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I am preparing for an interview. In my previous role as a consultant for a services company, I was responsible for a number of projects where I could say something along the lines of:

I worked on site for client company X, and while there identified problem Y which they were previously unaware of. By addressing it they were able to save Z.

In some cases the amount Z was pretty substantial.

On the one hand, these are concrete examples of where I have added value. On the other hand, they arguably might show company X in a negative light in that they had allowed problem Y to occur. Z is really the measure of the financial impact that I had on the client.

In an interview, can I fill in the blanks X,Y and Z and stay ethical?

There are other similar questions on this board, but they relate to levels of technical detail. This is not about technical detail but fiscal impact.

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    People appear to be ignoring this one thing. Why not go directly to the individual companies and ask what if anything they'd be comfortable sharing? I assume you're under NDA so you'll want to get it in writing of course but if you really had a huge impact on a company I don't see why they wouldn't at least allow a percentage. You see it on sites all the time that sell software to developers – BirdLawExpert Jan 18 '18 at 16:53
  • I put on my resume that I was able to save my company 500k+ more through Claims analysis (providing solutions and identifying mistakes) + developing in house reporting through SQL instead of purchasing / developing softwares. I can easily back it up in an interview and love to talk about it. You should definitely include it. – Isaiah3015 Jan 18 '18 at 22:50
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It's an area where you would need to read carefully in my opinion as it could be considered revealing financial information about your current employer's clients.

The first step would be to read your current employment contract (and any associated security/confidentiality policies and NDAs) very, very carefully. I strongly suspect that there will something in there that would prevent you being as specific as you describe in your question.

A safer route would be to generalize your statement. So rather than saying:

"I worked on site for client company X, and while there identified problem Y which they were previously unaware of. By addressing it they were able to save Z"

you could instead say:

"I worked on site for a client, and while there I identified problem Y which they were previously unaware of. By addressing it they were able to save more than Z-1"

It's sufficiently general that it doesn't identify client but still get's your point across that your work saved someone a boat load of money. By not revealing the exact amount of Z you are remaining accurate, implying that the amount could be even higher than what you actually saved, further obfuscating the identity of the client and not revealing exact details of your current employers business.

Potential employers should understand the reasons behind your discretion and since they probably wouldn't like the idea of their employees giving out commercial details to all and sundry will probably approve of your discretion as something they would want from their own employees.

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    Instead of Z, you could name the order of magnitude (millions, billions, ...). Instead of X you could name the industry (automotive, software, consumer goods, ...). – usr1234567 Jan 18 '18 at 14:07
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    More than Z-1 is still disclosing financial information. – paparazzo Jan 18 '18 at 16:09
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    @Paparazzi Confidential implies context. My credit card numbers are confidential. Revealing a single digit from all the credit cards I've ever had does not break that confidentiality. – iheanyi Jan 18 '18 at 19:00
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    @Paparazzi That the information he gave happens to match a that of a third party does not mean he released their info. That there happens to exists a top secret document that says "CAPTCHA is 5678" doesn't mean I revealed secret information. – iheanyi Jan 18 '18 at 19:13
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    Did you mean "need to tread carefully" instead of "need to read carefully?" – reirab Jan 18 '18 at 20:08
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Instead of values, could you present them using percentages?

As for companies, you could simply say eg. a company providing financial services. Unless it is a small community, it's unlikely Y could be attached to a specific company, which would be a grey area in an NDA, In the sense that while you didn't explicitly say the name, it could be easily guessed.

So you would then say something along the lines of:

"I worked on site for a client company that provides financial services, and while there identified problem Y which they were previously unaware of. By addressing it they were able to save 60 % from their yearly expenses."

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There's a lot of advice going around about how candidates need to "quantify" the impact of their performance and usually examples are given with dubious punchline phrases like "... and that increased sales by 13.2%..."

I think you're being properly cautious about citing such numbers. Not only may details like that be inappropriate to share, but there's also a question of credibility. How does the interviewer know that you're not pulling that number out of thin air? Can they actually verify it? Moreover, many people aren't even privy to such financial details or even if they are their contribution is deeply convolved with the contributions of many others who did planning, implementation, rollout, marketing, operations and support. Can any one of them claim credit for all of it, or even a specific numerical fraction? I get very very skeptical if I am given a number which I have no way of verifying or which is uninteresting to even care about.

Instead of aiming for a hard number as your "money shot" it is much better to tell a narrative with details that prompt interesting questions for which you have answers. Describe the problem, point out why it was a problem, then explain your solution, your approach, the timeline, the obstacles, and the contributions of others (along with gratitude for them).

If you tell a compelling narrative, "the number" either doesn't matter or at least it becomes more believable. The scope of your impact is what counts for the purpose of the interview, not whether it was 12% or 16% (assuming that is even knowable).

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In an interview, can I fill in the blanks X,Y and Z and stay ethical?

Yes, you can.

Yes, you absolutely can as long as you can back them up with data. Be very careful when throwing numbers around that you really cannot substantiate or may sound to grand/lofty. Doing so, even by accident, can make you look like a liar. Also be careful of any data that would be covered by an NDA.

Don't lie or say anything that could be perceived as a lie.

  • Upvoted for the backing up with data part. – usr1234567 Jan 18 '18 at 14:08
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    Disclose financial information on company X is OK if you also disclose their data? Company X may not be happy about either of those. – paparazzo Jan 18 '18 at 16:13
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    But X is a client company in the stated question. Even if X is not explicitly identified it is still their data and until it is released to the public. OP is not authorized to disclose company data. I would not hire someone that does not treat customer data as confidential. – paparazzo Jan 18 '18 at 16:21
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    @paparazzi this answer does say to not disclose information blocked by an NDA... Even though that wasnt there when you posted it is irrelevant. If you dont name the client then it is vague unidentifiable figures. If they gave a story of a time they had a difficult coworker when they worked a company would you consider that a violation even though there is no way to determine who you refer to? A hiree is expected to give examples of their skills being used. An NDA can't block one from saying they helped identify issues that led to an increase in support calls and increased staff. – The Great Duck Jan 19 '18 at 20:07
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    @Paparazzi no you are trolling every answer to this question and forcing your opinion down people's throats. – The Great Duck Jan 19 '18 at 21:20

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