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I am fresh out of university (CS degree) and was able to secure a job with the help of university with the condition that I will join it later on (as not joining strains university relations with the company although once I have my degree they can't do anything). I took it and also got the signing bonus (which I have to pa back if I leave within 1 year) and will be joining it. Call this company A.

I also applied at a startup (startup B) which has a high hiring bar since I assumed they wouldn't get back to me, but they did and I am going to have a phone screen soon. Should I continue with the screen and further interviews? And what should I say when they ask about my current offers from university (as it is expected any good student will have offers). Should I hide it or come clean. Also, should I divulge the company A name if asked during the screen?

The work at startup (fairly stable revenue) is probably better for my career development but if I take that job the university and the company A would be quite mad. I have got mixed reviews about (one was extremely bad and other said it was good. The bad one guy is not credible from what I've heard) company A but I would like to join and see for myself. The pay will be much higher in the startup and it will be fast paced but I'm not sure how stable the job will be.

People in company A and startup know each other quite well. What's the best course of action considering I want to maximize career growth and salary but be ethical?

  • @gnat Thanks for the link. I have already committed to company A by accepting their offer (few months back) and bonus and my university is also involved so it is slightly different I think. It'd be great if you could provide some advice. – user415612 Dec 6 '19 at 13:17
  • Where is this located? Did you sign an actual contract? Did you cash the bonus already? Do not tell the University anything. They're getting a commission from company A. They're not to be trusted. No, do not tell the startup the name of the company. I can't believe you're even asking that. If you tell them, it's game over. Never share company names with the people you're interviewing. You're playing a dangerous game. Do you even know for sure that the startup is really independent from company A? If you really want to burn company A, you should do it with a different company not owned by them. – Stephan Branczyk Dec 6 '19 at 13:32
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We can´t tell you what to do. First make up your mind where you ultimately want to be. Startup can be quite exciting, but can also be a hell to work in an with no experience... you will probably be expected to do get things done with little supervision.

If you want to stay at A, tell B you have singed a contract elsewhere. Tell them you are sorry but the other opportunity arose and you did not think they´d get back to you. Tell them you´d like very much to work with them but you have to honor your commitments - you´ll get back to them should the other thing not work out.

If you want to get to B, also tell them that you have a competing offer. Continue the interview process and look closely if this is really what you want to do. The interview is the opportunity for you, to get a closer look at your future workplace. Ask Questions and - if you can - talk to other employees about the work environment there.

If you are convinced that you will have a better future with B, nobody can make you work at A - although it is extremely bad style to sign something and then back off. You will burn some bridges. Take it as a learning. You can almost always ask for more time, before signing something!

Oh, and never disclose the company name of any competing offer. Especially if the people there know each other! You could find you chances disappearing very fast.

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Continue interviewing. If company B makes you an offer and you decide to take it, let company A and your university know as soon as possible. Until that time, however, do not divulge the fact that you're interviewing to anyone who does not strictly need to know.

If asked by your university, dodge the question by pointing to your offer from company A. If asked by company B, answer in the affirmative but do not provide details. If asked by company A - and I don't see why they would, prevaricate or lie.

It may go against your instinct, but it is not unethical to keep private matters private. Doing otherwise could prove a very costly mistake.

  • Thanks for the very helpful answer. Say I get B's offer and accept it, do you see any way in which A might contact B as many people used to work together (with B's CEO, CTO etc. as A acquired a company by CEO of B 4-5 years back). I checked on Linkedin and found many connections across companies. Should I be concerned or am I being paranoid? – user415612 Dec 6 '19 at 14:46
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    You never know. Probably not formally, but it might come up informally. This is why you should avoid angering anyone at company A. If you want to play it safe, wait until you signed company B's contract before informing company A. The downside is that company A will have less time to find someone else, so the probability that someone will be angry increases. (All of this is assuming that company A and B conduct independent hiring policies - otherwise it would be very stupid to continue with this.) – perenniallydisappointed Dec 6 '19 at 15:30
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And what should I say when they ask about my current offers from university (as it is expected any good student will have offers).

Its unlikely they will ask. I've seen it a few times, but its really not that common. There's no good reason for them to care about offers unless they are trying to take advantage of you divulging too much information to lowball you on salary. I'm not so sure about that last part "any good student will have offers", since how good of a student you were really holds little weight. Jobs are jobs, not new schools. They aren't going to care about your transcript. They care about achievements, and that generally comes from extra-curricular activities like hackathons and special projects.

The work at startup (valued around 250-300 mil) is probably better for my career development but if I take that job the university and the company A would be quite mad.

The university isn't your problem anymore. Company A isn't going to be "quite mad", I think you are vastly overestimating how invested recruiters are in fresh graduates.

What's the best course of action considering I want to maximize career growth and salary but be ethical?

There's nothing unethical about taking new positions. You don't owe anyone anything that isn't explicitly laid out in a contract or in your job position. But you do owe yourself the responsibility of doing the best you can for yourself. Also, the terms of Company A hiring you came with an exit clause for a reason.

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