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I received a written job offer letter from a University in Australia. At the top of the letter it says "Private & Confidential". Can I show this letter to a mentor to ask advice about particular details in the offer? Does "Private & Confidential" mean no-one can read it without my permission? Or is it much stricter, to potentially protect the employer, meaning no-one other than myself and the employer can read it? Nowhere in the letter is the phrase further elaborated on.

  • Asking a single person, who is not associated with the institute, nor applying to the institute, in confidence for opinion on something in the offer is likely not a breach of private and confidential. Posting that you have an offer from that institute on the internet likely is. – dlb Jun 5 '17 at 18:11
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IANAL, but all job offer letters should be considered private and confidential, at least it means the following (confidential could mean much more, depending on the exact circumstances):

  • Private: do not put it anywhere where you personally do not have formal control over it (Obvious for a job offer)

  • Confidential: Strictly control the number of people you share this with, and take care that there are no conflicts of interest. i.e. do not share it with any of the following: Employees of competitors (no matter about your relationship to them), employees/Management of the company at which you apply (in case they have their own political stake in it).

I think the main function is to protect against competitors probing the salary.

  • What is your basis for defining confidential in that way? If I send you something and say "please keep this confidential", to me that simply means "don't share this with anyone." Of course, you might have a right to ignore my request. – Brandin Jun 5 '17 at 11:48
  • Think of it like a medical lab result. These are also "private and confidential", but you're allowed (as the recipient) to share it with another doctor, but the doctor that sent it was not allowed to share it with others aside from you. Also, it allows legal action against anyone viewing it without your consent. – SliderBlackrose Jun 5 '17 at 15:06
  • I would define confidential (excluding things which are confidential by a legal definition): Make sure that you share it only when needed for the purpose for which it is meant, in a way which keeps the private and confidential nature. – Sascha Jun 5 '17 at 15:11
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The meaning (and therefore strictness) of "Private & Confidential" can vary quite a lot and may well be organisation-specific so we can't give you a definite answer.

More often than not I'd interpret this as "Don't post this publicly, don't show this to other companies, don't scan this and post it on Glassdoor etc" and I wouldn't have thought showing it to a personal mentor (unless there were some conflict of interest) to be a problem. If you're concerned though you'd be best off asking the person who gave you the offer.

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