This post is part of a series of posts called The Educated Employee (TEE), the goal of which is to get employees up to speed on the terms and conditions they usually (but maybe should not) agree to as part of taking a new job. As always, I will caveat the following with the statement that I am not a lawyer; my ruminations should not be taken as legal advice; and you should seek out proper legal counsel before you sign potentially-life-altering contracts.
Get the Timing Right
So you’ve hit the pavement looking for you next gig. Congrats and happy hunting!
Once you, our intrepid job candidate, are done dancing with a bunch of companies, if history is a guide, you and one or more companies will decide you might want to get married. I’ve given out hundreds of job offers, and in my experience, this is usually how this process has (WRONGLY) panned out:
- Employer makes candidate an offer. Salary, options, basic benefits, start dates, et. al. are discussed.
- Candidate contemplates offer and asks various questions of employer.
- Candidate accepts Employer’s offer.
- Candidate gives notice to his or her current employer.
- Candidate – now Employee – starts with new Employer.
- Employer hands huge stack of contractual employment docs to employee to sign.
In case it isn’t painfully obvious, Step 6 in this process is broken – for the employee. Total, unequivocal, complete FA1L on his or her part.
For the avoidance of doubt, Step 6 should be part of Step 2. Ask for copies of the company’s template employment documents / contracts that they are going to require of you. Make it clear you will be evaluating them as part of the offer. Read them and understand them. Get them reviewed by a lawyer.
If a company refuses to share such documents with you, try to reason with them that it’s a reasonable request, and if they put up any sort of a fight about it that’s a bad signal.
You want to see all those documents as you evaluate your offer(s). The terms and conditions of your prospective employment are absolutely reasonable things to request. Those terms and conditions are a material part of their offer. If two companies you dig offer you an $80K salary – but one has a broad non-compete agreement, or a crazy-long non-solicit, or non-standard option vesting (you get the idea) in their employment documents, then the offers that look “the same” at first glance are clearly not.
Net-net: do your research. Remember, this prospective employer is going to be sniffing your butt to the Nth degree and you should be doing likewise. It is your responsibility to figure this stuff out and know what you are signing!
And if you don’t like one or more of the terms, then try to negotiate them away — the topic of our next TEE missive.
Please submit any questions or comments or arguments in the Comments to this post. My goal is for this series of posts to become a useful community resource, so please participate!