How to Steal An Employee

October 15, 2014

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Inevitably the relationship between the client and the consultant results in one wanting to work for the other. It’s a compliment. You’ve done such great work as a consultant that they want you as a full-time employee. Or the company was so intriguing that you want to settle down.

These days most contracts contain non-solicitation language. They outline either that the company can’t poach a consultant or the terms if a consultant wants to join the company — usually in dollars paid to the consulting firm.

Here’s the rub: Unless the consultant is truly indispensable, it’s usually in the best interest of both parties to let it happen. The consulting company could lose the client. The client will be forever indebted.

That said, if it’s the 7th employee that the company has stolen, that may change things. If the consultant has a very, very unique skillset, that may change things. But realistically, an employee can leave at any time.

The One Thing That Really Matters

It’s not that you’re stealing an employee. It’s not that you’re thinking about moving to your client. It’s how you go about it. And that’s what makes it really hard.

When we normally think about making a move to a new company, we do it pretty much in secret. We don’t put calendar entries on our corporate calendar for “Job Interview” or put an out of office message “Interviewing this afternoon.”

And yet, what really matters when you’re looking to make this type of move is to do it transparently.

How to Make The Move Transparently

Very simply, I recommend the following approach:

  1. Start by having an off-the-record conversation about the job. Just the job description. Make sure it’s a good fit.
  2. Once you know that it’s a good fit, make the discussions transparent. Both parties should completely understand. This gives both companies an opportunity to weigh in before things get too much further.
  3. Continue the interview process.
  4. As the potential employee being interviewed — different from a normal interview — at the point you think that this isn’t the right move, let the company know. Stop the process.
  5. Likewise for the employer.
  6. Assuming all is good, an offer is made. Again, in the spirit of transparency, let everyone know that you’re thinking it over.
  7. Make your decision. Let everyone know.
  8. While not required and definitely variable by industry, a longer notice is what I prefer. Both companies should understand that a longer transition period is ideal here.


  • Use this opportunity to get a higher salary from your current employer. No one will end up happy.
  • Lie at any point about the process.
  • As an employer, pressure the future employee.
  • As an employee, as for unreasonable because you think you have the upper hand.

Final Thoughts

In the past 5 years, I’ve probably had 10 employees come to me with “my client just offered me a job.” In almost every case, I’ve recommended this process. And amazingly, because it’s such a transparent process, it’s made these situations much easier to handle.