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I am currently part of a project with a consulting firm. The project has a fairly firm end date, after which I will return to work as normal, with the additional responsibility of knowledge transfer, which may last an indefinite time.

My team and I work onsite at the firm's offices and I have noticed that their processes, work style, workplace environment, and field suit me much better than my current workplace.

Assuming for the moment that there are no contractual issues, would it be ethical to consider applying for a job with the consultant in a situation like this, and if so, how long after the project should one wait?

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    One thing you may want to consider is that not all consultant work is based at a consultants office. You may be expected to work out of other client sites as well which will have different cultures and environments. – Darren Young Oct 15 '15 at 9:56
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    You can apply and the contracting company could let you know whether or not they feel it could jeopardize their ability to work with your company in the future. – user8365 Oct 16 '15 at 2:49
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I don't see any ethical problem for you in applying - you can work where you like - but the consulting firm is likely to have a contractual problem in employing you.

Standard terms of engagement for a consulting firm would usually prevent them from 'poaching' staff from the client firm.

I'd suggest having an informal chat with a manager at the consulting firm (it sounds like you're on pretty comfortable terms with them) to see what the situation is.

There's no point applying if they're contractually barred from employing you. But it might be that that only applies for a set period of time - maybe if you apply in 6 months they would be able to employ you - so it's worth finding out.

Of course you could always apply for other consulting firms with a similar culture / ethos - which firms are like that is something that the (more experienced) consultants you're working with are likely to know.

On the issue of your own freedom of choice, see article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Pages/Language.aspx?LangID=eng

I believe this is reflected in law here in the EU; I'm unsure of the legal situation elsewhere in the world. But the moral principle that an employee has the right to choose which employer they work for is pretty generally accepted.

(This has caused some interesting issues around football transfer fees: https://gclaw.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/player-contracts-football-transfers-v-european-union-law-analysis/ )

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    In my experience, those terms are usually set the other way around: the client can't hire any of the consultants staffing their project without paying a significant finder's fee. Still, even without such an agreement, either company might justifiably want to avoid damaging the relationship by poaching employees without the other company's explicit agreement to the transfer. – Lilienthal Oct 15 '15 at 8:10
  • What's a good way to broach the subject of contractual limitations without making it clear that I'm looking to jump ship? – howdoievenexist Oct 15 '15 at 11:56
  • @Lilienthal is right that agreements in the opposite direction very often exist too. – A E Oct 15 '15 at 16:29
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    My company makes consultants sign agreements not to hire current employees. – user8365 Oct 16 '15 at 2:49
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Assuming for the moment that there are no contractual issues, would it be ethical to consider applying for a job with the consultant in a situation like this

Yes. Absent anything in your contract (non-compete clauses, solicitation of clients clauses, etc) it's perfectly ethical to seek a job anywhere you like.

The consulting company may have issues with hiring you (they may not want to risk burning any bridges with your current company, and may even have an agreement in place not to hire anyone from your company). If you are particularly friendly with any of the consultants, you might ask them privately about their company's policies in this regard.

Still, it's smart to have these folks in your professional network either way.

I once worked at a company where we brought in some automation software. I was part of the Beta program with the software vendor, and got to know a bit about them. When things started to go south in my company, I called this vendor, got an interview, and ended up landing the best job I ever held.

and if so, how long after the project should one wait?

It makes sense for you to complete the project first as you are suggesting. But once the project is complete, there's no real need to wait at all.

If the consulting company has agreements not to poach employees from your company, you might want to wait at least a few months after they are no longer working with your company.

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Why wait at all? If you think you can land a job there and you also think it's a good move. Put out some feelers with your contacts there and express your interest to them straight away, if feedback is positive you could move forwards and ask if you could apply for work there.

I wouldn't apply unless I was sure of landing a job though, your previous employers might not like it. And if the feedback is non committal, back off for a while at least.

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Assuming for the moment that there are no contractual issues, would it be ethical to consider applying for a job with the consultant in a situation like this?

Yes. It would be definitely ethical to apply at the company.

if so, how long after the project should one wait?

I would advise you to wait till the evaluation of the work is done or at least reached the final phases. So, if the evaluation is positive or is appearing to be positive(from the proceedings), then you would want to apply at the company ASAP.

Else, you would like to wait for some time and let the negative response of the evaluation pass, and then apply. Cause, the negative response would definitely come back to bite you during your interview process if it's still lingering around.

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