Ask Matt: Should I mention my noncompete agreement?

  • Article by: MATT KRUMRIE
  • Updated: May 2, 2013 - 10:10 AM

Dear Matt: I have 15 years of experience in sales and am looking for a new job. I have a noncompete agreement that makes it hard to get a job in the same industry for six months. What tips do you have on finding a new job? And do I mention the noncompete to prospective employers?

Matt says: Three top Twin Cities-based recruiters had one common theme — a good salesperson can sell anything. So while your noncompete may hinder your ability to find that next job within your industry, don’t let it detract from proving to the next employer you can successfully sell their product.

“If you can sell, you can sell, whether it’s widgets or something entirely different,” says Craig Lindell, President of Craig Lindell & Associates (craiglindell.com).

How do you cross into a new industry? Use results and achievements to show that you have the traits of a great salesperson, says Drew Schmitz, President of Blue Octopus LLC Search and Consulting (blueoctopusllc.com). Prove you are reliable, likable, relentless — and that you can close.

“Show them your sales results,” says Schmitz. “Show how you grew business, how you were a leader in your field and bring up any awards or major achievements to prove your point. Tell them that you like and understand their business before the first interview. Then prove it in the interview.”

If the noncompete is not applicable to the position you are applying for, there is no reason to bring it up, says Lindell. You don’t want the next employer thinking this job would only be a stopgap until your noncompete expires. But if you do continue searching within the current industry you absolutely must bring it up. In many cases employers may have their own lawyers review it if they are interested in you for future positions. And if you are struggling to understand it, you may also want to consult your own lawyer.

“Noncompetes are written in a variety of ways,” says Tony Nelson, President of TBN Consulting (tbnconsulting.biz). “It’s important you understand the language of the noncompete and exactly how it might affect your future employment. Is it specific to a region or client? What’s the length of the noncompete? It’s not uncommon for the hiring company to have a noncompete reviewed by their lawyers before making an offer.”

No matter what route you go, do not be tempted to violate the terms of your noncompete.

“The most important thing you have that no one can ever take away from you is your word,” says Nelson. “The only way you can lose it is by not keeping it yourself. Don’t violate a noncompete you signed. You will lose the trust of both your former employer and future employer.”

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