Negotiating Non-compete agreements

I just got upset with non-compete agreements again.  Here is what I have written on it before.  Good stuff.

How to negotiate a noncompete


When you are presented with a contract that has a non-compete agreement the most effective negotiation is to say, “My lawyer needs to look at this.”  Your lawyer always trumps their negotiator.  The problem is that they may assume you are not worth the hassle of lawyers and changing the contract.  That is what you need to decide.  For most situations, I suggest you try the “Very Good” approach.

Very Good:

Cross out and alter the parts of the non-compete paragraph that you don’t like, initial the changes, sign the contract and hand it back. Do NOT tell them what you are doing until you have finished and handed it back.  Then don’t say a word, not one word, until they start talking.  The HR person will turn green.  That is okay. They may accept it without comment.  This is the most commonly successful ploy I have seen.  What you have written on the agreement always takes precedence over what was printed.  Make sure you get a copy of what you signed to take home with you.

Often the person telling you that they can’t accept the contract actually does have the authority to accept your changes. Since you have already despoiled the pristine contract, and won’t be moved, they are under pressure.  At this point you can say, “If you cannot accept those reasonable changes to the non-compete clause, I will have to take this to my lawyer.  That may take a week or two.  Would you like me to consult my lawyer?”  That may be enough pressure to get them to just accept it.


Accept the assurances of the person you are talking to that they never enforce the non-competes.  If they never enforce them, then legally the court is likely to let you off the hook.  However, that will be 3 months after you left your job and your new employer won’t pay you a penny until you clean up the legal mess.


Don’t be pressured into a non-compete you don’t want to accept.  Negotiate.

Networking, referrals, recruiters, and job boards

Even a fox can get a job guarding a henhouse if he has good enough references.

Internet job boards fill 25% of jobs, recruiters fill 16%, and referrals fill 27% of jobs according to one survey.     So where do you want to concentrate your job hunting time?

But there are so many jobs on Indeed, Monster, Dice, and Career Builder, shouldn’t I try to get those jobs?

Absolutely!  But that doesn’t mean you should automatically send a resume through those services.

22% of jobs are found on a company’s own website.  Gotta like that.  Still, don’t even apply at the company’s own website until after you have tried to take advantage of this country’s main job finding system: Networking into referrals.

Print out the jobs you want that you find on the internet.  Make a list of the companies.  Next to each company, make a list of people you know who work there.  Include people who know someone who works there.  Add a list of recruiters who can get your resume past HR (Human Resources) and directly to the hiring manager.  Get into and see if you can find someone working at that company.  (Link to to expand your network.) Add the people at companies you are targeting to a list.

Your objective is to find someone who can drop your information on the hiring manager’s desk.  Look at your whole list before you make a move.  Who has the best chance of helping you?  Who is the best connected?  Is it a professional networker or a recruiter?  Is it your friend’s wife?  Get your resume in there and follow up.  If you don’t get a call within a week, try again through another person.

27% of jobs are being filled by networking, 25% by job boards, 16% are being filled by recruiters.  Shouldn’t networking AND job boards AND recruiters be your main job search tools?


Something To Do Today

Get into

List where everyone you know works, their spouses too.  Keep adding to the list whenever you find out where someone works.  Keep track of coworkers who leave.  Start making a list of where everyone who knows you works. It may be worth more than gold to you now or in the future.


Later              Personality tests

Resume blasting

Certifications –  gold and lead

3 places you may accidentally hide critical stuff in your resume

Your resume has spots that no professional resume reader ever looks at: the objective, the summary, and big block paragraphs. It is just a fact, no one reads them.

You may have hidden critical stuff in your resume the way my son once hid himself. In a game my son hid from our family right by the front door.  Right in the open.  We have coat hooks there.  He hid inside a coat hanging on a hook.  His shoes and a foot of his pants were fully exposed.  Our whole family looked for 15 minutes before someone found him. He hid in a spot no one ever looks at.

