4

Someone has already asked something along these lines here: Is it normal to be asked to sign an NDA before an in person interview?

I’m in a similar situation, except I’m being interviewed by a company that pretty much already is a competitor to my current employer. It is a software engineering role. There are some things that we both do currently, and some things that my prospective employer does that my current employer want to do.

An excerpt of what is covered by the NDA is

…trade secrets, technology, inventions, developments, know-how.

That seems quite vague to me.

I can’t really go into an interview and firstly say to everyone I meet (there are 5 in total) that they’re not allowed tell me anything about their tech, developments or know-how. That’s exactly the sort of thing that gets discussed at an interview.

I am in quite a senior role at my current employer and so I cannot be in a position where I am unable to contribute to any of their future developments because of this NDA.

I am UK based. My current thinking is to decline the interview.

What to do?

Edit: To follow up on this. The morning of the interview I emailed them to tell them I couldn't sign the NDA and so would not be attending the interview (I didn't have anyone's phone number). They took it quite well actually and arranged a phone call where we discussed my issues with the NDA. I now have another call with one of their lawyers to see if my concerns can be addressed.

  • 5
    Non-disclosure agreements prior to interviews are common. I've signed a number of these over time and it only relates to anything that will be disclosed to you through the interview process. However, if you are concerned as to the scope of this one, you will need to get it reviewed by a lawyer. – Jane S Jul 4 '15 at 23:58
  • is this a List X company? ie a role requiring security clearance – Pepone Jul 5 '15 at 12:50
  • @Pepone No it's not – James Jul 5 '15 at 19:19
  • 4
    @James, its just boilerplate NDA made by bored lawyers to cover every imaginable and unimaginable scenario. Just keep any truly sensitive info you pick up at the interview in your head and don't publicize it in any way. You're overthinking this, it happens everyday to thousands of people, there is no need to scuttle an opportunity because of a silly NDA. – teego1967 Jul 5 '15 at 19:34
  • @teego1967 or it might be a start up with imported procedures from the US and ideas above its station – Pepone Jul 5 '15 at 21:53
7

I am in quite a senior role at my current employer and so I cannot be in a position where I am unable to contribute to any of their future developments because of this NDA.

You won't be, the idea is once you have signed the NDA they can tell you relevant things about their plans and how that relates to the role.

I half think you've got this back to front and think it means you can't disclose anything to the interviewers, you're only in that position if your current employer has you in a NDA, but you probably woukdn't be entertaining an interview if you were.

Don't over think it, don't mention any details from the interview to anyone, and don't even mention the interview to anyone at your current employer. If the morality of interviewing at a competitor troubles you, don't do it.

  • 1
    I don't want the prospective employer to disclose things to me in case I don't get the job and my current employer starts to compete with them even more. I will be tainted – James Jul 5 '15 at 1:23
  • "If ... interviewing at a competitor troubles you, don't do it." - that's what you need to decide, trust your gut feel. – The Wandering Dev Manager Jul 5 '15 at 9:34
  • 2
    @James The NDA only covers things that the interviewing company tells you that are confidential to them, that you didn't know before, and couldn't have worked out. So you couldn't tell your current company that "XYZ is working on a J2EE solution to this" if you learned it at the interview. There is nothing to stop you saying "J2EE might be a good solution for this problem", and working on it. – DJClayworth Jul 6 '15 at 1:23
1

This is tricky, but not unusual. Interviewing with competitors always has the potential for conflict but it's done all the time and it can work well if it's done right.

The scenario to secure against is the following: New company discloses to you that they work secretly on technology, market, or product X, your current company works secretly on X, you stay with the current company, current company launches, new companies sues the pants of you because they claim you learned about X during the interview and now implemented it at current company.

Here is what I would recommend

  1. Have them sent you a copy of the NDA and study it carefully. Figure out what the exact terms are and what the potential consequences of violating these terms. It's actually okay to mark it up! You can edit or delete certain sentences or phrases and see of they accept it or not.
  2. Carefully read through all confidentiality and non-compete agreements you have with your current employer. Make sure that you fully understand what you are allowed and not allowed to do and what their disclosure rules are. It's entirely possible that is says something like "can't work for a direct competitor for two years after resignation". Now is the time to find out.
  3. If you can't figure out what all the stuff is saying, get a lawyer to help you. It's really important that you fully understand the rules of the game.
  4. The next one requires judgement. If you feel that the horror scenario above is a real risk, you can document all your existing knowledge and put it in escrow with a 3rd party lawyer. Or you can decide it's not worth the bother and pass.
  • this is the UK noncompetes are harder to enforce than in the USA – Pepone Jul 5 '15 at 21:55
  • This is exactly the situation I'm worried about – James Jul 6 '15 at 7:43
0

More importantly, what is your contract with your current employer? I'm sure you've got a standing NDA with them - did they also throw in a "noncompete" clause? Your current contract may be bar you from interviewing with a potential competitor.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.