It's not stealing if...
June 16, 2011 3:13 PM Subscribe
An etiquette/ethical question about consulting contracts and dealing with recruiters. The question is: would this be considered stealing a contract?
posted by Tehhund to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am fortunate enough to find myself in demand due to my experience implementing a certain enterprise software suite. I recently quit my job for personal reasons, so now I'm looking for my first contract job. I found a small consulting firm that I want to get my contracts through because I previously worked with the founder and because they are offering me better rates than most firms (due to low overhead - I keep more of the total hourly rate). Unfortunately, due to a) their low overhead (small sales staff), b) this being my first time marketing myself in the contracting world, and c) I worked on a very specialized module that isn't extremely widespread, it's taking longer than I hoped to find a contract through them.
I am also fielding many emails and calls from other consultancies' recruiters. Most are giving me a BS song-and-dance, but a couple that I will be talking to soon have actual contracts in my area of expertise ready to go. The issue is I would rather work with the small consultancy: the benefits are better and the pay is better even for equivalent contracts.
Here's where it gets sticky: It is likely that I will talk to one of these recruiters about an contract and find out the details, including who the client is (one has already revealed the client's name by email, so this is not a hypothetical). These conversations never include signing a contract, NDA, or non-compete agreement. At some point they'll offer me an hourly rate. Based on the estimates that larger consultancies have given me, that rate will likely be significantly less (often $20k/yr) than what the small consultancy would offer me for the same contract (again, low overhead). If the big consultancy's rage is equal to what I can get elsewhere, great: I'll work with them. But if they offer me a low rate and refuse to match my expectation of what I can get from the smaller group, what I would like to do is turn down the offer, inform the small group of the contract position, and take the position with the small consulting group at a higher rate of pay.
But that feels a little like stealing, or at least unethical. On one hand, if I hadn't talked to the original recruiter, I wouldn't have found the contract - so I should not take it from them. On the other hand, if the original firm can't meet my hourly requirements, then what obligation do I have to them? If they could find a candidate for cheap, they would already have filled the position. Do I really have an obligation to work for less because I heard about the contract through a large firm? At this point there's no contractual obligation between me and the large firm, but I'm unsure of the ethics of the situation.
Help me out mefites - if I find a contract position through one firm, but that firm doesn't meet my pay requirements, is it unethical to take that contract to another firm that will pay me more?