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Some time ago I left a company to work for another. Now that I'm back in the market I was approached by a direct competitor of the first company and they want to start a hiring process with me.

I liked what was explained to me over the phone, the way of working, the methodologies used and I have accepted to start the hiring process.

There is no restrictive covenant in the contract of employment of their competitors I used to work for that prohibits you from working for a competitor for X months or years after leaving the company, only that during my employment there I shouldn't be seeking work at competitors. It's been some time since I left so this covenant does not affect me.

Having said that, the fact remains that I have knowledge of the previous company's technologies, platforms and the way the teams work. I still have contacts there and working for their competitor could alienate them. My ex-line manager and his line manager are still in that company and I was thinking whether I'll get good references for this new role or any future role if I was to accept an offer in their competitors. On the other hand I am no longer employed there and perhaps other ex-employees would happily work for a competitor too after some time.

Are there any issues I should be aware of should I go work for the competitor?

closed as unclear what you're asking by IDrinkandIKnowThings, CMW, jcmeloni, CincinnatiProgrammer, gnat Dec 2 '13 at 10:16

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    What is the problem you are asking help in solving? A poll of people who have been in this situation is not the type of question SE can help with. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 27 '13 at 20:46
  • Aside from the non-compete clauses I am pondering about the impact on the relationships with former colleagues (managers and same-level co-workers); but as Neuromancer said they should behave in a professional way. – Kurt R Nov 27 '13 at 21:00
  • @Chad no one is polling anyone. Though theories are important, this is a very broad topic and anyone who has been there can give us a better account. Of course no one has to, and theories will suffice just fine. – Kurt R Nov 28 '13 at 14:04
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    That really is not the type of question that works well here. How can I do X works much better than what should I watch for. As you say it is very broad SE is focused on more focused and specific questions. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 28 '13 at 17:42
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The restrictive covenant about not seeking work at a competitor worries me I have my doubts if that is even legal – Therefore:

I would see if they would accept a formal reference from your previous employer rather than a personal one from your line manager.

Having said that your ex line managers should behave in a professional way and give the same reference irrespective of who is receiving it.

  • I could ask the HR but I'm assuming they'll ask the line manager for a few words about me anyway (how else would they know what sort of employee I am given I wasn't fired but resigned?). – Kurt R Nov 27 '13 at 20:30
  • There is no restrictive covenant that prohibits you from seeking employment at a competitor once you have left the company, only one that prohibits you from seeking while you're still employed there. – Kurt R Nov 27 '13 at 20:33
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    @KurtR Most companies these days only give factual references to protect them selves from a manager causing them problems by giving a deliberately bad reference - which country are you working in? – Neuromancer Nov 27 '13 at 20:33
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    I've edited the question. I'm in the UK. – Kurt R Nov 27 '13 at 20:42
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    @KurtR As its the UK then restricting you from looking for work at a competitor is defiantly invalid. – Neuromancer Nov 27 '13 at 20:45
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Generally written agreements work along the lines of 'One year - sixty miles', or thereabouts. If you work for someone in a particular city you can either move hundreds of miles away and do the same work or wait for a year and work for the direct competitor. If the business is 'nationwide' - say a bank or car manufacturer, then the distance metric doesn't apply, but the time period should be somewhere between 1 and 5 years. After five years technologies are most likely changed beyond meaningful recognition.

If this competitor is asking you to start six months after you left the relevant job, it would be better not to proceed. If it's 18 months afterwards, there's probably nothing to worry about.

Even without written agreements, figure out what you would think is fair in the reverse situation - if someone had made a confidentiality agreement with you, how long would you expect them to 'stay out of that space' before it couldn't matter anymore.

  • So even without a restrictive covenant I should limit my career options by not working on a specific domain for a given amount of time? As far as I know there is no loyalty in business as I'm sure no company would think twice if they had to let some people go. I like the career advancement offered by the competitor and as I gather from my few visits there, the environment looks as good. I suppose what I was asking in my question is how such a move would affect one's professional reputation. – Kurt R Nov 28 '13 at 13:22
  • Meridith in the UK it doesn't work like that non competes and restrictive covenants are virtually impossible to enforce except in some very specific circumstances and you have to be paid for the entire period. – Neuromancer Nov 28 '13 at 15:42
  • @Neuromancer - My response is 'let your conscience be your guide'. If someone employed me in a role I would wait for a year before working for a direct competitor, even if I didn't have any written agreement and they had never mentioned it. In some circumstances the employer doesn't care. Again, if you were running a company and an ex- started working for someone trying to take away your customers, where would you draw the line? – Meredith Poor Nov 28 '13 at 16:06
  • @KurtR - When I think of the Google - Bing - Yahoo search engine nexus, people working for one of these and jumping ship is certainly, in some circumstances, going to work for a 'competitor', even though what they do there may be miles away from their earlier role. This is the 'organizational' context instead of the 'role' context. If I'm expected to transfer my knowledge of a proprietary technology, the work is 'off limits'. If I'm working on Google Maps and then go work for the Yahoo question and answer site, no harm is evident. – Meredith Poor Nov 28 '13 at 16:10

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