I am a software engineer in Germany, I had an issue and i don't know how to react:

Several weeks ago i had a job interview with a recently founded startup; I met with a co-founder of startup and we had an interview more than an hour long. The first of the things he talked about was that they had just founded the company and needed someone who would commit to the company as a technical leader. The company is going to have a mobile app aimed at a specific sector; but the guy didn't know anything about software world. I explained my experiences and I told how should they behave, which kind of technology they should use, what is the profitable approach to develop this application.

The guy really liked what I said and offered me a job. We had a deal but without any contract; because he offered me a salary that did not make sense for me. After i denied this salary he said the salary is negotiable, he can rise my salary and share a part of revenue with me; but he also asked about time to clarify this topics.

We had two more time meetings and several phone calls and a lot of mails and text during this time. I shared with him some more information about technical issues. I did some research and I shared the results with him. Everything was ok and I was waiting for the contract, but yesterday I asked about the salary that he is going to pay and some more topics about work via a message and today he just call me back and said he can not work with me without giving any more details.

Now I want to ask, is this legal? Can he use information that I shared with him like profitable technology choices?

I don't know someone else who has had similar experiences; but it really bothers me and I just want to hear some expert's ideas.

3 Answers 3


Unless you were operating under a non-disclosure agreement he (and you) can use any information that he learned unless it violates IP law.

It sound like what you told him is generic (if expert) views on high-level approaches to software design. That is, you didn't give him slabs of code that you own the copyright for or disclose trade secrets that you own. That sort of advice is freely usable by him.

There is a reason that consultants in every field don't give away their advice before signing the contract. Now you know what it is.


It seems that you rejected his offer, and he never made a further definite offer that you accepted, because you had not agreed on a salary. Therefore, he is not obliged to hire you. Unless you specifically agreed that he would pay you for the advice and information that you provided (or had some other agreement such as an NDA), it was, in effect, a gift, and he is free to use it without paying if he so chooses.

It is arguably unethical for them to use your info which you provided in job interviews to help their business, but not illegal, unless you had an agreement about that.

You may want to consult a local lawyer knowledgeable about employment law in Germany, but I fear that on the events described in the question, you won't have any right to be hired or to make them pay for the information and advice that you provided.

  • Actually, he offered a higher salary and some revenue; but just he asked for some until he clarify the topics and last week normally we would sign the contract.
    – nzrytmn
    Jan 29, 2019 at 8:08

If you really wanted to, you could go after him for minimum wage, but that would almost certainly be significantly less than your usual rate. You could try to get him to pay the rate you rejected for the time you spent giving him advice, but you would be on shaky ground. You would have to show that you were acting on a belief that you would be paid at least that much, and that your prospective employer deliberately acted in a way that a reasonable person would interpret as promising that. Trying to get paid a higher rate that "makes sense to you" is right out.

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