The objective and summary on everybody’s resume says the same thing.  So I read the first 5 words just to be sure, then I skip them.

You say, “hard worker,” “team player,” and “want to grow.”  So what?  The day I read a resume that says, “I’m lazy, can’t work with others and want to stagnate,” I’ll show the whole office.  I don’t have time to wade through a bunch of descriptions of things everyone does. So I skip the objective and the summary.

If I’m going to read your objective or summary it has to be short. One line is best. It has to start telling me about you in the first 5 words.  What is unique about you must come out.  Don’t talk about things I expect in every employee.

Ugly, huge, wordy paragraphs are also more than I can handle.  Take the 6 most important points of your paragraph and turn each essential point into one line bullets.  I’ll get those 6 points.  If you bury the 6 most important things about you in a half page paragraph, I’ll never read them.  If YOU don’t know what the 6 most important things are, YOU have been lazy. Don’t expect me to pick the most important points in your resume out for you. I don’t have time.

10 seconds is all that most resumes get before they are trashed.  If they make it past the 10 second screening, they get a 45 second review.  A final few will be fully read.  Don’t hide the most important information.  Make it stand out.  Make sure I read it.


Something To Do Today

Try to get your Objective and Summary sections down to less than one line.  If you have a paragraph over 3 lines in length, consider cutting it out or turning it into bullets.

Remember: Your resume has only one job, to get you an interview.  It is not a complete job history or a confessional.  Its only purpose is to get you an interview.


Tomorrow:    Referrals vs. Monster

Later:         Personality tests

Job interview – Good manners

Good manners soothe people in a potentially bad situation.  In a positive situation good manners make everyone involved even more pleased.  Manners are society’s way of helping people cope with each other.

Here are some situations and how to deal with them:

I really want this job:  At the end of the interview say, “This sounds like a great opportunity.  Is there anything you’ve seen today that would keep me from working for you?”  Then say, “Can we set up the next step of the process right now?”    They will probably say they’ll call later.  That’s okay.  They know you really want the job.  Send an email and ground mail thank you letter.

In the interview, I realized I don’t want this job:  Never walk out of an interview unless they are asking you to do something illegal or immoral. You may be interviewing with this person in 5 years for a different job. Companies change. Opportunities change. If you get the feeling the job is absolutely not for you, stop the interviewer and ask very specific questions and explore your reasons in the interview. Don’t let your interviewer bypass your concerns. They may have solid answers, they may not. Once you are sure the job is NOT for you, look at the interview as a network building opportunity. You may have a chance to talk with a manager who will have a different hiring need, and get the job you really want. Networking for an extra half hour in an interview is easier than getting a manager to go to lunch with you.

They ask how much they have to pay you:  Answer them, “I really like this company.  The opportunity seems like a good one.  I’d like to go to work for you.  In my previous job I earned $(amount), I certainly wouldn’t want to work for less.  What I would like is to entertain your best offer.”

You are concerned they won’t pay enough:  Ask the recruiter or HR person what the pay range is for the job.  Don’t ask the hiring manager about money unless you become convinced they won’t pay near enough.  Better to ask, “Considering what I have done previously, how will this job continue to challenge me?”  That lets the interviewer know you are concerned that the job sounds too easy.

You want to know about vacation time and benefits:  Wait a bit.  The first interview is absolutely NOT the place to ask.  If at some point you talk with an HR person who is already explaining that stuff, ask away.  If you are working with a recruiter, ask him.  Otherwise, when they are offering you the job is early enough.  You don’t have any bargaining power until they have made a decision to hire you.

They ask an improper question:  You don’t have to answer.  Better to try to understand what they want to know.  Reply, “Why do you ask?” or “Have you had a problem with that in the past?”  Another way is to answer the underlying question.  If they ask, “How old are you?” You can answer, “I’m in perfect health.  I haven’t missed a day of work in years.” That gives them the information they need without answering a question you may dislike.

