4 Tips for Leaving Your Company If a Poaching Firm Makes an Offer

The tech industry’s unemployment rate is low at the moment, which means that a lot of companies are securing talent by poaching their rivals’ best and brightest workers. The very act of poaching is an ethical (and occasionally legal) quagmire, but it does happen. If you’re a tech pro who’s decided to take a better offer at another firm, how do you leave your current employer without burning too many bridges?

In highly specialized sub-industries, poaching has become a commonplace thing. For example, eFinancialCareers (Dice’s sister Website) found that, of the 20 data scientists in the finance industry that it profiled in March 2017, eight had transitioned to new roles by October 2018. If you have the right skills, companies will try to tempt you with ludicrous amounts of money; data scientists and data analysts, two of the hottest skill-sets at the moment, can earn as much as $200,000 per year at firms such as Facebook—and that’s before you talk perks such as signup bonuses, equity, and more.

(If you’re a manager on a quest to poach talent, check out this August article from The Information that details the companies that produce the strongest recruits, from both a technical and product perspective. Google is in first place, followed by Facebook and Amazon; Apple is notable as a place to find “hardware, software, and operations talent.”)

If you’ve been approached by a new employer, and decided that jumping is the best thing for your career, here are some things to think about on your way out the door:

Set Things Up for Your Successor

There’s certainly no shame in considering your career options, and fielding offers from other firms. But if you do decide to transition to a more lucrative (and/or personally fulfilling) role, make sure that you don’t leave your boss and co-workers in the lurch. You’ll incur massive goodwill among your soon-to-be-former colleagues if you offer to stay onboard until you finish your current projects, or at least set everything up so that someone else can take over fairly easily.

If you’re a coder, that also means leaving behind strong documentation. And whatever your role, make sure you give reasonable notice—two weeks is standard, but longer is sometimes nice (and necessary) if your new employer is amenable to it.

You Don’t Have to Say Much

If you’re a valuable employee, and you announce your imminent departure, chances are good that your current employer will try to make a counter-offer. Hear them out, even if you have no intention of staying. (If you want some insight into how management tends to think about counteroffers and poaching employees, check out this Harvard Business Review piece.)

Your current employer may want lots of details about where you’re going, who you’ll work with, and so on. You’re under zero obligation to tell them anything, but make sure to stay polite at all times. If pressed, you can be very vague (“I’m leaving to explore an exciting new opportunity”).

Make Sure You’re Legally Clear

Non-competes aren’t enforceable in certain states (such as California, which is why that state is such a hotbed of tech pros jumping jobs). Nonetheless, some employers have sued former employees over intellectual property and “trade secrets.” If you’re jumping ship, make sure that you’re not taking anything with you that could become the focus of a major lawsuit later, especially if you’re working with cutting-edge technology or highly proprietary processes. (Most companies will have their own checklist to ensure you’re not walking out the door with anything sensitive.)

Maintain Your Contacts

Don’t ghost on your former colleagues; keep in touch. You never know when you might find yourself back at your old company—provided they made you a good offer, of course.