Career Advice Tuesday – “Should I Sign This”

April 20, 2010

Dear Infosecleaders:

Really need your advice on the situation that I find myself in.  Here is the background: 

About a month ago, I applied for a position via the Internet with a company that provides information security services to the government.  I had a phone interview with the HR person, and never heard back.  Just last week, I received a note, from another HR/internal recruiter from another company, stating that they received my resume and would like to offer me a position.   I have never heard of the company but the e-mail stated that they received my information from the previous company (that I submitted my resume to).   To my surprise, attached  to the e-mail was an offer letter that included a salary figure.  

Here is the catch.  The offer letter did not have a start date.  The offer letter said that my employment was contingent on my completion of the interview process, and the company being selected for an information security engagement.  

I do not know what I should do.  I am currently in between positions so I do not want to close off an opportunity – but something here just does not seem right.  I do not know the company, have not interviewed, not sure of the responsibilities attached to the job, and not sure I would agree to that salary.   Do you have any advice for me?


“John Hancock”

Dear Mr. Hancock:

First let me explain to you the situation that you most likely find yourself in. 

When you applied for the position, you most likely applied to a government contractor who was posting an information security position in anticipation of winning a contract.  What transpired in the next month, is that they found out that they did not win the contract, but another firm (the one issuing your letter) finds themselves in a better position to win the contract.   It appears that in this time, the first firm felt entitled to submit your resume to the other firm  – with the intent of gaining a “commission” or “finders fee” for your introduction.   In the interim, your skills match the generic  job description, and this new firm would like to include your resume with their proposal to perform the work.  

 (They must believe that by including your resume in the bid- they have a better chance of being selected to win the contract)   

By providing you with a contract, they are asking you to make a “commitment” to them and consent to be included in the bid.  By including a salary amount, they are also guaranteeing your internal rate, so that they can determine how much money they would be able to make off of your work product.   It appears that the firm that offered you a contract would like for you to commit to them, however they are making no commitment whatsoever to you.

Here is my advice,  “Be afraid, be very afraid!”

Here are my reasons:

1) The people are treating both you adn your resume like it is a commodity.  This first firm sees you as a “piece of paper” and a money making vehicle, as opposed to a person, who has their own motivations.  The idea that they did not even extend you the courtesy of a simple phone conversation, asking for your consent to forward your resume to the other firm, gives me cause for concern.  I mean, how long does it take to make a phone call?

2) They are asking you to agree to a salary number without you understanding the position in detail.  For example, salary should be determined by skills utilized, the demands of the position, and other factors.   Considering that you do not know what you are agreeing to and do not fully understand the responsibilities of the job, I would not sign anything.  

3)  I would not sign anything unless I fully understood my obligations.  For example, if you sign this letter, and then you decide to take another position, it is possible that this firm can sue you for breach of contract (disclosure – I am not an attorney).  With the business practices that they have demonstrated thus far, I would not put anything past them – and I would have a very low expectation for ethical business practices. 

In closing, the best advice I can give to you is to call the people on the offer letter and ask them about the mechanics of how this transpired.  Ask if you can interview for the position, without the signed offer letter.  If they consent to this, go on the interview with an open mind, and try to determine what you believe would be a fair salary for the work.  If they reject this, and make a fuss, simply thank them for their time and wish them well.

I am sure that if you received an offer this easy, another one will be around the corner waiting for you!

Hope this helps,

Lee and Mike

**One important caveat – I am assuming that the amount of salary included in the contract is less than 1 million dollars per year.  If the amount is greater than 1 million - ignore everything that I said and take your chances** 

Posted by lee | Filed Under Advice, Career Advice Tuesday 


One Response to “Career Advice Tuesday – “Should I Sign This””

  1. A Little Advice From Mike and Lee | The Guerilla CISO on April 20th, 2010 3:58 pm

    [...] If you're new here and would like to see more of what I'm saying, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed (I can even email my blog posts to you when I publish a new one) or have a look at my papers and presentations page for downloads of stuff that you can share or "borrow heavily from". You also might find my guidelines for posting comments interesting, especially if you're a government employee. If you want to see me blog about anything in particular, drop me a private email on how you think I'm completely full of myself, extend me an invitation to speak at your next security meeting/event, or just to ship a huge bag of money in my direction, you can do that through my contact page. Thanks for visiting and happy hacking!Go have a look at what Mike Murray and Lee Kushner have to say on what I endearingly refer to as “Stupid Contractor T…. [...]