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I have a company I'm looking to work for, and I happen to know one of their top clients. (Specifically, the manager that contracted with my prospective employer!) Is it okay for me to contact this person to get some insight on the company?

Would it be appropriate/wise to email the person I've interviewed with and ask him if it would be all right for me to make this contact?

I'm concerned that I might leak information from one party to the other and somehow sour my chances of getting hired.

(sorry for the vagueness, but I'm also afraid of leaking information HERE!)

HMac's picture

Depends.

Normally, I'd say "YES" for sure to contact their client. But I don't know the specifics of your circumstances, and if your think there's a GENUINE possibility that doing so will be perceived as a breach of confidence, I'd hestitate.

On the other hand, if you think you might be just a little paranoid and do choose to contact the client, then make sure to be clear that you're looking for his ADVICE or his PERSPECTIVE about the industry, the market, the players in the market, etc (which is different, and safer, than looking for "insight on the company").

I would NOT ask the hiring manager for permission to do so. That could be read as an admission that you think you're skating close to an ethical line. Plus, it could be interpreted as a display of low self-confidence, beacuse you're asking permission to do something. I think it's fine to let the hiring manager know that you know peole at his biggest client (heck, that's probably a plus in his mind), but I'd work it in to my conversations during interviews, and not make it the focus of a separate communication.

Nik - this is a judgment call, and you're closest to the details of the situation. I hope I haven't "told you what to do" as much as I've thought aloud about the plusses and minuses...

Nik's picture

[quote="HMac"]this is a judgment call, and you're closest to the details of the situation. I hope I haven't "told you what to do" as much as I've thought aloud about the plusses and minuses...[/quote]

I have reason to believe that the vacancy I'm filling is a secret, so I'd hate to clue a client in to the fact that a major contributor has left the company.

I think I'm best off holding on the contact until I get an offer. At that point, asking for some insight on the company itself seems entirely appropriate in order to ensure I'm accepting a great offer.

thaGUma's picture

[quote]I'd hate to clue a client in to the fact that a major contributor has left the company. [/quote]
Nik, I think you have made the right decision. Difficult as the contact with a main client can help swing things, you may be able to refer to the contact within the interview - here it could be seen as a bonus. The fact you have not tried to lever this relationship will generally be positve as long as you are not going to Trump Tower :P . Imagine the reaction if a major client rings "I have heard (and not from the Company) that Mr X is leaving. I am concerned and need to make sure someone of similar if not higher calibre is put into the role. May I suggest my good friend Nik?" :!:

Mentioned in interview, stating that this position has not been raised will show professionalism.

That's my 2p worth - good luck.

Chris

TomW's picture

[quote="Nik"]I have a company I'm looking to work for, and I happen to know one of their top clients. (Specifically, the manager that contracted with my prospective employer!) Is it okay for me to contact this person to get some insight on the company?

Would it be appropriate/wise to email the person I've interviewed with and ask him if it would be all right for me to make this contact?

I'm concerned that I might leak information from one party to the other and somehow sour my chances of getting hired.

(sorry for the vagueness, but I'm also afraid of leaking information HERE!)[/quote]

If you're worried about leaking information in an anonymous location and using hypotheticals, I'd say that means not to do it for real either.

A company's client probably can't tell you anything about what it's like to work for that company anyway. They might know what it's like to deal with them, but there's a certain facade that companies put up for their clients. You may not get much information from the call even if you did make it.

HMac's picture

[quote="TomW"]
A company's client probably can't tell you anything about what it's like to work for that company anyway. They might know what it's like to deal with them, but there's a certain facade that companies put up for their clients. You may not get much information from the call even if you did make it.[/quote]

Excellent point Tom.

Reminds me that before rushing in, it's worth asking "what excatly to do hope to gain by doing this?" And THEN assessing the risk of the downside.

Nik:
[quote]I have reason to believe that the vacancy I'm filling is a secret, so I'd hate to clue a client in to the fact that a major contributor has left the company.[/quote]

That said, there's even less reason to do it.

-Hugh

asteriskrntt1's picture

Gosh, just go contact the person to continue to build your network (see the podcast). Information will flow... remember Horstman Law # 6... there are no secrets... people know what is going on. Go build your network and opportunities will flow to you.

*RNTT

jclishe's picture

I was in a similar situation recently.

I was interviewing with a company, and it just so happened that one of the companies' clients was also one of my clients a couple years ago. Even better, the primary decision maker /contact at the client (lets call him Bob) was also the primary decision maker / contact back when they were my client, and Bob was known for being tough on vendors. But, I had a good relationship with Bob.

So I did not hesitate to contact Bob. I basically said "hey Bob, I'm interviewing with XYZ and I understand that they're doing a project for you. Are you satisfied with their performance?"

Not only did Bob give me candid feedback about the company that I was interviewing with, he also said that he speaks to the companies CEO weekly and would put in a good word for me.

The following week I had face to face interviews with both the hiring manager (a VP) and the CEO. The CEO knew that Bob had a reputation for being tough on vendors so he was very impressed that Bob put in a good word for me, and I ultimately got the job.

Having said all that, you raised some confidentially issues that would require careful consideration, but that aside my opinion would be to contact the person without hesitation.

HMac's picture

jclishe:

That's a great story showing how a proactive businesslike approach can really help you as a candidate. As with your comment, I'm not sure that Nik's confidentiality concerns don't override it for his case at hand. But I wanted to tell you that I'm filing your story in my "remember to think about this approach" file!

-Hugh

jclishe's picture

Thanks HMac, I'm flattered that you would want to save that story.

Full disclosure though, the credit goes to Mark and Mike. As I mentioned in my original post, "Bob" was a customer of mine from a couple of years ago. Well, it was just over a year ago that I personally listened to the "Keep in touch with / Ctrl-Shift-K" cast (I can't remember what it was called). So after listening to that cast I started reaching out quarterly to all of my contacts, many of whom, including Bob, I had not done a great job of keeping in touch with.

So when it came time for me to reach out to Bob to ask about the company I was interviewing with, it was a breeze because I was staying on his radar regularly thanks to the "keep in touch with" cast. Had it not been for that cast I would have felt much more akward about reaching out to Bob after not talking to him for a couple of years.

Oh, after I got the job I also sent Bob a hand-written thank you note for the referral. :) That too would not have happened if I had not found MT.

Jason