I'm a consultant, and a colleague from the current client company asked me if I knew a developer with specific traits, and using specific technologies.
I know a guy exactly like that, from the previous mission which was about two months ago.
On the one hand, he is essential to his team and company (basically the only one able to maintain a few critical applications). They would probably suffer a major blow if he were to leave the ship.
On the other hand, I felt like (my perception of the situation) he was badly paid, wasn't improving, and was spending too many hours on the clock for a situation which seemed bad.

My dilemma is that I'm not sure how unethical it is to invite him for an interview, knowing perfectly how bad the situation would be for his current company.

More information:

If he were to leave his job, he would have to stay working for the previous company for up to 3 months.
I would recommend him to another client, not my consulting company.

  • 17
    You should check your contract, there is a very good chance that it explicitly forbids this.
    – Erik
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 8:19
  • He should also check his contract, there is an even better chance that he could not work for the other company for a specific amount of time after leaving his current one.
    – skymningen
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 8:20
  • 2
    (using a bit of hyperbole) Do you want to become the consultant that gets known as the guy that after the job is done poaches the best programmers for whatever next client he works for? The world can be surprisingly small so this might bite you in the end.
    – Pieter B
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 11:54
  • 13
    Or do you want to be known as the guy who is well-connected and knows how to find the people needed to get the job done? Passing a name along is not poaching.
    – Seth R
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 12:43
  • 4
    The bus factor isn't your fault. If his employer is ill prepared to deal with critical employees leaving, the only one at error is the employer himself.
    – T. Sar
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 16:33

3 Answers 3


Assuming you are both in the clear contractually speaking (and I would strongly advise both you and the developer check this carefully as I would be surprised if there weren't at least some restrictions, especially in your contracts) then I don't see anything wrong with this. If said developer is so critical at his current job then that's their problem not yours - they either need to take steps to mitigate the Bus Factor or, failing that take steps to keep him. The developer is an adult so can make his own decisions about whether he wants to move to your new client, all you would be doing is giving him the option.

  • 11
    Also, even if it ends up not working out, it can't hurt to have your former colleague know you think highly enough of him to recommend him for the job.
    – Dan C
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 14:20
  • Can you provide some examples of what a contract might say to prevent this? Possibly with some anecdotal evidence to support this claim. I'd actually be surprised if there were such restrictions. Although I'd probably recommend just removing (or at least rephrasing) that part in brackets. Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 14:26
  • 2
    Look up "non-solicitation clause". This is what we're expecting to see in your contract. In the UK it's very, very common. Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 14:44
  • ALWAYS consider the Bus Factor.
    – Doktor J
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 15:03
  • 3
    @Dukeling It may be a location thing - as Tom says they are very common in the UK, I've probably got examples of such clauses in some of my old employment contracts but I don't have those to hand right now. Will try have a dig over the weekend!
    – motosubatsu
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 15:39

You're overthinking it.

There's nothing un-ethical in there since you're not kidnapping him. You're giving his name for the job.

He may get a call, maybe an offer (which he may or may not accept). But in the end, it's all up to him. It's his decision to take, if he likes his job now he won't quit. If he agrees with you and the offer is good enough, he may come. But still, none of this is your concern and there's no ethic to think about here.

  • 5
    @FooBar OP's not providing a full data dump on the entire company's staff, he's recommending one competent person who works there. If all or any of that information is considered a trade secret, then nothing anyone puts on a resume about prior employment should be there.
    – Blrfl
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 12:01
  • 2
    "Do you know anyone who has these qualifications?" "Yes, you should talk to Joe Smith, I'll get you his number." That's not disclosing any trade secrets.
    – Seth R
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 12:46
  • 3
    @FooBar: Number of staff and competencies are listed on LinkedIn, freely available for anyone with 30/mo sub. If it was a trade secret, LinkedIn would cease to exist. Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 14:10
  • 4
    @FooBar That's a ridiculous argument. Recommending one former coworker who'd be a particularly good fit for a role (possibly after having discussed it with said coworker) is nowhere close to giving someone a list of all your former coworkers with their qualifications. Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 14:16
  • 2
    @FooBar No, but it's definitely not within my rights to tell my employees they can't tell others their skills. If it were, it would be impossible to job hunt while they worked at my company. That can lead to miserable workers (since they can't find a new job, and miserable workers don't do good work), or it can lead to people jumping ship the moment things look like they could use a new job (since they have to be out of this one to look at any others). It'd be like me not being able to tell you I can code in Python, because it might be a "trade secret" that some employees know Python.
    – Delioth
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 15:03

Ask your colleague if he even wants his name passed along. As already mentioned here, he could be under contractual obligation that keeps him where he is. Or he may just not be interested in moving. There is no point in recommending someone that isn't going to accept an offer under any circumstance. Your colleague is the best person to answer this question.

As to issues that you think he is essential to the other company, that isn't your problem. If he is that important, it is up to that company to do what it takes to retain him (and maybe they already have. See first paragraph). Employees are free agents; they are going to do what they want. If a company wants to keep them, they have to make them want to stay. It is no more or less ethical for you to recommend your friend away from that company than it is for you to withhold this opportunity from him. Ultimately it is up to your friend to decide whether he wants a new job or not.

  • 1
    This is probably the best answer. Don't give your contact to the company, but rather give company's contact to the guy. If he is not interested, they will not be bugging him at all. And you will keep your reputation for not disclosing personal info in exchange for bad employment. "I want to hire you, please give me your bank account # / password" <-- doesn't work like that. Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 14:14
  • 1
    yup - you aren't responsible to manage the "Bus Factor" for another company. That's their problem: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_factor - in fact, in the long run, you may be doing them a favor by making this very real risk real to them
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 21:53

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