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I have had two technical phone interviews with a company. I believe they have both gone fairly well and the company has asked me to come in for an in person interview. The interview is scheduled for a few days from now, but I just received an email asking that I fill out an document titled "Application for Employment" as well as an NDA. The application appears to be for an external company to conduct a background check.

The NDA seems to be focused on things like interview questions and recruitment practices.

Is it normal to be asked to sign such documents before an offer had been made and especially before an in person interview?

Thanks

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    I have, quite rarely, seen non-compete clauses thrown into a NDA, so I would recommend reading it to make sure it is only a NDA.
    – psr
    Oct 3 '13 at 20:56
  • If you get one, just walk out. Oct 5 '16 at 16:31
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Is it normal to be asked to sign such documents before an offer had been made and especially before an in person interview?

Yes, it's normal. Most likely it's a sign that they are serious about you.

Filling out an Application has been standard procedure for every company where I have worked, except for the very small startups. It formalizes your information. And as you indicate, they may be asking for your permission to do background check work. Sometimes, companies do that this early in the process, sometimes later.

And signing an NDA probably means that they will be discussing company/product issues with you during the interview process that they don't wish to become public. I've done the same for some interviews in the past (both as the interviewer, and the interviewee).

Both seem like routine stuff to me.

As with all documents you are given - read them carefully and make sure you understand and agree, before you sign them.

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    This matches my experience. (At one small company where I knew I was going to have a lot of questions about their technology and business plan, I asked them if they wanted me to sign an NDA at the interview.) Oct 4 '13 at 2:49
  • Not sure its normal except for company's where you have to get a formal security clearance - certainty says volumes about the company culture though. Nov 8 '13 at 16:46
  • In future I will be asking if I will get an NDA at interview, will save me the wasted time to get there. Oct 5 '16 at 16:32
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    @Neuromancer I've been asked to sign an NDA saying I wouldn't spill the details of the interview (presumably they were most concerned about the programming problems in the test) at large relatively young buzzword compliant tech company whose name everyone would recognize if I were to give it. It's not just stuffy corporate companies that do them. Oct 5 '16 at 23:29
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    @SuperUberDuper It seems silly to me to refuse just because there is an NDA. First of all, I think most higher level positions should involve discussions about the business internals to see if the candidate and the company are a good fit. A professional company of course would make the candidate sign an NDA covering what is being discussed in these talks. Secondly, there is very little harm in me signing an NDA that I read and I know only concerns information I learned in that interview and excludes knowledge that is publicly known or I learned about in other ways.
    – Helena
    Oct 23 '21 at 11:37
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It's relatively normal, but not common. Some companies want to protect their recruting techniques, because many of them won't work as well if all the condidates know in advance what they are going to be asked. It's much more common to do it because they want to be able to disclose some of the company's practices to you without the risk that you pass it on to their competitors, or publish it.

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It is not unusual for a company with highly-proprietary data to ask for the NDA specifically for what is seen & discussed in the interview. The NDA is not usually binding beyond that point; if you're hired, it would be different paperwork.

Signing it makes it easier for them to bring you behind the screen, without worrying about you revealing anything confidential that you might spy along the way. It allows them to discuss development or proposed projects in specific, without risking you telling the competition what they're working on. It allows them to reveal the org structure without you taking the information to the press.

The NDA should be specific, though, i.e relate to the interview & discussions.

Where NDA's are required for an interview, you are usually not allowed past the lobby or reception area until it's signed.

I have had it requested by one of the more well-known online corporate businesses (huge) all the way down to a 15-person graphics-processing-services company. They all felt that they had information to protect.

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It really depends on the situation. Some large employers, paranoid programmers, expensive projects, or brilliant ideas will require an NDA even before sharing any ideas or discussing anything. This is simply to protect the ideas - it is perfectly normal and there is nothing to worry about.

However, you should always read what you sign, and if the NDA is too long (more than a page or two), then that is a red flag. If it is a large or expensive project, it is a good idea to have a lawyers look over the NDA before you sign it.

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It's not common for software engineering interviews to require a signed NDA, in my 17+ year experience.

And I suspect that any company who does ask you to sign probably wouldn't even require it. (They are just seeing what they can get away with.) In fact, one of the only times a recruiter had ever asked me to sign an NDA before an interview happened this month, and I was planning to decline to sign, but I actually forgot all about their request, and they never brought up the topic again and interviewed me anyway.

It always annoys me when I see advice like "Check with your lawyer" as if everyone has a lawyer on standby. Don't cave to pressure to make recruiting processes full of legalese. It would be a very, very rare situation where a company wouldn't be able to assess a candidate's capabilities without divulging corporate secrets.

Stand up for yourself and expect candidate-friendly recruiting flows.

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