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I'm employed full time at an IT company and have a side business (mostly sewing). I started my business after I started working here and haven't felt the need to inform them so they aren't aware of my business. However, I'm in the process of looking for a new job with the possibility of changing careers.

An electronics retail company just sent me an offer letter and it stated that I'm not allowed to engage in any business activity that conflicts with their interest. I think my business is retail in a sense, so my business kind of conflicts with their interest. The thing is, sewing is the one thing i love doing and am not willing to give it up for anything.

Do all companies forbid you upfront like this? IF I decide not to tell them, what are the chances of them finding out that I own a business or have a second job during a background investigation? I'm pretty sure my business tax information and DBA would come right up during the investigation but I'm not 100% certain. Is it better to give up on my business? Any input is appreciated!

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    Are you sewing electronics? I doubt they would think that your sewing business conflicts with their interests. Depending on what you sew, you may want to show the hiring manager an example piece and tell them about the side business. Most likely they won't care at all. And maybe they will want to buy something from you :) – mikeazo Nov 19 '15 at 17:12
  • I'm not too sure but since my business is retail in a sense. The clause about conflicting interest was very vague and broad. Something like "anything related to this industry is forbidden." I sell online and they also conduct a lot of business online and I will be working for this department if I accept the job. – user44186 Nov 19 '15 at 17:15
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    If the company has an anti-moonlighting policy, then you have an issue. If they have a conflict of interest policy, you have clear skies. – user2989297 Nov 19 '15 at 17:33
  • That does make sense now that you put it that way. I don't want to bring it up at all if possible, but I wonder if it would be possible for the employer to find out about my business during background check. – user44186 Nov 19 '15 at 19:39
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Most clauses like this really mean that they don't want you participating in anything that could potentially harm their company. If they sell electronics, then you probably shouldn't be running a side business that fixes old and damaged electronics. Your sewing business is not going to conflict with their sales, unless perhaps you specialize in making cases and covers for phones and computers. (As a side note, I do not consider "retail" an industry. I would think of "electronics" as one for the company and "textiles" for your sewing.)

So should you bring it up in the interview? Yes, absolutely. If your sewing is that important to you, then make sure that the company will be okay with you continuing with it while you work for them. It is much better to be up front about it then for them to find out later. My guess is that their answer will be, yes, go ahead, as long as it doesn't interfere with you doing your job for them.

I want to point out a distinction that @user2989297 made in one of the comments. What I have described is a conflict of interest policy, which only cares about competing businesses. Some companies, however, have an "anti-moonlighting" policy, which would prohibit any outside work, whether it is for a competing company, your own unrelated business, or selling lemonade from your driveway. (Okay, that last one is a bit of stretch.) If the company you are interviewing with has this type of policy, you are much more likely to be told that your sewing business is not acceptable. I still would not try to hide you business, but you may have to decide which job is more important to you.

  • Thank you for the distinction. This company isn't necessarily anti-moonlighting. I am mostly torn because while I don't want to give up my side business, I also don't want to jeopardize any job offers by informing prospective employers about it. – user44186 Nov 19 '15 at 18:26
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    @user44186 - Better to disclose and and lose the offer than to not disclose and end up paying some inflated settlement or judgement that could have been easily avoided. Besides few if any companies are likely to restrict your business unless you provide direct competition or conflict of interest. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 19 '15 at 19:23
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IF I decide not to tell them, what are the chances of them finding out that I own a business or have a second job during a background investigation?

The chances are very good that they will find this out during a background check. Therefore be up front about it. Because it will raise a red flag immediately if they find out and you didn't let them know which could hurt your chances.

Whereas I don't see any conflict of interest between the two so you should be ok if you do let them know. There is no need to go into detail about it. But definitely mention it and mention that it's totally unrelated to electronics.

  • Oh, does stuff like business ownership easily show up during a background check? I've even been told that a prospective employer can't find out if you already have a part-time second job, but how is that even possible? I really have no idea how these background checks work. – user44186 Nov 19 '15 at 22:40
  • if you registered a business it's publicly available, in most countries anyway. Common practice to enter your name in to a search during a background check. – Kilisi Nov 19 '15 at 22:48
  • I never knew that was a common practice! Surprisingly, nothing comes up when I google my name, which worries me actually if i set up my business correctly. – user44186 Nov 19 '15 at 23:22
  • google is not the countries business registry, so for instance if I was doing a background check on myself I would either search online at the Ministry of Commerce site, or more likely (because I'm in a small country) just flick them an email. If everything was just a matter of using Google, no one would use background checking companies. – Kilisi Nov 20 '15 at 0:13

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