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I work for a pharmaceutical company as a scientist. I am employed as a contractor, with no benefits, and would like to have a stable full-time position. I have started applying to scientist positions at competing pharmaceutical companies and may get some interviews in the near future. I am also planning to apply at my current company, but my question concerns interviews with competitors.

Scientist interviews usually include an hourlong presentation on one's previous work. My work is protected by a non-disclosure agreement. How can I present my work if it is confidential? My PhD work is still fresh, as I graduated less than one year ago. But I would prefer to present elements of both my PhD work and my industry work, which I think would be more relevant to the positions I have applied to.

Do I need to request permission from my manager and have them vet my slides? I did not plan on divulging that I am looking for full-time work outside our organization as my contract still has 6 months to go and I fear potential retaliation.

Instead, would discussing general research approaches that I took to solve problems be sufficient? Based on my company's public financial statements, and common industry knowledge, some general research directions of my company are well known. Would it be acceptable to discuss my discoveries without providing any detail that could be used for reverse-engineering?

I noticed that directors in pharmaceutical companies, who are privy to many important trade secrets such as business strategy, upcoming clinical trials, etc, often move between companies. So, R&D secrets are probably not very well kept anyway. Am I overthinking this?

Thank you

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    Other pharmaceutical companies are well aware of NDAs and how they apply to their work. If anything, talking to them about confidential details from your current job will quite possibly flag you as "can't be trusted". Oct 20 at 12:19
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How can I present my work if it is confidential?

You can't.

But I would prefer to present elements of both my PhD work and my industry work,

Stick to the PhD work, especially if it's recent. You can include aspects of your industry work ONLY of it's already public knowledge or not considered confidential. Read your NDA very carefully to understand the rules.

Do I need to request permission from my manager and have them vet my slides?

That's above the pay grade of your manager. Disclosure typically needs approval from the legal/IP department and some VP level executive. I strongly advise against asking for this. They will NOT grant it. Why would they?

Instead, would discussing general research approaches that I took to solve problems be sufficient?

Specific is better than general. If you describe "how did I found a problem in a lab measurement ?" It's more important to show your critical thinking and analytical skill and less important what exactly that experiment was.

Would it be acceptable to discuss my discoveries without providing any detail that could be used for reverse-engineering?

No. Not if the discovery is confidential.

R&D secrets are probably not very well kept anyway.

You'd be wrong. There are typically safeguards in place and occasionally a violation of these will result in a law suit. Most companies are VERY sensitive about confidentiality.

Am I overthinking this?

Yes and no. You are underestimating the importance of confidentiality and overestimating the importance of specific subjects.

Interviews are a lot about personality & cultural fit. Obviously you have to have the right skills, but the exact subject areas of expertise are less important: NO ONE has the exact domain expertise that's needed so it's part of the onboarding anyway.

However, a violation of confidentiality can a be job killer. If you disclose something to me in an interview that's obviously confidential, I would consider you unethical not trust worthy. Not only would you not get the job, your name would end up on the company's "do not hire" list.

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