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Whether you have signed an employment contract or not, in Ontario, all departing employees owe some measure of duty to their former employer to keep trade secrets and customer lists confidential. (FEDERICO CAPUTO/THINKSTOCK)
Whether you have signed an employment contract or not, in Ontario, all departing employees owe some measure of duty to their former employer to keep trade secrets and customer lists confidential. (FEDERICO CAPUTO/THINKSTOCK)

Ask a Recruiter

I’m willing to trade information for a job – so why can’t I get hired? Add to ...

THE QUESTION

I am employed, but I am in a rather unique job-seeking situation. I am looking for assistance in contacting companies in hopes of getting a new job, in return for handing over to them information that would benefit their company.

I have done this in the past with mixed results. I’ve contacted companies with a letter of introduction, telling them I have information that could financially benefit their company. Also, that I would turn over to them my information, and after it has been checked and confirmed on their end by their people, I could receive a job from them.

The companies I’ve contacted received what I told them they would, but I’ve received no job offers in return. So far I’ve helped two companies benefit over $123,000, and all I received in return was one request for my résumé.

I’d like to do this again with other companies, but I feel I need some assistance with my letter of introduction and advice on how to proceed.

I’ve already contacted two government-sponsored employment centres for assistance. They were nice but were really unable to help.

If you know of any company that would be able to help, will you please let me know?

THE ANSWER

My first reaction to your question is that it raises some serious ethical issues, which could make prospective employers uncomfortable.

First, if you are taking privileged, proprietary, confidential or sensitive information from your current or past employer and secretly passing it on to another company for their monetary gain, you could face some serious legal consequences. Whether you have signed an employment contract or not, in Ontario, all departing employees owe some measure of duty to their former employer to keep trade secrets and customer lists confidential.

If your current or past employer discovers that you have taken confidential information, they may be entitled to search and seize that property from you. They may also seek damages for your breach of employment obligations.

Second, employers screen prospective employees on the notion that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. They will undoubtedly wonder, if you are disclosing money-making intelligence from a former employer to them now, what guarantee do they have that you won’t turn around and do the same thing to them in the future? Moreover, if they accept such intelligence from you, they may be legally liable, too.

At the end of the day, it is your personal right to take the experience you’ve gained from one employer, and apply it to a job with another. But you need to sell yourself to prospective employers first, highlighting what they would gain from your work experience. If you hand over information to a company up front, even if it was ethically sharable information that you obtained in an authorized manner, you are giving up any power you might otherwise have in the job negotiation process. You then leave yourself vulnerable to companies using you, and providing nothing in return, as you’ve experienced in the past.

Your best sales pitch to further your career should focus on how you can come to a company already trained, so you can hit the ground running. Promote your experience, your passion and the initiative you take, and highlight how you can contribute to a company’s bottom line with your work ethic. Such an approach with integrity is what stand-up companies will find most attractive.

Julie Labrie is the president of BlueSky Personnel Solutions in Toronto.

Have a question about careers, labour law or management? Send it to our panel of experts: careerquestion@globeandmail.com Your name and address will be kept confidential.

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Follow on Twitter: @julielabrie

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