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About a month ago my former supervisor left the company (Company A) I work for and started a position with another company (let's call it Company B) in the same, somewhat small, industry. Both companies compete for the same contracts and we collaborate on projects occasionally. I got along well with this manager over the time that we worked together, and I think that I could get a positive reference from him if I asked for it.

The other day I found out that Company B has posted a job ad on its website for a position that is a pretty good fit for what I do and could be a pretty good growth opportunity, and I am thinking of applying for the position.

My hesitation, however, lies in the fact that this former manager just started at this company. I don't mind working with him again, though it's not clear from the job description and the information available on their website if this new role would be under his supervision. To be honest, I would have probably applied for the job even if he wasn't worked there, but I also don't want to be perceived, either in Company A or Company B, as riding around on his coattails.

What is the best way to navigate this situation?

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  • If the industry is small the labour pool will be limited and you're probably going to run into the same people many times in your career. Mar 10 at 17:21
  • It’s a well known fact that most individuals get a job, due the knowledge that job exists, through the people they know. It’s called networking. I mean good lord just look at the individuals that have worked for (Intel, AMD, Apple, and Nvidia). An individual in that field, creating processors or GPUs, will work for probably 50% of those companies at some point.
    – Donald
    Mar 11 at 11:12
  • Why does it matter? What future problem do you see happening if someone (who?) thinks this way?
    – user985366
    Apr 3 at 2:59

3 Answers 3

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According to this 2016 LinkedIn post's survey, 85% of open roles are filled by networking — either knowing someone in the organization or being headhunted.

Applying for a job where your previous manager currently works is a major plus though they may be under a non-poaching agreement with the previous organization. It would be far better to discuss the role with the previous manager on a phone call before applying, especially since you can hear the inside scoop.

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    This is the answer. Also, if employee referrals are paid, the former manager may appreciate the extra cash in their pocket for making the referral. Mar 10 at 15:57
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I also don't want to be perceived, ... as riding around on his coattails.

No one cares. You are overthinking this.

If you are interested in the job (manager or not) just apply. You can use your old manager as an "in point", i.e. ask them for a reference or to connect you directly with hiring manager. They may not be able to do this, if they have signed an anti-poaching agreement (or they don't know their way around company B yet), but there is no harm in asking, if make it clear that's ok to say "no",

If too many good people are migrating from A to B, A may get annoyed but that's their problem not yours. They just have to get better at retention and some amount of in- and outflow is perfectly normal.

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    Agreed. Why people get so wrapped up in these perceived conundrums is beyond me. I'm not discounting or trying to invalidate the OP's concerns, but my goodness, we sure do flail ourselves over this stuff.
    – joeqwerty
    Mar 10 at 17:43
  • Exactly. My answer was going gibberish “Apply for the job”
    – Damila
    Mar 10 at 17:49
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    Hilmar and @joeqwerty, I have a tendency to frequently overthink such things, so thanks for the perspective!
    – Turbo
    Mar 11 at 6:31
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What is the best way to navigate this situation?

Just check whether you have a non-compete in your agreement with A, otherwise go ahead and apply for B. Nothing else matters.

Your (ex-)manager (in company B) is not going to offer your the job on a plate, you still need to go through your interview process and secure the job. The opening was posted publicly, and anyone can apply, you are one of that "anyone".

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