I will be late for my interview:  stop and call the person you are to meet.  Apologize and tell them when you expect to arrive. Add 10-20 minutes to the time so they are pleasantly surprised when you arrive earlier than you said you would.

I don’t want to go to the interview:  call the person who set up the interview, the recruiter, HR person or manager, and explain why.  Explain your true reasons and then listen.  After a couple of minutes of discussion, finalize your decision to go or not.  Let the person who set up the interview tell the people who would interview you.

You don’t want them to call your boss for a reference:  Just tell them you don’t want to jeopardize your current job.  They will understand.


The basic ideas are: 1. Ask the question at the right time.  2. Let people know your concerns in as positive a manner as possible.


Something To Do Today

Make an interview preparation list.  What things do you want to review before you talk to your next boss?


Later: Skipped parts

Referrals vs. Monster and CareerBuilder

How early do I get to the job interview? (and what if I am late?)

How early should you get to a job interview?  That depends on how far you have to travel and how slow the traffic is likely to be.

If you are sure you will get there right when you expect to, arrive 10 minutes early in the parking lot.  Grab your notes and go over them.  Practice the interview questions you have written out.  Go into the building 5 minutes before the interview is to start.  You want to be on time, but avoid waiting too long in the lobby, getting nervous.

If you are going a long distance, you may need to plan on arriving 15 to 30 minutes early.  In that case, tell the interviewer of your dilemma when you set up the interview.  Waiting 20 minutes in your car is a waste of your time.  Your interviewer can often set up a soft start time and see you immediately when you show up early.

Perfect timing: walk into the building 5 minutes before your interview.  If you will have to wait more than 5 minutes in your car, go in earlier.  Horrible timing is 5 minutes late unless you have called ahead to let them know you will be late.

If something anticipated arrives too late it finds us numb, wrung out from waiting, and we feel…nothing at all.  The best things arrive on time.  (Gilman)

If you are late: your best job interviewing tool may be a cell phone.  If you are going to be late you can call the person you are going to meet with and let them know you will be late.  Tell them a time 10-20 minutes later than you really expect to arrive.  That way you can still arrive “early.”


Something To Do Today

Before your next job interview make a list of questions that show your desire, interest and motivation.  Use those 5 minutes in the car for interview preparation.


Next:     The phone interview

What to ask in the interview – the 4 best questions

Contributor, hard working, excited and interested will get you a job. Greedy, lazy, bored and distracted will get you shown the door out.

Excellent questions are a way to show the difference between you and the other candidates.  You need to ask questions that show you will take some of the burden off of the hiring manager.  You must show your great attitude with your questions.

“What do you see as the greatest contribution I can make to my team here?” is a winner.

“What problems will I be helping to solve in this job?” works.

“What burden can I take off of your back in my first 3 months?” will be a relief.

“How will my performance be evaluated in one year’s time when I take this job?” is a great question.

Let them know you will be trying to meet their expectations.  Open up a conversation on what is really expected of you.

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.  (Twain)

Do you get the idea?  You need to ask questions that show the ways you can contribute and start taking away some of your new boss’s headaches.


Something To Do Today

Before your next job interview or pay review, make a list of questions that show your desire, interest and motivation.


Next:              How early do I get there?

Later:              Good manners

A list of Sexy Verbs that make a resume attractive

Boring means not read.  Not read means no job. A sexy resume gets attention.

What does the person who gets your resume want to see?

Don’t tell him what you are “Responsible for.”  That means you are overhead.  No initiative.  You didn’t cause anything to happen.  You just slowed things down and kept the people who do things from making mistakes.

“Supervised” means you didn’t accomplish anything.  You were useless.  If you had trained all those people well, you could have made the company some money.  If you say, “Cut support costs by 27% by realigning my team,” that’s a lot better than, “Supervised 10 people.”

