When I worked at IBM my manager never made clear what was considered confidential and what I was allowed to say I did during my employment. I eventually called Employee Services Contact Centre but the person I spoke to didn't seem knowledgeable about the subject and sort of repeated back my question. She said I can't tell future employees what I did at IBM as it may be used against the company and I can't "reveal the process". So if I'm not allowed to say anything about what I did than how do I make it not look like a gapping whole in my resume/cover letter? Obviously they won't come after me if I give some indication (e.g. worked with technology) but I don't want to put filler on my resume. I mean just saying my job was IT gives away some information (since IBM technically does have great variation in employees e.g. medical doctors).

Since my job was IT related, in particular I'd like to know if I can name the security products I configured or the operating systems I worked with. Also I know IBM is in competition with some of those operating systems and may be seen as an embarrassment if a resume has "At IBM I worked with [insert competitor company name here] products"

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    It's hard to say given the (I realize intentional) vagueness of your post, but surely you can put your job title, company, years worked on your resume. You can probably also state what skills you used in your position, without giving away company secrets. Definitely avoid speaking about the project itself you were working on, just tell them that you're under an NDA if they ask.
    – Kai
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 20:53
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    You do have a copy of the NDA you signed, right? I mean, if you didn't sign anything, then you can say anything you want. And if you did sign something, you should have your copy of it.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 23:57
  • @corsiKa no I was not provided a copy of the NDA. I guess that's one thing I'll have to make some phone calls about getting a hold of. Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 7:39
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    @JimmyBauther Make sure that the copy you get is a copy with your signature on it. Don't settle for a freshly printed copy.
    – user
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 8:32
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    Is it possible that this may be an intimidation tactic that corporations might sometimes use to prevent employees from going elsewhere? If such a thing can interfere with somebody attempting to obtain a new job, isn't it a constitutional "Free Speech" issue? Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 9:47

2 Answers 2


First, compare these job descriptions:

  • Used my [language] and [tool] skills to lead the development of SuperAwesomeCodeName, which will be released next year as Thingy 5.0 and overtake the industry with its exciting 3D imagery and satellite controlled drones. My contributions have involved GPGPU, NUI, and cryptography.
  • Used my [language] and [tool] skills to lead the development of the next version of IBM's flagship Thingy product, which has several new-to-the-industry features. My contributions have involved GPGPU, NUI, and cryptography.
  • Led the development of a major project, not yet released. My contributions have involved GPGPU, NUI, and cryptography drawing on strong [language] and [tool] skills.

The first one outright reveals your employers future plans. The second hints at them and might be ok, the third reveals only that your employer uses people with the skills you have, which is a pretty natural conclusion from "I have these skills" and "I once worked at this place."

Write closer to the third than to the first, and if you're seriously worried that you'll be taken to court over what you're revealing on your resume, don't ask IBM "what can I reveal on my resume?" -- it's quick and easy for them to say "nothing", as you've discovered. Instead ask them if this particular job description is ok. But It's still simple for IBM To say "no" and then where are you, so I would just write it carefully and not overly revealingly and then carry on with your job hunt.


You are not allowed to provide specifics but generalizations are allowed even if your company tries to tell you they are not. For instance you could say that you worked on a proprietary CRM tool that was customized for my employer. You can even say what technologies you used unless it is a proprietary technology in which case you can give the generalization like utilized a proprietary programming language similar to C for progamming logic and a proprietary Database that was not SQL based.

In addition you can verbally provide a bit more details but committing it to writing is more dangerous. If it is in writing then your employer may be able to show cause for action that you violated your confidentiality agreement. While this cause may not stand up at trial a trial can be long, time consuming, and expensive.

What you definately want to avoid is explaining how the propriary system works, providing any details that would allow your prospective employer to recreate your work or the ideas that were used at your employer. The reason is that if you go to that employer and then a year later that new employer releases a product that contains logic similiar to what your original employer used you could also face a legal battle.

You also want to avoid providing any network and infrastructure details that might make it easier for a hacker to compromise your current employer. Even if the person you inteview with has no intention on hacking the system someone could find their interview notes and use that to help break into your original employers system.

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