hopefully he'd have some questions, or you could get into a friendly conversation (coffee after work?) where you could let slip some honest info ('boss is a psychopath', 'releases are catastrophically buggy', 'no raise in 3 years'). I like the advice to do that on the phone or in person so there's no written trail. But you know, whatever is in the flow of the conversation,casually mentioned, without getting into a real bitch session about it. More like 'why are you thinking of leaving your current position?', with a side serving of how it's worse at yours. If he's perceptive, you won't need to let slip more than one of those and he'll realize that he should bail. If he's not, then, well, you'll have done your best.

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Based on my own Personal Opinion I would say, contact him via phone after work and clue him in. Again this is my own personal opinion. But I were to looking to join a new team, and I was running blindly into a toxic, unstable environment I would really appreciate a heads up from someone on the inside.

However, that being said. If your current office got wind of your warning that would prove most difficult for you including you getting fired. So be prepared for that.

As a side note, I suggested calling him vs an email to not leave any kind of paper trail. if the candidate were to tell HR someone called him and warned him you could deny deny deny deny. But if the candidate were to forward an email he received to your HR it would be hard to deny.

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    This is horrible advice. When you take their money, you have certain obligations to them - one of which is to not do anything to harm the company. Reaching out to the candidate, to tell him to decline an offer, or list all the bad things with your team, would definitely harm the firm. While you have a right to answer questions honestly (e.g. "How would you describe working here?", "We'll, it is a high pressure shop, and we do put in some pretty long hours"), it would be extremely wrong to reach out and contact him at all, especially to dissuade him from joining. – dan.m was user2321368 May 22 at 14:02
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    @dan.mwasuser2321368: A new hire turning around and quitting as rapidly as they can find another job doesn't provide the company any value, so pre-empting it doesn't harm the company. – Ben Voigt May 23 at 1:41
  • @BenVoigt If the OP knew for sure that this would happen, then they already screwed up their company by recommending to hire an unsuitable candidate. – Dmitry Grigoryev May 23 at 11:14
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As others have already said, don't colour things with your own opinion of the company, you could find yourself in trouble. Just answer any questions as honestly as you can.

In the mean time it is the job of the potential-hire to decide for themselves whether they want to take the job - that should include things like looking at the Glassdoor website for employee ratings - as such, you could fill out the form on Glassdoor.com and hope that the potential-employee comes across it in his due-diligence

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If you are part of interview process I don't think you should say or do anything that makes him reconsider. If it is tracked back to you, then it will make you look unprofessional. Like you wasted or sabotaged a potential hire for the company.

But maybe other people not part of interviewing can give him some signs for him that things are not as good at this place as he thinks?

protected by Mister Positive May 23 at 15:06

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