Companies hate people who are overhead.  Overhead doesn’t make them more money.

Go to or .  Replace the verbs in your resume with some of these.  Change the sentences to talk about how many more sales were made because of you, how much more money the company made, and how much money you saved the company.  Karen Woodworth’s list of “Action Words” can spruce up your resume.

Your resume may become irresistibly sexy.  That’s how you get a job.


Something To Do Today

Get that sexy resume worksheet at or Run your resume through it.  Make your resume attractive


Next:               What to ask in every interview

Later:              Good manners

Job search: what the reality show would look like

There is a natural progression to a job search and how you feel when you have been fired.  Let me give you the key line that would be in the 8 episodes of the reality show, “I Was Fired.”

Episode 1:  Fired?  I’ll have another job before I’m out the door, you slug.

Episode 2: If I call 3 of my friends, I’ll have two job offers by the end of today.

Episode 3: I better file for unemployment checks.  This may take a week or two.

Episode 4: After “Survivor” I’ll try to send out a resume on “CareerBuilder”.

Episode 5: Will the sun ever shine again?  Why don’t the stars twinkle anymore?

Episode 6: The capitalist military industrial complex corrupts and destroys all the slaves forced to toil therein.

Episode 7:  My dog still loves me.  That’s a start.

Episode 8: I can have the job? Really??  The pay is low…but I’ll prove you made a great decision!

The real job search emotional progression includes:


getting mad,

reconciling with reality,

not knowing what to do next,

getting depressed,

realizing your self worth,

and finding a job.

It’s natural.  Where are you at?


Later:              What to ask in every interview

6 things to suck your career into a tar pit

These are 6 related habits that people fall into that torpedo their careers.  The author pretends it is just IT people.  These will sink you into a tar pit that won’t necessarily get you fired, but will keep you from making any progress in your career.

Here is the article.

Fired! The first 6 things you should do

Fired.  Laid off.  Terminated. Given a severance or pink slip. Let go. Walked to the door.  It’s a terrible, traumatic experience.

Here’s what you do.

First, be nice.  No bridge burning.  No yelling.  Your boss may have been ordered to fire you and is being fired in another week.  You may end up working for him at his new job.  Your future employer may call him for a reference.

Be careful. Do not quit!  If you quit, they can argue against your getting unemployment compensation.  If they say, “You can resign, if you’d like,” tell them, “No. You said you are firing me.  Is this an offer to let me stay?”  Dan Rather’s three writing assistants, who refused to quit, were still getting paid months after they were asked to resign because they would not quit. Then they got a great severance package.

Don’t sign anything unless there is something in it for YOU.  A good phrase to use is, “Let me take this to my lawyer and see if he wants me to sign it.”  You’d be surprised how often they say, “Don’t bother.”   Most things they want you to sign are to protect themselves or keep from giving you money.

If they say, “You have to sign this today without legal counsel,”  get that phrase in writing from them, sign it,  and take all the paperwork to your attorney.  Be careful.

Get your personal belongings.  All of them.  Get your job journal first of all.  If you even get a whiff of layoffs, get copies of your job journal, old job reviews, awards and attaboys to your house.  They’ll help you in your job search.

If someone argues with you about personal stuff you are taking, keep putting it in the box as you talk with them.  Your stuff is your stuff.

You don’t have a right to take client lists, trade secrets, client contracts or other company property.  You can always ask for permission to take it, though.  The guy walking you out of the office often feels so guilty he’ll say, “Just take it.”  If he says you can take it, you have a presumptive right to it that you don’t have without his permission.

Now, go directly to the unemployment office and file for compensation.  Do it today. Even if you are fired you can leave with grace.  All they can do is get you out of the building.  After that, it is all up to you.  Good luck.


I love this quote

If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm! (Lombardi)

Something To Do Today

No.  Don’t go get fired for practice.  Go back and read:  What to do before you quit.


Later: Job search progression