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Whether this is to verify compensation or work history, I'm not sure. However, I've signed an NDA with one client and the word 'Confidential' is printed on every page of my other contract.

I'm new to the workforce (this will be my first full time job). What should I do here? Am I allowed to share my contracts with my potential employer? Should I even be sharing these to begin with?

Update: It turns out it was just a wording issue as someone in the comments pointed out. I work in a field research-intensive area so most of the staff are skilled in the regional languages so the English was confusing. To clarity, they wanted previous contacts to check work history and the person filling in for HR (who was on vacation) was a field manager.

Moral of the story: never give anyone previous work contracts. Thanks all!

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    What do you believe "confidential" means? Jun 7, 2021 at 5:30
  • Understood. This is just my first job so I wasn't sure if this is common practice for employers to request.
    – Rnovice
    Jun 7, 2021 at 5:56
  • 4
    Never do this. And in answer to your question, it is extremely strange/bizarre they asked. It's so strange that if someone asked me this, I'd just turn off the zoom or walk away immediately.
    – Fattie
    Jun 7, 2021 at 11:17
  • At first I thought it may be a country thing (i.e.: common practice for potential employers to ask in my country). But a quick Google search confirmed this isn't the case. There are some suggestions that they may want to check for non-competes. But I don't see why this will be a factor since I'm a freelancer.
    – Rnovice
    Jun 7, 2021 at 12:59
  • Are you sure they want the actual contracts in depth or do they just want a list of prior contracts so they know your work history? "Can you give me your previous contracts" could be either, just ambiguously worded.
    – mxyzplk
    Jun 7, 2021 at 15:17

3 Answers 3

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No, you should not. Knowledge is power, as the old saying goes. So if your employer knows what you earned, he has an advantage in salary negotiations. If he knows which clauses you already accepted, he knows which you might accept again (even if you rather did not).

So it is in your own interest to not disclose this. Also, even the contracts that don't have a fat confidential all over might clauses in them to keep them confidential. Even if there aren't explicit clauses, there might be expectations to of course treat them confidential...

I know that some cultures employers like to do this, for me as a German this is super strange. They might ask what you earned before, but I never heard of showing contracts to employers. So I can't really judge if this affects your chances. Even then, you should argue that since you weren't an employee before, your situation sadly isn't compareable, and you really, really can't show them, however much you wished you could! You know clients confidentiality! Of course you would like to show, but you simply can't.

Or something along those lines, to make it easier to swallow.

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One of your contracts is confidental. You are not going to tell anything about that contract because it is confidential. First, you breech someone's confidence, which could get you into significant trouble. Second, the new company may do this as a test, where you are expected to refuse, and if you hand over the confidental contract, they know you are not trustworthy and the job is gone.

For other contracts, the main point is what you made in a previous job is totally irrelevant to what you make in your next job. It is strange to want to see your contract. Very strange. So you could tell them to ask you any questions they like to ask, but I wouldn't show them any previous contract.

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Are you sure they want the actual contracts in depth or do they just want a list of prior contracts so they know your work history? "Can you give me your previous contracts" could be either, just ambiguously worded.

Giving someone previous contract names (unless the client is confidential) is normal and it’s how you check out a contractor, it’s just like a resume or reference check.

Giving them the actual contracts or in depth details is a no-no; except for a new blank contract for them to sign.

The thing to do is to assume good faith and ask whenever something seems unusual or confusing. As you can see from other comments and answers, it’s really easy to jump to conclusions and act hostile and ruin a good relationship. Don’t be that guy.

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