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When applying for a job, how do you express that a current work contract forbids you from listing those projects in a portfolio (and consequently, there is no items in your portfolio for the time of your current employment, because you are not allowed to show any of them)?

And more specifically, how do you express that while you can not show or reference those projects (i.e. show or name them), you would be more than willing to talk about the quality, type and personal role taken in those projects?

One way I thought of approaching this was to add something like "I would love to present some of the projects I have worked on over the last ... years for my current employer in a personal meeting" to a letter of application - but does that get the point across?

If it is of any significance, I am referring to web designs, apps, graphic designs and coding of projects that are mostly publicly available.


Edit: I saw there is a similar question specificly on how to include the details but not the name of a project under NDA.

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can you ask the other party in the NDA for select samples you can show? –  ratchet freak Jan 12 '13 at 16:56
    
@ratchetfreak a good suggestion, however that does not work in my situation –  kontur Jan 12 '13 at 17:10
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The fact the you follow the agreement already speaks in your favour. This gives your interviewers a reason to think that you will be so faithful to the new company as well. –  superM Jan 12 '13 at 19:14
    
@superM, there's a HUGE difference between violating the NDA and describing the nature of projects in which one has worked. Saying absolutely nothing about the projects (as though they never existed) doesn't impress anyone. –  Angelo Jan 13 '13 at 1:42
    
Seems to me that if you include the details but not the name of a project you are in fact violating the NDA. –  Stephen Jan 14 '13 at 15:16
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3 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Most NDAs forbid disclosing details about the project or work that you've performed, or otherwise exposing proprietary information. Even though some may try, they can not prevent you from discussing your work in broad terms.

For example if you developed a web service API for the government under security restrictions and an NDA you couldn't (and shouldn't) discuss the details of the project. But there is noting wrong with describing your work in broad terms.

Following the example, I'd suggest something like.

Developed a web service API in a mission critical, security sensitive environment using XXX language and industry standard XML protocols to facilitate inter agency communications.

Stating a broad and high level description of your project wouldn't violate your NDA. This gives the prospective employer enough information to make an informed decision to bring you in for an interview. Which is of course your goal at this stage.

Obviously in an interview you'll have keep to that broad and high level description. Most interviewers are well aware of NDAs and wouldn't push you to break it.

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I think it's good that you mentioned that "interviewers are well aware of NDAs and wouldn't push you to break it." - it helps to realize that the NDA is something that's not just hindering me from speaking in too much details, but that the interviewer also knows about the limitations those impose and should act accordingly. –  kontur Jan 14 '13 at 15:26
    
You actually left out the most important word when quoting me and that's "Most". Some will push you simply to see how seriously you take the NDA, others simply won't respect the NDA at all. –  Stephen Jan 14 '13 at 15:29
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NDAs are common, everyone should understand that. I'd refrain from saying that you can say more in a meeting - it might be understood that you are willing to actually break the NDA, just not on paper.

However, consult your NDA with a lawyer. In many countries (notable exception is USA) attributing authorship is non-transferable right. So while NDA can (and should) forbid you showing the code, it's possible that you actually CAN say "I'm one of the authors of X" and sue everyone who pretends he did your job.

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Thanks for the answer. I am mostly concerned with the way of letting it be known that it is because of the NDA that there are no items in my portfolio newer than x years. You got a good point about the possibility of my message sounding like I'd imply actually breaking the NDA, which is of course not my intention. –  kontur Jan 12 '13 at 17:12
    
@kontur State it directly in your work history: "june 2011 - january 2013: web design and something else. Unfortunatelly, I can't say more due to NDA." –  Agent_L Jan 12 '13 at 18:40
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@Agent_L, you can say a bit more... for example, "Multi-tier web design using Hibernate JEE on application server X in an agile development team". –  Angelo Jan 13 '13 at 1:45
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Here is a link to an article where someone senior is talking about a range of technology that they are interested in without actually saying that his company uses or plans to use any specific technology. bet365 interview Is that because they decide to keep this information confidential?

Imagine if I had contracted there in the past, and had an NDA in place that prevented me from disclosing that bet365 used specific technology. On my CV for applying for future contract work, I'd only talk about my customer history in general terms. e.g. a well known UK website. I would then be able to talk about the technology, identifying the technologies used, and the problems we solved using them - all without breaching an NDA clause forbidding me to reveal that the technology was used at bet365. That would enable the potential new customer from confirming my technical ability and suitability for the role, without needing to breach the NDA.

In your case, you need to read the terms of the NDA carefully, to see what the agreement is actually forbidding. However, what the NDA cannot do, is prevent you from talking about public information, as you are not disclosing it.

Likewise, read NDA's before signing them. Signing an NDA that effectively forbids you from marketing your skills in the future is not a good idea, but may also not be enforceable in your legal jurisdiction.

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